Types of Fats & Their Impact on Cholesterol

We are constantly told how bad fats are for our health, and we are constantly reminded to keep fats out of our diets, but the term ‘fats’ does not particularly mean the yellow, gooey badness we find underneath our skin, in fact there are 3 types of fats which we find in our food, and each one has its own effects on our body.

With all the media attention and the constant nagging from our parents that we should not be eating fats, we have become brainwashed into thinking all fats are bad, when the fact is that some fats are healthy and are required in our diets to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Unsaturated fats are what scientists call ‘good fats’ due to their ability to help stabilize our hearts beating rhythm, ease inflammation, reduced cholesterol and several other health promoting benefits. Unsaturated fats are found in many different types of foods, and they tend to be displayed on the packaging in 2 ways: Monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat. These types of fats are beneficial, and you should keep a look out for them, the only difference between the two is that they show up in different foods. The most popular and most dense sources of unsaturated fats include: Vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, fish, soy, and beans.

As with most things in life, with something good, comes something bad, and fats are no exception. There are 2 types of ‘bad’ fats which should be kept out of our diets and inside their packaging. These types of fats are saturated fats and Trans fats, with the latter of the 2 being the worst.

Saturated fats are created naturally by our body, and enough is made to make sure we perform adequately, so there is no need to consume additional amounts. However, with saturated fats popping up in most of the foods mentioned in the ‘good fats’ list, they can be hard to completely eliminate from our diets. Saturated fats are found mostly in red meats, poultry, whole-milk dairy products and most artificially made products. As you will probably know, LDL is the bad type of cholesterol which is known to cause many problems such as heart disease and a weak cardiovascular system. Saturated fats are known to raise the levels of LDL in our body, meaning the more saturated fats we eat, the higher our cholesterol levels will raise. It can be hard to keep saturated fats out of our diets, but keeping the total amount per day at less than 7% of your calorie intake should keep you healthy and away from the risks of increased cholesterol.

Trans fats are by far the worst type of fat, and if possible should be eliminated from your diet completely. Trans fats are found in most fried foods such as burgers and fries, as well as most other processed meals we buy already cooked. These pre-packaged meals are usually sky high in Trans fats, and although we may be saving a few dollars by buying these, the health risks definitely outweigh the benefits. As mentioned before, LDL is the bad type of cholesterol which we do not want in our bloodstream, and saturated fats are responsible for raising the levels of LDL in our body, but compared to the effects of Trans fats, those risks seem minimal. Trans fats, as well as dramatically increasing LDL levels, also reduces our bodies level of HDL, which is the ‘good’ cholesterol we need! Studies have shown that consuming just 2% of our daily calories through Trans fats, can increase our chances of coronary heart disease by up to 25%. Sure, they taste good, but is that sort of risk worth it?

The effects that saturated fats and Trans fats have on our cholesterol levels can be fatal, and just by making a couple of small changes in your diet, you could ultimately save yourself a lifetime of pain and discomfort. Although we have shone the spotlight on the bad side of eating fats, you must remember the good side also, making sure you get a good amount of unsaturated fats in your diet. Cutting out bad fats to prevent a spike in cholesterol is good, but consuming those unsaturated fats to help lower your cholesterol is even better, so stock up!