What is fat?

We hear a lot about it – saturated fat, heart-healthy fats, Omega 3s, low-fat diet, high-fat diet, and more. But, do we need it? Yes!

Fat is one of the 3 types of nutrients that give us calories (energy). The other two are proteins and carbohydrates. We need all three to survive.

So, why do we need fat? Fat does the following in our body:

  • Allows long-term energy storage
  • Gives us energy and keeps us feeling full
  • Helps absorb Vitamins A, E, D and K
  • Helps keep your body at the right temperature
  • Supports many cell functions

Fats are higher in calories than protein and carbs, and need to be eaten in moderation to avoid unwanted weight gain.

Types of fats

The most common forms of fat found in food are:

Unsaturated fat: This fat is liquid at room temperature and has heart-healthy properties.

There are 2 types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (including: omega 3). Both are considered heart-healthy. Unsaturated fats raise your HDL cholesterol, your ‘good’ or ‘Happy’ cholesterol.

Nuts and avocados are high in potassium and should be avoided if you need to limit the  potassium you eat.

Examples of foods with unsaturated fats are:

  • Olive oil (monounsaturated)
  • Canola oil (polyunsaturated)
  • Salmon (Omega 3)
  • Nuts
  • Avocados

Saturated fat: Saturated fat is solid at room temperature, like butter or the marbling in a steak. Eat these types of fats in small amounts because they cause your LDL ‘bad’ or ‘Lousy’ type of cholesterol to increase, which can lead to heart disease.

Examples of saturated fats include:

  • Lard
  • Solid vegetable shortening
  • Animal fat – (the marbling on a steak, bacon, chicken skin)
  • Butter
  • Coconut Oil

Trans-fat: These are man-made fats and are ‘hidden’ in many processed foods. Although trans-fats keep our food fresher longer, they lower your HDL (Happy cholesterol) and raise your LDL (Lousy cholesterol), which can lead to heart disease.

Trans-fats are required to be included on the nutrition label. You can find trans-fats listed as ‘partially hydrogenated’ fat or oil on a nutrition label.

In June 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required food companies to start removing trans-fats from processed foods. They expect trans-fats to be completely removed by all processed foods by 2023.