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A Guide to Healthy vs. Unhealthy Fats

Learn the best & worst sources of fat to add to your diet.

Confused about fats? You're not alone. For decades fat was seen as the enemy. Store shelves were loaded with low-fat and non-fat foods. But in recent years, thanks to the rise of the Ketogenic diet, fat is finally getting the credit it deserves. Like protein and carbs, fat is a macronutrient that your body needs. But it's important to get the right kind of fats... in the right amounts.

Fat Helps Your Body:

  • Produce hormones

  • Create energy

  • Support cell growth

  • Protect organs

  • Absorb nutrients

  • Promote satiety (help you feel full)

  • Keep your cholesterol under control

  • Support brain health




Unsaturated fats are the good fats. These include monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs).

Monounsaturated fats lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and maintain "good" HDL cholesterol.

Polyunsaturated fats reduce LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. These include heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Saturated fats are not all bad, but show be kept to a minimum. Trans fats are the bad fats.

Saturated fats can raise LDL cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Trans fats increase bad LDL cholesterol AND lower good HDL cholesterol.

Artificial trans fats also increase inflammation.


How Much Fat Do You Need?




Under 30% fats

About 67 grams (based on 2,000 calorie diet

35-40% fats

78-89 grams (based on 2,000 calorie diet

75% fats

111-167 grams (based on 2,000 calorie diet



Note: Coconut is 92% saturated fat, but it's mostly made up of medium chain saturated fats, which metabolize differently than other saturated fats. Coconuts provide many health benefits, so feel free to enjoy them. Just don't go overboard.


Sources of Saturated Fats

  • Red meat (conventional beef, lamb, pork. Grass fed red meat in small portions are okay)

  • Whole fat dairy products

  • Butter (not grass fed)

  • Ice cream

  • Cheese

  • Lard

  • Cured meats like pancetta, salami, & chorizo

  • Bacon & sausage

  • Fatty cuts of meat

  • Many fried foods

Note: You don't have to avoid saturated fats altogether. But aim to keep saturated fats under 10% of all calories consumed.

Sources of Trans Fats

Small amounts of trans fatty acids naturally occur in some meat and dairy products, like butter.

Artificial trans fats are known as 'hydrogenated' or 'partially hydrogenated' fats. They're made by adding hydrogen to saturated fats. While trans fats extend the shelf life on products, they're linked with a slew of health problems.

Trans fats may be found in:

  • Commercial baked goods (cakes, cookies, pastries)

  • Processed foods (crackers, chips, microwave popcorn)

  • Fried foods

  • Fast foods

  • Shortening

  • Frozen pizza

  • Margarine

  • Non-dairy creamer


What to Look Out For

Food labels mark how much saturated and trans fats are in products. Well... kind of.

Artificial trans fats are so unhealthy that the FDA banned them in 2018. However, food manufacturers are not required to mark any products that contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving.

Unless you know what to look for on labels, those hidden trans fats can quickly add up. So always read the ingredients list. If it says 'hydrogenated' or 'partially hydrogenated oil,' that means trans fats!

What About Seed Oils?

No fat guide would be complete without addressing seed oils.

In recent years, seed oils have gotten a lot of attention in the health world. Seed oils are vegetable based oils like:

  • Canola oil

  • Soybean oil

  • Corn oil

  • Sunflower oil

  • Cottonseed oil

  • Grapeseed oil

  • Peanut oil

Seed oils are low in saturated fats and contain healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

But... they're highly refined and can cause inflammation when consumed in excess. And compared to good-for-you fat sources like olive oil and avocado, seeds oils offer little nutrition.

Since seed oils are cheap, they're often found in many processed foods. The best way to make sure you're getting your fill of healthy fats is to consume mostly whole foods.


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