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Martin Aston
December 2016.
67
What are the good fats and bad fats?
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At present, the advice from all the major health bodies around the world, like the World Health Organisation, the Cancer Research Fund and the British and American Heart Foundations, remains not having too much saturated fats, because they appear to encourage your liver to churn out bad cholesterol - what they call LDL Cholesterol - which has the potential to cling to your artery walls, especially if you have an abrasion or a little nick on the artery, and clog your arteries, as more LDL cholesterol passes through the blood, and clings on, and that will gradually clogs your artery in your leg or your brain, and that would trigger a stroke or a heart attack. 

So, cut back on saturated fats, like fatty cuts of meat, fatty processed meats, processed food that contains saturated fats like cakes and biscuits. Don’t eat too much butter and too much cheese, and switch to low fat dairy. Contrary to many blogs and social media - some of which comes from doctors - that is the evidence we have at the moment. You won’t find a qualified dietician or nutritionist saying anything else. Trans fats are a particular type of fat that behave in a similar way to saturated fats, they’re naturally present in some meat and fish, but at very low levels. 

"So, cut back on saturated fats, like fatty cuts of meat, fatty processed meats, processed food that contains saturated fats like cakes and biscuits. Don’t eat too much butter and too much cheese, and switch to low fat dairy."

They are also formed during the manufacture of oil in hard margarine, though far less now because manufacturers have stopped producing solid fats in the way that they used to, but there are still some in the cheaper brands of margarine sometimes used in baked goods and fast food. The better fats are the unsaturated fats, both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats - the difference is their chemical composition, both of which have a different structure to saturated fats, and behave differently in the body, they don’t churn out bad cholesterol.

When it comes to cooking with oil, olive oil and rapeseed oil are both richer in monounsaturated fats compared to sunflower oil, or blended vegetable oil. Rapeseed oil is great for cooking because it’s more stable, meaning it has a higher burn point and so doesn’t degrade as fast, and it’s a less expensive option than extra virgin olive oil, which is better used in salads as it imparts a lot of flavour. Coconut oil is very fashionable nowadays, but it’s also very high in saturated fats, and calories. Whatever you read, by bloggers and self-appointed experts, we still don’t know if saturated fats in coconut oil are OK, and any different from those in lard, so at the moment, the advice from dieticians and NHS Choice is use in moderation. 

"The problem is, people jump on the bandwagon, and suddenly they’re sloshing coconut oil on everything. The key thing with any oil is not to use too much of it, even olive oil, despite the fact it’s become this health elixir."

The problem is, people jump on the bandwagon, and suddenly they’re sloshing coconut oil on everything. The key thing with any oil is not to use too much of it, even olive oil, despite the fact it’s become this health elixir. The recommended level of unsaturated fat for an average-size person is a maximum 70g a day for women and 90g a day for men, and if you do have saturated fats, don’t have more than a maximum of 20g of your total 70 if you’re a woman, and 30 of the 90 if you’re a man. 

Good fats include monounsaturated fatty acids (e.g. olive oil, rapeseed oil), polyunsaturated fatty acids (e.g. oily fish like salmon, trout and tuna, as well as oils from seeds and nuts). There are no bad fats, as we need all types of fat in the diet for good health. However, the balance of fats is very important. To be as healthy as you can, eat lots of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids and fewer saturated fatty acids (found in fatty meats, poultry skin, biscuits, cakes, chocolate and butter). Choosing lean meat with little fat is very helpful.