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Hopefully you know by now that not all fats are created equal. But how do sources of fat differ – and how can you possibly tell the difference between the two? Let’s dive into everything you need to know about healthy fats vs crappy fats.

A quick review of the science

When it comes to fats, there are a few terms you might come across. These come back to the science behind fat structure. Fats are made up of chains of fatty acids, and how these chains are bonded together affect the way the fat acts.

You’ll hear of:

  • Polyunsaturated fat – This fat has multiple double bonds in the fatty acid chains. It will be liquid at room temperature.
  • Monounsaturated fat – A type of fat with one double bond, and the rest having single bonds. This will make it liquid at room temperature, but solidify as soon as you chill it.
  • Saturated fat –   A type of fat where all of the fatty acid chains have single bonds. As a result, these fats will be solid at room temperature
  • Trans fat – also known as partially hydrogenated fat/oil, these are created when an unsaturated fat is altered to be solid at room temperature
  • Essential fatty acids – fatty acids within fat that the human body can’t make on its own, so we must consume it in the diet to get enough

Most wholefoods you come across will have a combination of different fat types. But for ease, we’ll often refer to a fat source based on the highest percentage (although believe it or not, bacon is 50% monounsaturated fat!)

Healthy fats

Now let’s dive into my favourite topic – healthy fats! Healthy fats are foundational for human health, particularly for those of us passing through the joys of perimenopause!

To give you some idea of how vital they are, your body needs healthy fats for:

  • Absorbing vitamin A, E, D and K (as well as many antioxidants) into the body
  • Forming cell membranes (more on this later)
  • Blood clotting
  • Hormone production
  • Muscle movement
  • Nervous system function
  • Acting as a preferred energy source for the brain
  • Pulling fat out of cells to use as an energy source

So what are your healthy fats? It’s not as simple as it being one specific type of fat. What is more important is how it is sourced and processed.

The winners of the healthy fat awards? Fats that come in the form of wholefoods or minimally processed. I’m talking about:

  • Butter and ghee (I’m in a long-term committed relationship with the latter, just ask my clients!)
  • Coconut and coconut oil
  • Avocado and avocado oil
  • Oily fish
  • Flaxseed oil (cold only – heating it can damage the delicate fatty acids)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive oil

For optimal wellbeing, I recommend having a source of healthy fats at every meal. Yes, you read that right – every meal! And if you don’t know what a balanced meal looks like, download my FREE Balanced Meal Formula here.

Crappy fats

On the other hand, we have your not-so-healthy options – what I refer to as crap fats. These might seem to be similar (after all, they contain the same calories) but they have a wildly different effect on your health.

When I talk about crap fats, I mean:

  • Margarine
  • Seed oils such as canola, safflower, sunflower
  • Peanut oil
  • Rice bran oil
  • ‘Vegetable’ oil (don’t even get me started on that term!)
  • Trans fats that are often found in baked goods, deep fried foods and takeaway options

Did you notice I said nothing about saturated fat sources when it comes to crappy fats?

That’s because saturated fats aren’t the big baddy we thought. Even now, researchers are starting to dismantle the belief that saturated fat ‘clogs your arteries‘. In fact, it’s the mentioned sources of trans fats and omega-6 packed oils that pack a punch.

Let’s take canola oil as an example. Canola has been crossbred from the rapeseed plant. It contains toxic compounds like erucic acid, which can lead to a serious heart condition known as myocardial lipidosis. But despite this, it has been promoted as a ‘healthy oil’ because it is high in monounsaturated fat and low in saturated fat. ⁠

Extracting oil from the canola plant is very difficult to extract, requiring solvents like hexane and multiple rounds of heating. We know that fats with high polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in them are sensitive to both light and heat. Being exposed to high amounts of heat and light makes the fat rancid. Rancid oils lose their antioxidants and develop toxic compounds that damage the body’s cells.⁠

Now remember – every cell in your body has a fatty layer around it. So if your body is making these membranes using rancid fats?
The fats are the wrong shape for your hormones, glucose and other messenger compounds that come to bind to the cell. So you end up throwing off the balance of the entire body with just this one step.

Can healthy fats make you gain weight?

I’ve covered this more extensively in another blog, but to put it simply – no! In fact, restricting your healthy fats may even be partly to blame for your weight gain. So don’t fear your avocado, your olive oil or your nuts and seeds. They are packed full of nutrients and may even help you to burn more body fat for energy!

I don’t even know what to think when it comes to what is healthy these days, Sarah!

Never fear – I’m here to help you navigate the murky waters and discover true wellbeing. Book in for a free discovery call today, and we can explore how I can help you to reboot your body and feel good again.