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Healthy Fats vs. Unhealthy Fats

When it comes to fats, it’s all about making the right choices. Not all fats are created equal. Some types of fat are healthy for you while others aren’t so healthy.

Eat Less Unhealthy Fats

Eating too much saturated fatA type of fat that is solid at room temperature. Saturated fat is found in high-fat dairy products (like cheese, whole milk, cream, butter, and regular ice cream), ready-to-eat meats, the skin and fat of chicken and turkey, lard, palm oil, and coconut oil. Saturated fat has the same number of calories as other types of fat, and may contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess. Eating a diet high in saturated fat also raises blood cholesterol and risk of heart disease. and trans fatsA type of fat that is produced when liquid fat (oil) is turned into solid fat through a chemical process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenated fat is a common ingredient in commercially-prepared baked goods, such as cookies and crackers, and in fried foods, such as doughnuts and French fries. Eating a diet high in trans fatty acids raises blood cholesterol and risk of heart disease. can put your heart health at risk. These fats tend to lower your HDL good” cholesterolA molecule made of fat and protein that carries cholesterol from the body’s tissues to the liver. It is considered “good” cholesterol because high levels of HDL in the blood are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. at the same time as they raise your LDL “bad” cholesterolIs considered “bad” because it carries cholesterol from the liver to the body’s tissues. The cholesterol carried by LDL can be deposited on artery walls, forming fatty deposits called plaques. As plaque builds up, it can block the flow of blood to your heart, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. and triglyceride levelsA type of fat found in your blood. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn't need to use right away into triglycerides. The triglycerides are stored in your fat cells. Later, hormones release triglycerides for energy between meals. High levels of triglycerides have been associated with serious health problems, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease., which increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. According to studies documented by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, every time you increase the amount of trans fats in your diet, you decrease your HDL cholesterol by the same amount. Increasing the amount of saturated fats you eat by just 1% raises your LDL cholesterol levels by 2%.8

On the positive side, there is just as much evidence to show that reducing the amount of saturated and trans fats in your diet can be highly effective in lowering your blood cholesterol levels. Scientific studies have found that a diet low in saturated fats can reduce LDL cholesterol levels by as much as 11%.9

Tips for cutting down on saturated and trans fats:

  • Eat fewer cookies, crackers, pastries, French fries and other processed foods.
  • Choose healthy snacks such as veggies and low-fat dip, fruit, low-fat popcorn and frozen low-fat yogurt.
  • Purchase leaner cuts of meat, trim visible fat from your meat and remove the skin on chicken and turkey.
  • Keep portion sizes of meat, poultry and pork to 2.5 ounces.
  • Try baking, broiling, steaming or microwaving foods instead of frying.
  • Flavour your foods with herbs, spices and lemon juice instead of butter, bacon bits or high-fat sauces.

Did you know?

One large egg contains only 1.5 grams of saturated fat and has no trans fat.

Choose Healthy Fats More Often

MonounsaturatedA type of unsaturated fat that remains liquid at room temperature but may become solid in the refrigerator. Foods high in monounsaturated fat include olive, peanut and canola oils, avocados and most nuts. Eating food that contains more monounsaturated fat than saturated fat may help lower cholesterol and reduce heart disease risk. However, monounsaturated fat has the same number of calories as other types of fat, and may still contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess. and polyunsaturatedA type of unsaturated fat that remains liquid at room temperature and in the refrigerator. Foods high in polyunsaturated fatty acids include vegetable oils, such as safflower, corn, soy and sunflower oils. Eating food that contains more polyunsaturated fat than saturated fat may help lower cholesterol and reduce heart disease risk. However, polyunsaturated fat has the same number of calories as other types of fat, and may still contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess. fats are receiving a lot of attention because of their beneficial effects on heart health. By changing the balance of fats in your diet and replacing unhealthy fats with healthy fats, you can help lower your LDL cholesterolIs considered “bad” because it carries cholesterol from the liver to the body’s tissues. The cholesterol carried by LDL can be deposited on artery walls, forming fatty deposits called plaques. As plaque builds up, it can block the flow of blood to your heart, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. levels and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Omega-3 fatsA type of polyunsaturated fat that may be especially beneficial to your heart. Omega-3s help to decrease the risk of heart disease by protecting against irregular heartbeats and helping to prevent blood clots. Good sources of omega-3s include cold-water fish, such as mackerel, herring and salmon, flaxseed and flaxseed oils, walnuts and omega-3 enriched foods, such as omega-3 eggs. are a type of polyunsaturated fat that has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Your body can’t produce omega-3s, so you have to get them from the food you eat. Omega-3 eggs are an important source of naturally-occurring omega-3 fats and contain 4 times more omega-3s than regular eggs.

Talk to your doctor! Studies have shown that replacing saturated fats with mono and polyunsaturated fats lowers blood cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart disease more effectively than simply reducing the total amount of fat that you eat.2

Use this chart to help you choose foods high in healthy fats:

Dietary Fat

Tips for increasing healthy fats in your diet

  • Eat more fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel.
  • Add omega-3 eggs to your menu for a convenient and inexpensive source of omega-3 fats.
  • Replace butter, lard or shortening with apple sauce when you bake.
  • Include a small amount – 30 to 45 mL (2 to 3 tbsp) of unsaturated fat each day. This includes salad dressings, margarine, mayonnaise and oil used for cooking.
  • Use unsaturated oils, like canola, safflower, flaxseed, sunflower and olive oil in your salads and stir-frys.
  • Enjoy pecans, walnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts in moderation because they’re high in calories.
  • Choose soft margarines that are low in saturated and trans fats.
  • Limit butter, hard margarine, lard and shortening.

Click here for some more helpful food tips.

How Much Fat Do You Need in a Day?

As part of a healthy diet, you should aim for 20% to 35% of your total daily calories to come from fat. For example, if you are eating 2000 calories a day you want to eat between 45 to 75 grams of fat daily. It’s important to limit the amount of saturated fat to 10% or less and trans fat to 1% or less.

If you have heart disease, diabetes or other health conditions, you should have even less fat in your diet. Ask your doctor to refer you to a Registered Dietitian for nutrition counseling and to discuss how much you require in a day.

Recommended Daily Intake

Healthy Man Healthy Woman
Aim for 60 to 105 grams of total fat or less per day. Aim for 45 to 75 grams of total fat or less per day.

Eggs are low in unhealthy fats

If you’re planning a low-fat menu, make sure to add eggs to your shopping list. Eggs have no trans fat and contain only 1.5 grams of saturated fat. With a total fat content of just 5 grams, eggs fit easily into the daily recommended limits for dietary fat. And they are low in calories too, which make them the ideal choice if you’re trying to lose weight.

When you’re cooking with eggs, trim the fat by:

  • scrambling or poaching instead of frying
  • using non-stick sprays instead of butter
  • replacing high-fat cheeses in omelettes with either low-fat cheeses or crunchy, high-fibre vegetables