Are Fats and Oils in Your Diet Healthy or Unhealthy For You…….

Low fat diets, which used to be all the craze, have shifted of late to include fat in our menu.  The question is what type of fat and how much is required in our diet.  Our diet today consists of a mix of different food types, including fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products, health foods and oftentimes processed items as well.  Research over the years have proven that fats and oils which used to be a taboo, are in fact essential in our diet and are necessary for certain bodily functions. For example, certain vitamins require fat to dissolve so that they can be absorbed by the body.  However, not all facts are created equal and this article summarizes which are healthy to consume and those that should be avoided to help reinforce a healthier dietary lifestyle.

Fats are made up a of a chain of carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen atoms.  The length and shape of the carbon chain and the number of hydrogen atoms varies from one fat to another and slight differences in structure results in major differences in form and structure and their subsequent effect on your health.


Trans fats, the worst type of fats, are a byproduct of a process called hydrogenation that turns healthy oils into solids and prevents them from becoming rancid.  When vegetable oil is heated in the presence of hydrogen and a heavy metal catalyst, it turns the liquid into a solid.  On food label ingredient lists, it is known as “partially hydrogenated oil” and is responsible for raising LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and lowering HDL (good cholesterol) levels.  Trans fats are a major cause of blocked arteries and have been linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and other chronic health issues.

Trans fats are found in:

  • Processed food such crackers, chips, candy and microwave popcorn
  • Baked goods such as cookies, donuts, pizza dough, cakes, muffins and pastries
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Stick margarine
  • Fried foods such as french fries, chicken nuggets and fried chicken


Saturated fats are found mostly in animal proteins such as meat and full-fat dairy products including ice-cream, cheese, butter, cream and milk as well as in plant proteins such as coconut and palm oils.   Contrary to popular belief, saturated fats are not as bad as previously thought.  In fact, saturated fats such as coconut oil are quite healthy especially for cooking, as they do not become damaged by high heat.   High quality, minimally processed animal and vegetable fats provide a concentrated source of energy in your diet and serve as building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances.

Prior to recent research, saturated fats was thought to increase the risk of heart disease – however, this theory has been dismissed and proven otherwise.   Healthy fats that are eaten as part of your meal help slow absorption, enabling you to feel full for longer.  In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.  Although saturated fats should be part of your diet, it should be eaten in moderation.



When you dip your bread into a bowl of olive oil at an Italian restaurant, you are feeding your body healthy fats which is beneficial for your overall wellbeing.  The population in the Mediterranean countries enjoy high fat intake diets and remarkably low heart disease and certain cancer risks which is why this diet has become universally promoted and exceedingly popular.  Monounsaturated fats are rated as healthy oils, which on the whole, are liquid at room temperature.  Good sources include olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, and most nuts, whole milk, as well as high-oleic safflower and sunflower oils.

Studies show that eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats improve blood cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke. Additional benefits weight loss and strengthening bones, as well as benefitting insulin and blood sugar levels which is helpful if you have type II diabetes.


Polyunsaturated fats (also known as PUFAs) are recognized as healthy fats, although they should still be consumed in moderation.  One of the problems with PUFAs is that they are chemically unstable and are susceptible to oxidization, which is harmful to your body.  This can cause inflammation and lead to the onset of various illnesses including heart disease, arthritis and asthma.

Our bodies do not naturally produce polyunsaturated fats and is therefore obtained in our diet through food and supplements in the form of omega 3 and omega 6. The key however, is to create the correct balance between the two essential acids, whereby we have a higher consumption of omega 3 as opposed to omega 6.  

There are a number of health benefits obtained from PUFAs when consumed in the correct proportions, including reducing high blood pressure, fighting inflammation, reducing the risk of heart disease, bone health and arthritis support.  PUFAs are readily available in our diet as follows:

Omega 6:

There are several types of omega 6 fatty acids, most of which are obtained from vegetable oils in the form of linoleic acid, such as safflower oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, soybean and sesame oil and is abundant in the western diet in foods such as pizza and other processed foods. Another form of omega-6 is arachidonic acid which helps regulate inflammation, promotes blood clotting and assists with communication between cells.  It is found in liver, egg yolks, seafood and animal meats.  Evening primrose and spirulina are excellent and healthier sources of omega-6.

Omega 3:

Omega-3 oils are extremely important to your wellbeing, as it not only has anti-inflammatory properties, but it has been proven as an effective prevention and treatment of many medical conditions.  The omega-3 fats come in three main forms, namely DHA, EPA and ALA which are obtained from either plant or animal sources such as seeds, certain nuts, grass-fed beef and dairy, as well as fatty fish like salmon and mackerel.  It is essential to consume sufficient omega-3 oils either through diet or supplements in order to gain the maximum health benefits, including heart health, brain health, and cancer prevention, to name a few.

Sources of health fats include:

  • Avocado and avocado oil
  • Organic Butter and Milk
  • Organic pastured eggs
  • Coconut oil
  • Nuts such as almonds, pecans and walnuts
  • Seeds including chia and flaxseed
  • Grass fed meat
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel

Ideas to incorporate healthy fats into your diet:

  1. Cook with coconut oil or for lower temperatures, olive oil.  These oils are best for stovetop cooking, as opposed to margarine or butter.  For baking, try canola or vegetable oil.
  2. Incorporate more nuts into your diet by including them in salads, side dishes, chicken and fish courses.
  3. Eat more avocados.  They are known for their healthy fats and can be used in an array of dishes from salads and spreads, to ice-cream and mousses.  Besides their health benefits, they are delicious and satisfying.
  4. Make your own salad dressings.  Store bought dressings are filled with unhealthy saturated and trans fats. Use cold-pressed olive, sesame or flaxseed oil to add omega-3 to your meals.
  5. Choose olives for a snack.  Although they are considered a high-fat food, they are in fact a low calorie food when eaten on their own.  They can also be added to a salad or made into a tapenade for dipping.

As with most things in life, eating healthy fats and oils should definitely be done in moderation and creating the correct balance between them is crucial to your health.  This translates to eating a well-balanced diet which includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish, and dairy and meat products occasionally.  If necessary add omega-3 supplements when needed.

Share this: