What Are Healthy Fats? Everything you Need to Know about Fat

What Are Healthy Fats? Everything you Need to Know about Fat

Fat is an essential nutrient group, and healthy fats are integral to any diet. The body uses fat for many vital functions. For example, fat provides energy to the body, helps the body absorb essential nutrients, protects the organs, supports healthy cell growth, and keeps blood pressure and cholesterol under control.


There is much controversy about fats in the diet, and many people have different opinions on fats. Some people even try to cut out all fat from the diet. Others try to eat primarily fat and cut essential carbohydrates out of their diet. This article aims to clarify some confusion around fats in the diet and provide critical information about healthy fats.


What Is Fat?


Wild Caught Salmon on Wood Cutting Board


Fats, also called “fatty acids” or “lipids,” are made up of three molecules joined together in a structure called a “triglyceride.” Our bodies make the majority of fat that we need; however, there are certain fats that the body cannot make and must obtain from the diet. These dietary fats are known as “essential” fats. However, some fats are not considered “essential” but still prove vital for our health.


What Are the Different Types of Fat?


There are three main types of fats:


  • Saturated fats
  • Unsaturated fats
  • Trans fats


Saturated Fats


Grass Fed Steak on Marble


Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and contain many hydrogen atoms, which is where the name “saturated” comes from, as they are saturated with hydrogen. Saturated fats are mainly in animal foods are in some plant foods. Typical foods with saturated fat include:


  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Eggs
  • Dairy and dairy products
  •  Plant oils like coconut oil and palm oil
  • Butter
  • Ghee


Saturated fats have gotten much criticism over the years. So much so that they are often considered “bad” or “unhealthy” fats. This misconception is because too much-saturated fat in the diet the government agencies have been linking to higher cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart disease.


Demonizing saturated fats is a misconception because it does not tell the whole story. For example, saturated fats support brain health, cardiovascular health, bone health, immune health, hormone health, and nervous system health.


The health hazards associated with high intakes of saturated fats depend on the food source. For example, suppose you consume high amounts of saturated fats from food sources like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and other processed foods. In that case, they will have a much different effect on your health than consuming other sources of saturated fats like ghee, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, avocados, organ meats, and naturally raised animal fats. Another factor in the quality of these fats is how farmers feed the animals during their lives. For example, were the cows grazing in a grass pasture with natural sunlight and clean air? Or were the animals raised in a factory-farming setting with horrible living conditions, antibiotics in their food, and a corn feed.


Of course, it is still important to be moderate in your fat consumption, but the quality makes all the difference in saturated fats (or all fats, for that matter).


Unsaturated Fats


Olive Oil Pouring in a Bowl


Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, contain one or more double bonds, and have fewer hydrogen atoms on their carbon chains. They exist in fish and plant foods. Some sources of unsaturated fats include:


  • Olive oil
  • Hempseed oil
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Anchovies
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Vegetable oils


There are two types of unsaturated fats—monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats consist of one carbon-to-carbon double bond (hence the name “mono” unsaturated fats). They are essential for controlling blood sugar levels, regulating cholesterol, and lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases. They exist in nuts, seeds, avocados, and vegetable oils.


Polyunsaturated fats contain two or more double bonds (hence the name “poly” unsaturated fats). They are also healthy fats to eat and are essential for many body functions. For example, polyunsaturated fats cover and protect nerves, help build cell membranes, reduce inflammation, regulate blood clotting and play a role in muscle movement. They also help lower LDL cholesterol, known as “bad” cholesterol, and raise HDL cholesterol, known as “good” cholesterol. For this reason, they have often considered heart-healthy fats. Polyunsaturated fats are in foods like nuts, seeds, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils.


Trans Fats


Fried food on Marble


Trans fats are the worst type of fat for your health. Many studies directly link trans fats to heart problems and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, they are highly processed and are made when liquid oils are converted into solid fats. Examples of trans fats include shortening and margarine. They are also commonly found in many fried and packaged foods. 


Some of the common foods containing trans fats include:


  • Fried foods
  • Shortening
  • Margarine
  • Cake and cake mixes
  • Doughnuts and other pastries
  • Packaged and highly processed foods


There are two types of trans fats—naturally occurring trans fats and artificial trans fats. Animal foods like meat and dairy contain small amounts of natural trans fats, but most trans fats are unnatural and come from processed foods. Therefore, it is best to avoid all artificial trans fats that pose serious health risks, especially if consumed frequently or in high amounts.


One more note on trans fats, polyunsaturated fats convert to trans fats when they oxidize. Therefore, it is essential to be very careful cooking with polyunsaturated fats. We recommend avoiding cooking with polyunsaturated fats. Instead, try to get your polyunsaturated fats from whole foods such as raw almonds, avocados, and pumpkin seeds. 


What Are Essential Fatty Acids?


