Are fats healthy?

When you think of the word 'fat' one of the first images that might come to mind is unsightly and unwanted weight. Because of this association, some people eliminate all fats from their diets in an attempt to lose weight. Eating fat doesn't make you fat and avoiding all fats can hurt your overall health.

Calories

The main reason that people tend to avoid dietary fat is because of unwanted weight gain. Hearing the word fat scares people away from it. Fats found in food have much less to do with weight balance than overall calorie intake. Gaining or losing weight is controlled by the relationship between how many calories you eat and how many you burn. If you create a calorie surplus (eat more than you burn), you'll gain weight. If you create a calorie deficit (eat less than you burn) you'll lose weight.

When you eat more than you burn (calorie surplus) your body can store the excess energy as fat. It doesn't matter whether the extra calories come from carbohydrates, proteins or fats, either one can be converted into fat for later use. The fat you eat in food does not automatically get stored as body fat. It will only get stored as fat if you're eating too much. This however, is true for all three of the macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats). There are different types of fats, some good and others bad. You'll miss out on some key health benefits if you choose to avoid all fats.

Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fats are known as the healthy fats because they raise the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes. Sources include oils (olive and canola), seafood, nuts and avocados.

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are known as the unhealthy fats because they raise the levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease and strokes. Sources include dairy products, egg yolks and meat. When eating these foods, try low-fat alternatives.

Trans Fats

Trans fats are also known as unhealthy fats. In addition to raising the levels of bad cholesterol, they also lower your levels of good cholesterol. They are found in any food that contains hydrogenated vegetable oil.

The Bottom Line

Fats do not automatically contribute to unwanted weight gain. Your body uses fats for energy and unless you're eating an excessive amount of calories, you won't gain weight simply from eating fats.