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Decoding good fats and bad fats: Here’s what you need to know

You are not fat because you eat fat, you are fat because you eat wrong fat. Read on to know more about good fats and bad fats.

Everybody says, fat isn't fine. The general perception about this nutrient is that it makes you put on extra kilos. There's also a spate of studies that disses fat and prompts you to exclude it altogether. Well, in the era of bikini bodies, fat might seem to be a looming culprit, but we must remember that this is an essential nutrient that your body requires in order to function properly. Your body needs fat to stay warm, keep the cells functioning, and protect various organs as well. Moreover, there are various types of fats and not all of them are bad. In fact, there are good fats and bad fats. Here is a low-down on them.

WHO ARE THE GOOD GUYS?

Good fats are beneficial for health and you must be sure to add these to your diet. Let us take a look at the different types of good fats.

Unsaturated fats

These are the good fats and they have one double bond in the fatty acid chain. When double bonds are created, hydrogen atoms are removed from the carbon chain. Carbon alone is harmless and mixes with the body. There are different variations of unsaturated fats depending on the number of carbon elements.

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Monounsaturated fats

These have only one carbon bond in the fat molecule, which makes oil containing monounsaturated fat like olive oil liquid at room temperature. Oil rich in monounsaturated fat contain high amounts of vitamin E, which prevent inflammation and promote eye health. Monounsaturated fats help develop body cells and reduce the bad cholesterol level in the body, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Apart from olive oil, nuts, avocado, canola oil, sunflower oil and sesame oil are also a good source of monounsaturated fat.

Polyunsaturated fats

These have more than one carbon bond in the fat molecule. There are two main classes of this fat - omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. According to the National Institute of Health, USA, both these fatty acids help in improving brain function, mental health, bone health and cell growth. Our body cannot make these acids in the body, so it is important to understand the sources from which they can be acquired.

Omega 3 fatty acids

This means that there are three carbon atoms at the omega (end of the molecule). Nuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, fish and other seafood are a good source of omega 3 fatty acid. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a person should consume at least two portions of oily fish each week, for nerve and eye development in infants, building immunity system and lower the risk of heart disease in adults.

Omega 6 fatty acids

This means that there are 6 carbon atoms at the omega. There are four types of omega 6 fatty acid, LA (Linoleic acid), ARA (Arachidonic Acid),GLA (Gamma linoleic) and CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid). Apart from improving brain functions, omega 6 fatty acid plays a special role in regulating our genes. This improves the immune system and blood clotting process. They are found in margarines, soybeans, corn, sunflower, juices and yogurts.

WHO ARE THE BAD GUYS THEN?

Trans fat and saturated fats are the ones that doctors alert you about. Let us take a look at what these fats are.

Saturated fats

These are formed when hydrogen atoms that was previously removed saturate with radical carbon atoms in the food. Saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. According to Harvard Health Publishing, lipoproteins (biochemical) made in the body are linked to heart diseases. Saturated fat helps lower the level of lipoproteins in the body. It can be very deadly and its presence can increase the cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Saturated fats are found in beef, pork, lamb and meat.

Trans fats

These have two carbons and a single hydrogen bond, which makes it the most dangerous type of bad fat. A mixture of carbon and hydrogen is difficult to break, and that's why trans fats are difficult to digest. Trans fat not only increases the level of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), but also reduces the level of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). There are two food sources of trans fat. One is natural sources of trans fats that includes trans fat found in the guts of animals like pig and goat. The other is artificial trans fat that are created in industries by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. They are added in the packaged food throughout the process called hydrogenation to increase a product's life and durability. Artificial trans fats are found in packaged foods such as French fries, burger, noodles and cake

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