More often than not, people eat first and ask questions later; and fat content really is an afterthought. But attempting to understand the difference between healthy fat and unhealthy fat, and when either should or shouldn’t be consumed can leave one wondering why the search for such information, and the need to know it, exists at all…

A basic Google search, for example, can harm more than help by listing results of every fad diet on the planet from Paleo to Atkins to liquid cleansing concoctions, to all-soup diets — each promising to deliver a slimmer version of you in “just weeks.” Still, you’re left with unanswered questions and poor eating practices without a clear direction of where to start. Which fats are best to intake on a regular basis, in what moderation, and in what food form can they be implemented? It’s all too easy to get lost in the fray. So let’s start at the beginning.

Humans require moderate amounts of fat to generate energy. Our bodies are resilient but currently incapable of creating the much-needed fatty acids found in various foods. The fats we consume are :

  • Saturated
  • Unsaturated
  • Trans fatty acids

Saturated fats are mostly consumed when eating animal-based products. Think of saturated fats as bricks tightly packed on top of each other, making a sturdy wall. The bonds of these saturated fats are tightly compacted. Contrary to popular belief, saturated fats have been scientifically proven to be natural and safe for our bodies. In recent years, saturated fats have been redeemed after being wrongfully linked to heart disease. Science has since confirmed that cholesterol is the actual culprit, giving saturated fats a boost up the hierarchy of healthy eating habits.

Unsaturated fats are most commonly plant-based oils, but can be found in certain animal products like fish. Unsaturated fats are best viewed as a link chain that is bendable and flows yet relies on the connecting pieces to hold it together. High in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, unsaturated fats are typically oils that solidify when cooled. A drizzle of coconut oil used as a dressing for salad is a prime example.

Trans fats can be found as an additive in processed foods to enhance flavour. Despite having been scientifically proven to be extremely hazardous to our health, large quantities can increase the chances of metabolic syndromes, such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), aid in insulin resistance and abade chronic conditions such as stroke or diabetes because it generates inflammation. Trans fats are vegetable-based oils that have been exposed to drastically high temperatures and submitted to various industrial processes before being added to food.

Healthy fats for consideration

The term “healthy fat” seems like an oxymoron for the ages. From a chemical standpoint, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are molecules comprised of one unsaturated carbon bond. Both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are plant-based liquids containing oil that solidifies when cooled, i.e. olive or soybean oil. Note that avocados, select nuts and seeds, and even the fan favourite, peanut butter, are wise healthy fat choices.

Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are heart-healthy choices; polyunsaturated specifically for the high content of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids not naturally made by our bodies, which can also benefit your diet when substituted for saturated and trans fats. Healthy fats can, in turn, help reduce the level of cholesterol in your blood, therefore reducing your chances of heart disease.

How to introduce healthy fats into your diet

As always, consult your doctor before making any drastic dietary changes. The wrong percentages of something as arbitrary as a multivitamin can disrupt the impact of certain prescribed medications. Nut allergies are common so proceed with caution. Introduce healthy fats into your diet slowly and in moderation. Begin to incorporate cooking oils that can withstand high temperatures. When oil becomes too hot, the fat content begins to break down, making it easy for the body to disregard as healthy fat. Coconut and sunflower oil are great places to start.

Here’s a helpful list of foods you can start eating today with healthy fat contents:

  •         Walnuts
  •         Soya beans
  •         Leafy, green vegetables
  •         Salmon
  •         Mackerel
  •         Sardines
  •         Olive oil
  •         Rapeseed oil

Next time your desire to cook healthy foods in the kitchen arises, go forth, armed with the knowledge you’ve obtained on how best to prepare the food and which healthy fat options will extinguish those hunger cravings. Do the necessary due diligence to carve a path that leads to the required results. Healthy choices can be difficult to adapt in the beginning, but slowly and with repetition, can improve the body with internal and external results.

This is a content partnership between MyDoc and Lifestyle Collective to provide high-quality health content to our readers. MyDoc is a digital health brand that makes access to quality health easier and faster. This series is focused on educating people on general health topics. The information shared has been reviewed by third-party medical professionals.