Demystifying Dietary Fats

I have to level with you, the 80’s messed me up in A LOT of ways. I have a healthy aversion to blue eye shadow, a fear of “big” hair, and a complete misunderstanding of dietary fats.

In the 80’s low-fat diet craze, we cut out most of our fats and replaced them with refined carbs and thought we were being “healthy”! Consequently, as the low-fat obsession continued, our nations obesity rates increased!

Do YOU think that’s a coincidence?

Our bodies NEED Fat! Around 20% to 30% of our calories should come from healthy fat sources but there are so many KINDS of fats that it’s hard to know what to eat!

Fats seem to be divided into 5 billion “categories” which makes them tough to understand. In the past, when I would I attempt to understand them, I would get overwhelmed, label them all as “bad,” and eat a low-fat cookie.


It is SUPER important to find a way to categorize fats because BAD FATS can ruin your diet and increase your risk of certain diseases (including heart disease and some cancers); GOOD FATS have the ability to help protect your brain and heart!

And WHO doesn’t want to protect their brain and their heart?

Today, I am going to attempt the impossible… to take a tedious topic and make it exciting (or at least not boring). Ready? Here we go……

Good Fats: Unsaturated Fats (Your new BFF)

Think of unsaturated fats as your BEST FRIENDS! When eaten in moderation can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease!

This is especially true when they replace saturated or trans fats (I’ll explain those little jerks later)…

Remember how I said there are 5 billion categories of fats? I’m going to simplify it as much as I can. There are TWO types of Unsaturated Fats (the good guys): polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats.

  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids
    These fats are found mostly in vegetable oils and it helps lower blood cholesterol level and triglyceride levels. These are HEALTHY fats so you can add some of these to your diet! There is ONE type of polyunsaturated fatty acids is most special in all the land:

    Omega-3 fatty acids

    This type is fat is different than the others. Your body can’t create it from the foods that we eat so it must get it from food. This fat is a fundamental part of your cell membranes! It helps with blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of the artery walls, and inflammation, which, you can probably piece together, is why it is such a rock star at helping reduce heart disease!

  • Monounsaturated Fats
    These are very similar to the polyunsaturated fats described above. They differ from their polyunsaturated friends in that they have only one (mono, get it?) double bond in their molecular structure. You know what? I don’t even care about that. I hate chemistry. You can identify these fats because they are liquid at room temperature and are also a good source of antioxidant vitamin E.

Bottom Line: Add more of both types of unsaturated fats into your diet!

Here’s a quick list of healthy sources of fats (so you can pick them up at the grocery store… so grab your grocery list and write them down!):

  • Salmon (Omega-3)
  • Sardines (Omega-3; I have never tried these)
  • Flax seeds (Omega-3)
  • Walnuts
  • Natural Peanut Butter (ingredients are peanuts and salt… nothing else)
  • Olives
  • Avocados (there is a God)
  • Hazelnuts
  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds (excellent on a salad)
  • Olives
  • Canola and Peanut Oil

Bad Fats (aka The Jerks)

There are two types of fat that should be eaten sparingly. These fats can raise cholesterol levels, clog arteries, and increase the risk for heart disease. Lets go over the TWO types of BAD FATS….

  • Saturated fats
    These fats are actually only kinda bad. The American Heart Association recommends limiting this type of fat because it can raise your bad cholesterol. These types of fats are found in animal products (meat, poultry skin, high-fat dairy, eggs) and vegetable fats that are liquid at room temp (coconut and palm oils).

    Wait…what?!? I bet many of you are completely confused about the coconut oil! Lately it seems as if everything on the planet could be healed or cured with this seemingly magical substance. Facebook and Pinterest are FULL of DIY coconut oil concoctions. Honestly, is there ANYONE who HASN’T tried bulletproof coffee yet??? Anyone..?

    Lets look closer at the mystery of coconut oil…

    90% of the fatty acids in coconut oil are saturated fats, which make it one of the richest sources of saturated fats. Apparently coconut oil isn’t like the other saturated fats. It is SUPER SPECIAL and privileged. It contains medium-chain triglycerides that are metabolized differently than the other types of saturated fats. It zips from the digestive track directly to the liver so it can be used as a quick source of energy and has a GREAT affect on the BRAIN! Another benefit to coconut oil is that it appears to be helpful with weight reduction, specifically belly fat. (so reach down and grab your belly…I dare ya! ) THIS may be an excellent future blog topic, dontcha think?

Bottom Line: Be selective with your saturated fats and ADD coconut oil to your diet!

Here is a quick list of some sources of Saturated Fats:

  • Fatty beef
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Whole milk
  • Cream
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Ice Cream

Trans Fats/Trans fatty acids

  • Naturally Occurring: This type is found in super small amounts in dairy and meat. Not too much of a concern if you choose low-fat dairy and lean meats
  • Artificial/Partially hydrogenated: This type of fat is a BIG concern. Even a small amount can increase the risk of heart disease by INCREASING the bad cholesterol and decreasing the good. This fat is “created” (like Frankenstein) when hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils. The biggest source of this fat in diets is called “partially hydrogenated oils”. Stay away from these creeps! These are the fats used significantly in frying, baked goods, cookies, icings, crackers.. and, unfortunately, all convenient foods that taste really good.

Bottom Line: AVOID AVOID AVOID partially hydrogenated trans fats!! READ your labels, people and look for snacks without trans fat!

In my health coaching practice, I help my clients learn how to lose weight, gain energy and feel better than ever…..without dieting.

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I hope you learned something today. Or, in the very least, it wasn’t too boring!

Would you do me a favor and share this with a friend… or on social media?



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