The Difference between 'Good' and 'Bad' Fats
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The Difference between ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Fats

Saturated and trans fats are potentially harmful to the body and should be eaten sparingly, while unsaturated fats are linked with maintaining a healthy heart and can be eaten more often to lower cholesterol levels.

There are many types of fat, some of which are worse for the body than others. Moderate intake of unsaturated fat can help the body to develop stronger heart function, while there is a debate surrounding the extent to which saturated fats may harm the heart and increase cholesterol levels. The most dangerous type of fat is trans fats, which is present in crisps, cookies, and a variety of fried foods. To ensure a successful weight loss experience, dieters should avoid trans fats while eating a moderate amount of unsaturated fat from nuts, fish and plants.

Different Types of Fats

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Losing fat is a common goal for all weight loss enthusiasts. It’s generally understood that the body’s fat stores are bad, and that therefore eating more fatty food will increase the speed at which the body gains weight, while damaging health and weight loss efforts.

The truth is more complicated than this. In reality, the body actually requires a certain amount of fat in order to function normally, and consuming foods which contain fat won’t necessarily lead to an increase of fat stores and weight gain. There are different types of fat that come from different food sources, which affect the body in different ways. The trick to successfully dieting and losing weight is to ensure that the body doesn’t take in too much of the wrong types of fat, whilst still maintaining a healthy and balanced diet.

The two main types of fat are saturated and unsaturated fat. These come from different foods, and there are some varieties within these categories which affect the body differently.

Saturated Fats

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It’s common for food packaging to point out its fat content, and typically this figure is split into two categories – all fat, and saturated fat. This is because the saturated fat is far less healthy, and should be consumed in far smaller amounts, than other types of fat.

Saturated fat gets its name from its chemical compounds – many carbon atoms within saturated fats are bonded to (or ‘saturated with’) a hydrogen atom, creating a compound that’s arguably unhealthy to consume in large quantities.

The foods which contain large amounts of saturated fats are typically animal products. Milk, cheese, butter and fatty meats including red meat all contain high levels of saturated fat. There is also a lot of saturated fat present in a variety of processed meats, such as sausage, bacon, and hamburgers.

It’s important to note that saturated fats are not considered universally bad – some scientists believe that some foods which contain high levels of saturated fats can be good for the body, and there’s a lack of conclusive evidence to suggest that all saturated fats in all forms have negative effects on the body. Some studies even suggest that a healthy amount of saturated fat helps to prevent heart disease.

Whilst their long term effects are still being debated, most health organisations warn against excessive consumption of saturated fats. The NHS currently recommends that dieters keep their intake of saturated fats below 30g per day for men, and 20g per day for women – regardless of the unclear scientific data, those looking to lose weight may find it advantageous to avoid the types of foods which contain high levels of saturated fat.

Unsaturated Fats

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Unsaturated fats (which come in a variety of forms including polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acid) have a very different reputation to saturated fats. These types of fats have been linked with improving blood cholesterol levels, aiding the regulation of insulin levels, and helping to strengthen the heart muscles.

Unsaturated come from many foods, and are commonly found in plants and fish. Common sources of unsaturated fats include salmon, herring, trout, cod, and mackerel, as well as a variety of nuts and seeds such as walnuts, peanuts and sunflower seeds. Various plant-based cooking oils, including sunflower oil, peanut oil, and olive all, all also contain high levels of unsaturated fat.

While these fats are considered to be healthier than saturated fat, it’s important that they are consumed sensibly – eating too much fat, even unsaturated fat, can lead to negative effects including weight gain. While unsaturated fat can be consumed in far larger quantities than saturated fat without negative weight effects, consuming too much can damage weight loss attempts.

As with all food, the key is balance: consuming too much of anything, even food that’s linked to health benefits – will cause negative effects.

Trans Fats

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While saturated fats are often blamed for a variety of health challenges, the fats present in meat and milk products aren’t as dangerous as trans fats.

Trans fats are present in a variety of fried and baked foods, including burgers, pizza, chips, crisps, cakes and biscuits. Trans fats are also common in margarine and bread dough. Unlike both unsaturated and saturated fats, trans fats are not linked to any health benefits, and are considered to be particularly bad for the user’s cholesterol levels.

Trans fats are linked to heart disease, strokes and heart attacks. A scientific review in 2015 examined the results from a variety of previous studies on the effects of various types of fats and their influence on heart disease. The review looked in particular at studies that had measured and compared the effects of saturated fats and trans fats. It was found that there was no discernible link in the study between the regular consumption of saturated fats and heart disease, but that consumption of trans fat led to a vast increase in the likelihood of developing fatal coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.

In spite of this research, the NHS currently continues to focus on convincing the population to cut down in its intake of saturated fats, rather than consumption of trans fats. This is because it’s estimated that in the UK, most of the population eats approximately half the maximum safe intake of trans fats, while the consumption of high levels of saturated fat is a far more widespread health concern.

Eating Healthy Fats

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For those looking to lose weight through cutting out bad fats, while enjoying the benefits of healthy fat intake, there are several foods which should be avoided. Anything containing large amounts of red meat, fatty meat, or dairy products contains large quantities of saturated fat which, while in small doses may have health benefits, will cause problems when consumed in large quantities.

Avoiding trans fats should be the focus of dieters who are looking to lose weight. This means avoiding food that has been fried or baked. Instead, dieters should focus on healthy unsaturated fats, which are found in avocado, nuts, and fish. These food sources are important to diets as they help the user to receive adequate amounts of protein, which helps to stave off hunger after a reduced calorie meal.

Conclusion

Not all fats are bad – unsaturated fats, which are found in fish, nuts, and plant oils, are healthy and can help to maintain strong heart muscles and low cholesterol levels. Saturated fats, which are typically found in red meat and animal products, are considered unhealthy by some experts, while others consider eating small amounts of these fats regularly to be appropriate. Those looking to lose weight or improve their general health should avoid trans fats, which are present in cookies, cakes, fried foods and margarine. The trick to achieving a healthy diet is balance: dieters should not consume too much of any kind of fat.

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