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Fats: The Good, The Bad and The Downright Ugly!

Good Fats

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that play a crucial role in maintaining overall health. These fats are considered “good” fats because they benefit the body in various ways, such as supporting heart health, reducing inflammation, and promoting brain function. Your body can’t make these fats and most people don’t get enough of them.

Sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, as well as walnuts, flaxseeds (freshly ground, don’t eat them whole!), and chia seeds. These foods are not only rich in Omega-3s but also provide other important nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Incorporating Omega-3 rich foods into your diet can have a positive impact on your health. Studies have shown that Omega-3s can help lower the risk of heart disease by reducing triglyceride levels, improving HDL (good) cholesterol, and lowering blood pressure. They also have anti-inflammatory effects, which can benefit conditions like arthritis and improve overall joint health.

Although food sources are best, you can use supplements, and there are agal oil supplements available for people who can’t or prefer not to eat fish products.


Bad fats – Or At Least Not So Good Fats?

While fats are an essential part of a healthy diet, not all fats are created equal. Some fats, when consumed in excess, can have negative effects on your health.

One type of fat that has had a bad rap is saturated fat, but recent research shows the link to cardiovascular disease and stroke is not as strong as first thought. Saturated fat is commonly found in animal products like meat and dairy, as well as in some plant oils like coconut oil and palm oil. Whether it be saturated or unsaturated fat, avoid eating too much because at 9 calories a gram, it is very calorie dense.

A more important type of fat to limit in your diet which may come as a surprise, is refined vegetable oils, such as corn, soybean, and sunflower oils. These oils are often used in processed foods and cooking due to their low cost and long shelf life. However, they are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which, when consumed in excess, can promote inflammation and contribute to chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. They have also been linked to the development of macular degeneration.

To reduce your intake of these less healthy fats, focus on consuming more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. When using fats in cooking, opt for healthier options like olive oil or avocado oil, which are rich in monounsaturated fats and have been associated with numerous health benefits.


Ugly fats – Avoid!

Trans fats and hydrogenated fats are artificial fats that are created through a process called hydrogenation, which involves adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them solid at room temperature. These fats are often used in processed foods to improve texture, flavour, and shelf life.

Trans fats are particularly harmful to health. They raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the blood while lowering HDL (good) cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Trans fats are commonly found in fried foods, baked goods (such as cakes, cookies, and pastries), margarine, and some packaged snacks.

Hydrogenated fats, while similar to trans fats, may not always contain trans fats and a such are not quite as nasty. Foods that commonly contain hydrogenated fats include certain brands of peanut butter, crackers, and microwave popcorn.

To reduce your intake of trans fats and hydrogenated fats, read food labels carefully and avoid products that list “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredients. Instead, opt for foods that contain healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can be found in foods like olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados.

Sue Caloghiris is a qualified and registered Clinical Nutritionist with a passion for evidence – based Nutrition and Lifestyle medicine. She offers workshops for businesses, and health checks for employees looking to tweak a few things to feel better. She also offers comprehensive individual consultations and has a wide range of Practitioner only supplements available when necessary. She is based in Adelaide, but happy to travel anywhere she can be helpful!  To find out more or have a chat, visit or call 0416 867 400.

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