Good Fats, Bad Fats and Your Heart Health

Good Fats, Bad Fats and Your Heart Health

What if you could totally remove fat from your diet. Most of your weight and heart-related problems would be solved. Right?  Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

You actually need fats. They are essential for the normal functioning of your body. In fact, you cannot live without them. They are an important part of a healthy diet.

But not all fats are the same. Some fats protect your heart and may even help to improve your health. Other fats may increase your risk of heart disease.

Knowing the difference between good fats and bad fats can help you determine which fats to avoid, and which to eat in moderation.

What are bad fats?

Two types of fats, saturated fat and trans fat, are harmful to your heart. Both should be avoided or eaten very sparingly. Both can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.

These types of fats are usually solid at room temperature, such as butter, margarine etc. and are typically referred to as solid fats.

Saturated Fats

  • These fats mainly come from animal sources such as meats and dairy products.
  • Saturated fats increase harmful LDL cholesterol and raise total blood cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Cutting down on foods that are high in saturated fat is important as part of a heart-healthy diet.
  • Foods high in saturated fats include:
    • Meats and poultry
    • High-fat dairy products (whole milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, ice-cream)
    • Ghee
    • Coconut oil, palm oil
    • Baked products (cakes, biscuits, pastries)

Trans Fats

  • Trans fats are created by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. They are also known as partially hydrogenated oils.
  • They have become popular because they last a long time and can give food a nice taste.
  • These are the worst fats you can eat and should be avoided as much as possible.
  • Even small amounts of trans fats can harm your health. They can increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol and decrease healthy HDL cholesterol. They increase your risk of heart disease about three times higher than other fats.
  • You might find trans fats in:
    • Fried foods (doughnuts, french fries, deep-fried fast foods)
    • Baked foods (cookies, biscuits, cakes, pastries)
    • Processed snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn)
    • Some types of margarine and vegetable shortening

What are good fats?

Unsaturated fats are the good fats. These healthy fats come mainly from vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish. They are liquid at room temperature, not solid.

Replacing saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. There are two main types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Monounsaturated Fats (MUFAs)

  • Eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats may reduce blood cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure, which can decrease your risk of heart disease.
  • People in Mediterranean countries consume lots of these fats, mainly in the form of olive oil, and this is probably responsible for the low levels of heart disease in those countries.
  • Good sources of monounsaturated fats are:
    • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, brazil nuts)
    • Seeds (sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds)
    • Vegetable oils (olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil)
    • Olives and avocados

Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAs)

  • Polyunsaturated fats may help reduce both, blood cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels, thus decreasing your risk of heart disease.
  • There are two main types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Foods rich in omega-6 include vegetable oils such as corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil.
  • Unfortunately, we eat way too much omega-6 fatty acids, because vegetable oils are used a lot in Indian food. Too much of omega-6 may be bad for your health.

Omega-3 fatty acids

  • We usually don’t eat enough omega-3 fatty acids. Among all the good fats, omega-3 fatty acids are superstars.
  • They protect against heart disease and stroke by reducing blood pressure and lowering blood cholesterol levels and triglycerides. They also help maintain a regular heart rhythm.
  • Best sources of omega-3 include fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel.
  • Vegetable sources of omega-3 include flaxseeds, walnuts, soybean and canola oil.

Read labels and make better choices

  • Read food labels. Choose foods that are low in total fat, especially saturated fat and trans fat.
  • Check the product’s ingredients list. If you see the words hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, or shortening, it contains trans fats. Avoid it.
  • Try replacing bad fats with good fats when possible. For example, use liquid vegetable oils, such as canola or olive, instead of solid fats like butter.
  • When using fats, do so sparingly. All fats, including the good, healthy ones, are high in calories and can lead to weight gain.

Disclaimer: All material on is provided for informational purposes only and should not be taken as a substitute for professional medical or health advice. Always seek the advice of your physician for any questions regarding your symptoms or medical condition and before taking any home remedies or supplements.

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