Flax Seeds in Bowl on Wood Table


Two types of fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids—omega-three fatty acids and omega-six fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are necessary because the body cannot make them and must obtain these fats from the diet.


Omega-three and omega-six fatty acids are both types of polyunsaturated fats.


Omega-3 fatty acids may improve heart health, support mental health, reduce weight and waist size, decrease liver fat, support infant brain development, fight inflammation, prevent dementia, promote bone health, and support respiratory health.


The best sources of Omega-3 include:


  • nuts and seeds, particularly chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and flaxseeds
  • avocados
  • olive oil
  • hemp seed oil
  • wild-caught fish, especially salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies
  • raw dairy
  • meat
  • poultry
  • eggs


Omega-6 fatty acids are essential to support healthy brain and muscle functions, but, on the downside, they promote inflammation in the body. Although omega-6 fats are essential, the modern western diet contains far more omega-6 fatty acids than necessary, as they are present in many of the foods that people consume, such as:


  • most baked goods
  • packaged foods like cookies and crackers
  • chips
  • french fries
  • many snack foods 


Corn, soybean, safflower, cottonseed, grapeseed, and sunflower oils are all high in omega 6’s and are not stable. Being unstable means any fried, baked, or microwaved food using these oils will oxidize and create an inflammatory response in the body. 


The recommended ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet is 4:1 or less. However, the average western diet has a balance between 10:1 and 50:1. Therefore, although omega-6 fats are essential in the right quantities, most people in the modern world should aim to reduce their omega-6 intake.


The best sources of Omega-6 include:


  • walnuts
  • sunflower seeds
  • almonds
  • cashews
  • olive oil
  • hemp seeds
  • raw dairy
  • meat
  • wild-caught fish
  • poultry
  • eggs


What Are Healthy Fats?


Avocado on Wooden Table


Healthy fats are fats that promote health in the body. Essentially, they are saturated and unsaturated fats from quality sources, consumed in the right amounts. Fats are essential in the diet, but where you get your fats and how many fats you consume make a significant difference in their health effects. Learning about foods with healthy fats and foods with unhealthy fats can help you determine the best source of healthy fats in your diet.


You can find some of the best sources of healthy fats in the following foods:


  • Ghee
  • Avocados
  • Hemp seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Olive oil
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Anchovies
  • Mackerel
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Raw dairy
  • Eggs
  • Naturally raised meat and poultry
  • Nuts and seeds


Eating the foods in this healthy fats list can help you meet your dietary fat needs. 


The foods in the above healthy fats list are also the best healthy fats for weight loss, as they support your body’s health without causing inflammation and cardiovascular issues—both of which can result in weight gain. Additionally, these are great healthy fats for the keto diet, which is a diet that emphasizes high amounts of fat and low amounts of carbs.


Unhealthy fats are in the following foods, and we recommend to exclude them from the diet:


  • Vegetable oils like canola oil and sunflower oil
  • Processed meats like bacon, bologna, hot dogs, sausages, deli meat
  • Factory farm-raised red meat
  • Fried foods
  • Margarine
  • Cake and cake mixes
  • Doughnuts and other pastries
  • Packaged and highly processed foods


What Type of Oils Should I Use for Cooking?


Ghee Butter on Wood Table


The oils we use for cooking (or restaurants use) are an often overlooked area of our diet that can cause many issues such as inflammation, cardiovascular problems, and more. We recommend being very careful with your oil selections if you cook at home and limiting meals out at restaurants, as avoiding rancid oils at restaurants is challenging. Most restaurants use canola oil or cut their olive oil with canola oil to save costs. Try to focus on oils that have high smoking points to avoid oxidation.


Oils with high smoke points (better for cooking):

  • Ghee butter (grass-fed)
  • Olive oil (extra light)
  • Coconut oil (expeller pressed)
  • Beef tallow
  • Duck fat


Oils with low smoking points (preferred for garnishing cooked foods):

  • Coconut oil (extra virgin)
  • Olive oil (extra virgin)
  • Butter (grass-fed)




Fat is one of the three primary nutrients used as energy sources by the body (the other two being carbohydrates and protein). Fat provides energy to the body, helps the body absorb essential nutrients such as the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2 protects the organs, supports healthy cell growth, and keeps blood pressure and cholesterol under control.


While fats are necessary for health, not all fats are the same, and some can be harmful to health.


There are three different types of fats:

  • Saturated fats
  • Unsaturated fats
  • Trans fats


Saturated fats and unsaturated fats have many health benefits and are necessary for the diet. Trans fats, however, are very unhealthy and can cause health issues.


Healthy fats are fats that promote health in the body. Essentially, they are saturated and unsaturated fats from quality sources, consumed in the right amounts.


It is important to eat fats in moderation and balance them with the other essential nutrient groups (carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals) as with any food.


When you consume the right fats in your diet and cut out the unhealthy fats, you can improve your health and quality of life.














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