Fat: The three types and what you should know about them



Fat: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

We all need some fat in our diet, but too much and especially too much of the wrong kind is bad for us. We distinguish three main types of fat in our diet, saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

Saturated Fats, which are usually solid at room temperature , tend to raise our blood cholesterol levels, increasing our risk of developing atheriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), heart disease and stroke. Excess intake of saturated fats is also associated with certain cancers, diabetes and various other diseases.

Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products, such as meat (including meat products like sausages, meat pies etc), poultry, eggs, butter, cheese, unskimmed milk, but also in coconut and palm oil. Palm and coconut oils, though they don't contain cholesterol, are also saturated, and may cause the body to produce higher levels of heart-damaging cholesterol.

Polyunsaturated Fats are found in coldwater fish, fish oils, corn, walnuts, sunflower seeds, soybeans, cottonseeds , linseed oil, flaxseed oil, safflower oil and corn oil. Polyunsaturated fats do not raise blood cholesterol in the same way as saturated fats, and are better for your health. Polyunsaturated fats should be the main type of fat in our diet, as they provide us with essential fatty acids which are vital for normal development and proper functioning of the body; they particularly play an important role in maintaining hormonal balance and immune system function. Especially the Omega 3 Fatty Acids (main source :fish oils, flax seed oil!!!) have numerous health benefits, which include prevention of the build up of fatty tissue on artery walls and suppression of some cancer promoting substances. They also reduce the thickness of the blood and reduce blood clotting.

Monounsaturated fats are found in almonds, pecans, cashew nuts, peanuts, and olive, peanut and canola oils). Monounsaturated fats are also better than saturated fats.

While we may now have a better idea which types of fats are good or bad for us, it is important to point out that all fats and oils - whether good or bad - are very high in calories . With 9 kcal per g, fat contains twice as many calories as carbohydrates or protein, so eating a lot of fat tends to make you overweight. As already mentioned above, being overweight may not only be considered ugly, but also increases the risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure, stroke, gallbladder disease, diabetes and many other diseases. Therefore most researchers advise limiting all fats to less than 30 percent of total daily calories and avoiding saturated fats as much as possible.

Christoph Klueppel

Master of Fitness Sciences
Specialist in Performance Nutrition