How to Choose Healthy Fats

Your diet needs to contain several things to be deemed healthy. You need protein, Beginner’s Guide to Protein, for growth and repair, vitamins and minerals to keep the systems of your body functioning properly, carbohydrates for energy, water to keep you hydrated and fiber to keep your digestive system in good shape. And, contrary to what a lot of people believe, you also need fats too.

Fats are a big, complex and contradictory subject in nutrition. On the one hand, some fats are very unhealthy and linked to things like heart disease and obesity. On the other hand, some fats are deemed so healthy they are said to be “essential”.

This all makes for a very confusing subject! It’s not simply a matter of saying that all fats are bad and we should eat a very low fat diet; too few “good fats” could make you as unhealthy as too many “bad” fats. However, the media and food producers seldom differentiate between good and bad fats and often label all fats as being the same.

In this article you’ll discover the difference between good fats and bad fats and learn how to make sure you are getting enough of the healthy ones will cutting down on the unhealthy ones.

Good fats vs. Bad fats 

There are several different types of fat which can broadly be divided into good and bad fats.

The Good fats are:

  • Monounsaturated fat
  • Polyunsaturated fat (Omega 3 and Omega 6, and also known as essential fatty acids of EFAs for short)

The Bad fats are:

  • Saturated fat
  • Trans fat
  • Cholesterol

All fats have a role to play in your body – even the bad fats – but too many of the bad fats and too few of the good fats can lead to problems.

Common Sources of ..,
"Bad" Fats

"Good" Fats

Saturated fatTrans fatCholesterolMonounsaturated fatPolyunsaturated fats
ButterFrench friesEggsOlive oilWalnuts
Full fat milkPancakesPrawns Sunflower oilCanola oil
BeefIce creamLiverBeefChai seeds
CreamNon-dairy creamersKidneysPeanutsOily fish
Poultry skinsCookiesPorkSafflower oilGrapeseed oil
LardFrozen dinnersPoultry skinsAvocadosWheat germ oil
CheeseCheap margarineBeefCorn oilPoppy seeds
Ice creamProcessed meatsDairySoya bean oilSoy beans and oil
PorkPies and pastriesFish CashewsTuna
ButterPotato chipsButterPumpkin seedsSeaweed

As you can see, some foods appear in more than one list. For example beef contains bad saturated fat and cholesterol but also contains good monounsaturated fats. Similarly, fish contains cholesterol but also contains healthy polyunsaturated fats too. It’s no wonder then that choosing the right fats can be so confusing!

So what makes these fats good or bad? Excellent question!

“Good” fats play an important role in many of your body’s essential functions. Mono and polyunsaturated fats are good for your heart, skin, eyes, hair and joints. They are naturally anti-inflammatory which simply means that they reduce swelling and reddening – that’s why they are good for your joints.

“Bad” fats, in contrast, are linked to heart disease and various cancers and, in the case of saturated fat, are more likely to make you fat – being fat is just as unhealthy as bad dietary fats.

So, all in all, it makes sense to be “fat aware” and consume more healthy, good fats and fewer bad, unhealthy fats.

Replacing bad fats with healthier options

Simply reducing your total at intake is not really a good idea because a low fat diet could end up being not only low in bad fats but low in the good ones too. That’s why simply following a low fat diet is not always the best way forward.

Good dietary health is as much about the TYPE of fat you eat as it is the QUANTITY of fat you eat. And, to make matters worse, many so-called low fat foods are packed with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients even though they are low in fat!

Here are some easy-to-implement ways to reduce your bad fat intake while preserving or even increasing your good fat intake…

Less healthy fat

Healthy alternative

ButterNon-hydrogenated margarine
Full fat milkLow fat milk
Ice creamNatural yogurt
BaconTurkey rashers
Full fat creamLow fat cream
Red meatPoultry and fish
Fried foodsGrilled foods
LardOlive oil
MayonnaiseSunflower oil salad dressing
Chocolate barsNuts and seeds

Healthy fat foods list

In addition to trying to reduce your “bad” fat intake, it makes sense to increase your “good” fat intake. Mono and polyunsaturated fats are extremely healthy but many people fail to consume enough of the foods that contain them. This is, in part, because we are so often told that all fats are bad when that’s simply not the case. Here are a few good fat foods that should be present in your diet…

Flax seeds and flex seed oil

High in essential polyunsaturated fats, flax seeds are a very healthy food. The seeds can be added to salads and oatmeal while the oil is ideal as a salad dressing or dipping oil. Flax seeds are linked to a reduced incidence of cancer, lowered blood pressure, reduced risk of depression and lowered cholesterol.

Flax seeds

Available on


Coconut oil

Tasty and ideal for use in cooking, coconut oil is high in a substance called oleic acid which can lower bad LDL cholesterol, increase good HDL cholesterol and which can lower your risk of heart disease. Coconut oil is also great melted over vegetables and makes a great spread.

extra virgin coconut oil

Available on

Olives and olive oil

A big part of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, olives and olive oil are high in monounsaturated fat. As well as being good for your heart, olives and olive oils consumption is linked to a reduced risk of strokes.

extra virgen oil

On Stock at

Almond oil and butter

Almonds are a good source of essential unsaturated fats and have been linked to increased insulin sensitivity and a reduced risk of developing diabetes. Consumption of almond (in butter or oil) may also lower bad LDL cholesterol and almonds are a good source of protein too.

Almond Butter

Available at

Avocados and avocado oil

High in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, eating avocados or using avocado oil can help lower cholesterol and blood triglyceride levels and therefore reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

avocado oil

on stock on

Oily fish

High in omega 3 polyunsaturated fats, oily fish is good for your heart, your brain and virtually every other organ in between. If you don’t like oily fish, consider taking a good quality fish oil supplement.

fish oil

Find it at

How to use healthy fats 

Before you reach for the healthy fats and start using them in all your meals, it’s important to stress that cooking with monounsaturated oils like olive oil is okay but it’s not really a good idea to cook with polyunsaturated oils like corn oil or sunflower oil.

Heat can turn these very reactive oils into trans fats and, of all the fats, trans fats are arguably the least healthy.

Instead of cooking with polyunsaturated fats, you would do much better to consume these raw as a salad dressing or made into a dip. Heating polyunsaturated fats damages the fragile structure and renders them not just less healthy but actually makes them unhealthy. Bottom line: do not heat polyunsaturated oils!

Here are some other practical ways to use healthy fats…

  • Mash an avocado and spread on bread in place of butter or margarine
  • Top yogurt with chopped nuts and seeds instead of having ice cream with candy sprinkles or sugary syrups for dessert
  • Make your own heart-healthy salad dressings using olive or sunflower oil instead of using commercial dressings that are inevitably high in unhealthy trans fats
  • Use almond butter (preferably organic, and sugar free) instead of peanut butter
  • