good fats vs. bad fats
Not all fats are bad. Learn about good fats vs. bad fats and how they can affect your cholesterol levels

Not all fats are bad. Some fats are not only beneficial but actually necessary for our bodies to function properly. 

For many people, however, the problem is that we tend to eat more of the bad fats, which taste good but can lead to obesity and heart diseases. So being able to distinguish between different fat types and recognizing which ones to include or exclude from your diet is important in order to follow a healthy, balanced diet.

What are good fats?

Good fats to incorporate into your diet include monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA).

  • Monounsaturated fats
    • Lower total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels without lowering HDL (bad) cholesterol
    • Reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by counteracting the levels of saturated fats
    • Tend to dissolve quickly with other ingredients
    • Examples include vegetable oils, peanut butter, avocados, and nuts
  • Polyunsaturated fats
    • Also known as “essential fats” because our bodies can’t produce them and need to obtain them from plant-based foods and oils
    • Reduce the risk of heart diseases, lower blood cholesterol levels, and protect against type 2 diabetes
    • Two types:
      • Omega-3 fatty acids: Fatty fishes, flaxseed, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, beans, canola, soybeans
      • Omega-6 fatty acids: Vegetable oils, such as corn, soybean, safflower, and sunflower

What are bad fats?

Bad fats that should be avoided include:

  • Saturated fats
    • Primarily found in animal products, full-fat dairy products, and ready-to-eat foods
    • Raise LDL cholesterol levels
    • Increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases
    • Examples include fatty cuts of beef and pork, dark poultry meat, butter, margarine, cheese, sour cream, and tropical oils
  • Trans fats
    • Found in foods that contain hydrogenated oils
    • Raise LDL cholesterol levels and suppresses HDL cholesterol levels
    • Increase risk of inflammation, heart disease, and diabetes
    • Examples include fried foods, vegetable shortening, margarine, baked goods, and processed foods

QUESTION

What is cholesterol? See Answer

What are different types of cholesterol?

Understanding how good and bad fats affect your cholesterol levels is important as well. Eating too many bad fats and not enough good fats can cause cholesterol to slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain.

Here is a breakdown of the different types of cholesterol:

  • Total cholesterol: Shows the total amount of cholesterol in the blood. It includes both low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
  • LDL (bad) cholesterol: Transports cholesterol particles throughout the body. LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of the arteries, making them hard and narrow.
  • HDL (good) cholesterol: Picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to the liver.
  • Non-HDL: Total cholesterol minus HDL. Non-HDL includes LDL and other types of cholesterol, such as very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL).
  • Triglycerides: Another form of fat in the blood that can raise the risk of heart disease and pancreatic dysfunction.

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Medically Reviewed on 7/22/2021
References
Harvard T. H. Chan. Fats and Cholesterol. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/

Zelman KM. The Skinny on Fat: Good Fats vs. Bad Fats. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/skinny-fat-good-fats-bad-fats#1

Marshall B. Good Fats vs. Bad Fats. Crisp Regional Hospital. https://crispregional.org/good-fats-vs-bad-fats/