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The Different Types of Dietary Fat & How They Affect the Body

Many of us grew up believing that dietary fats are simply bad and should be avoided as much as possible. However, not all fats are the same, and each type actually affects the body in a different way. Overall, dietary fats allow the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and fats have an impact on heart health and your Type-2 diabetes risk. Certain types of fat promote good health, while others are major contributors to obesity and heart disease.

To set the record straight, here is an explanation of the different kinds of fat, which ones are good and bad, and how to eat a balanced diet with the right types.

Saturated Fat

One type of fat that is potentially harmful to the body is saturated fat. This fat is commonly found in red meat and full-fat dairy products. The problem with saturated fat is that it raises cholesterol levels, which may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It’s beneficial to consume some saturated fats, but they should be limited. Avoid the saturated fats that come from processed foods and baked goods and choose healthy saturated fats instead, such as egg yolks, pasture-fed beef, and coconut oil.

Photo credit: Navin75

Trans Fat

Trans fat is another type of fat that should be mostly avoided. Although some trans fats are contained naturally in food, most of it comes from an artificial food processing method known as partial hydrogenation. Trans fats can increase the unhealthy form of cholesterol and decrease the healthy form of cholesterol, thereby making your body more susceptible to heart problems. Trans fat is considered to be the least healthy fat of all. So avoid processed foods, fried foods, margarine, and commercially baked goods to steer clear of this type of fat.

Polyunsaturated Fat

While the first two types of fat mentioned here are mostly unhealthy, polyunsaturated fat is a healthier type. This is a fat that is mostly contained in oils and plant-based foods. When consumed in moderation, these fats can actually help decrease your risk of heart disease by balancing blood cholesterol levels.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat, and this type is particularly heart-healthy. Omega-3s are found in fish, such as salmon, trout, mackerel, and tuna. If you do not get enough fresh fish in your diet, you may want to consider taking supplements like Omega-3 Fish Liver Oil, Omega-3 Shark Liver Oil, and Marine Protein + Omega 3s to get the benefits of these healthy fats.

It is important to have a balance of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet. Good sources of omega-6 fatty acids, which are also a type of polyunsaturated fat, are flax seeds, walnuts, and sunflower oil.

Monounsaturated Fat

Another one of the healthier types of fat is monounsaturated fat, which is found in many oils and foods. Studies have shown that this type of fat, when consumed in moderation, can improve blood cholesterol, insulin levels, and blood sugar control. Good sources of monounsaturated fat include olive oil, almonds, pecans, sesame seeds, and avocados.

Photo credit: The Marmot

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