Whether you were a dedicated food pyramid lover as a kid or you simply follow your own golden rule and only shop for low-fat food options at the grocery store, everyone knows there are good and bad fats. But even with a basic knowledge of the difference between good fats (avocados) and bad fats (French fries), navigating the grocery aisles can be a difficult task when you start diving deeper into meal planning. Luckily, a quick refresher course on understanding fats and the do’s and don’ts of fatty foods is all you need to start taking your food shopping and healthy eating to the next level.
Your Basic Guide to Understanding Fats
What Are Unsaturated Fats?
These are the mysterious healthy fats you’ve been hearing so much about! Get familiar with these new kids on the block as they’ll not only be competing for Prom Queen but they’ll become a staple of your healthy diet. Healthy fats have been shown to improve heart health and can be found in a variety of different foods. Be on the lookout for the following:
- Monounsaturated Fats can be found in a variety of foods and oils. They are great for improving blood cholesterol levels and insulin levels.
- Polyunsaturated Fats are found most often in plant-based foods and also decrease the risk for heart disease.
- Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids are often found in fatty fish and veggies. They are also proven to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease.
These healthy fats can be found in everything from fish to plant-based foods and even alongside some unhealthy fats, so it’s important to read your food labels closely when understanding fats.
Saturated fats are pretty common and can be found in a variety of food available at the grocery store. These fats are often solid at room temperature —think butter or shortening— and are used in many processed foods to help keep them moist. While it may be hard to avoid saturated fats completely (no more cheeseburgers?), it is a good idea to your saturated fat consumption to a minimum. The verdict is still out on how much or how little-saturated fats you can have as part of a healthy diet but it’s safe to say these are still considered bad fats.
When you hear Oprah and any of her favorite health professionals talking about bad fats, they are most likely referring to trans fats. Unlike saturated fats, there is no room for debate when it comes to trans fats. Diets that are heavy in trans fats have been directly linked to heart disease and these seriously nasty fats are found in the majority of processed foods. While trans fats do naturally occur in small amounts in many foods, “partially hydrogenated” products contain unhealthy amounts. In order to avoid eating too many of these Frankenstein-like food products, it’s important to always check your food labels and say goodbye to junk foods.