Nutrition - Fats 101

Fats 101

Fat is an important nutrient for the body.  It is used as a source of energy, is part of your body cells’ structure, protects your organs, keeps us warm and helps with absorbing fat-soluble vitamins including vitamins A, D, E and K.  Fat also adds flavour and texture to foods.  It gives the smooth texture for oils and dressings, and the moisture and the crispiness in baked goods.  Not all fats are created equal; some fats are healthier than others.  Therefore, being aware of the types of fats and how much fat you need is essential to maintain good health. 

The Healthy Fats – Unsaturated Fat

Unsaturated fat is a type of healthy fat that helps lowering cholesterol levels and reducing your risk for your risk for heart disease and stroke. There are two main types of unsaturated fat:  monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. 

Monounsaturated fats can be found in:

Fruits:  avocados

Nuts:  almonds, pecans, cashews, pistachios

Oils:   olive, canola, safflower, sunflower, peanut

Polyunsaturated fats can be found in:

                Fish:  salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines

                Nuts:  almonds, pecans, brazil nuts, sesame seeds

                Seeds:  flaxseeds, chia seeds

                Oils:  flaxseed oil

To read more about the different types of polyunsaturated fats, click here.

The Unhealthy Fat – Trans Fat

Trans fat comes in two forms:  natural and artificial. 

Trans fat is naturally found in meats, milk and butter, but the amount of naturally occurring trans fat that we include as part of our diet is minuscule.

Artificially made trans fat, on the other hand, is produced through a process called hydrogenation, where a liquid oil is turned into a solid fat.  Trans fat is typically used in commercially processed foods and baked goods as it adds flavour and texture, and it extends the foods’ shelf life.  Trans fat has gotten the reputation as the unhealthy fat due to its impact on affecting the heart health.  Research has confirmed that trans fat has the ability to lower your good, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and raise your bad, LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels.

The good news is, as of September 15, 2018, Canada will be banning the use of trans fat in foods sold in the country. 

The Debatable Fat – Saturated Fat

Saturated fat is naturally found in animal products like cheese, butter, lard and eggs.  You can also easily identify saturated fats in some foods, such as fatty cuts of meat where you see the visible marbling (the white colouring that is embedded within the meat) and the skin of poultry.  Saturated fat can also be found in plant-based oils including coconut, palm and palm kernel oil, which the latter two are commonly used in packaged foods.  Like trans fat, saturated fat has gotten the bad reputation as the bad fat because it can raise the LDL cholesterol level in the body. 

In recent years, saturated fat has become the debatable fat because there have been studies suggesting eating less of saturated fat does not reduce your risk of heart disease.   There are also research studies investigating which types of saturated fat would have the most adverse effect on the heart.  While this remains as a debatable issue, it is best to limit your intake of foods with saturated fat.

Which Type of Fat Should I Choose?

Achieving and maintaining good health takes effort and dedication by choosing the right types of foods to include as part of your balanced and healthy lifestyle.  To start, shifting your focus on including more polyunsaturated fat and less of saturated fat and no trans fat as part of your healthy diet.  Doing so helps with reducing the LDL cholesterol level and improve the ratio of LDL to HDL in the blood, and hence, reducing the risk of heart disease. This means using less of butter, lard, shortening and margarine, and more of plant-based oils in your cooking and as condiments.  At Alligga, we have a wide range of flaxseed cooking oils that you can choose from to include as part of your diet.  To view our product offerings, click on Products on the navigator bar or here to find out more.

How Much Fat Do I Need?

You generally require no more than 20 to 35 percent of calories from fat.  In other words, if you follow a 2,000-calorie diet, you need no more than 44 to 78 grams of fat per day.  This amount includes fat you eat from meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, nuts and seeds.

For added fats, such as oils added to cooking, dressings added to salads, condiments like margarine and mayonnaise spread to breads, Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide recommends choosing the unsaturated fats and eating no more than 30 to 45mL (2 to 3 tablespoons) each day.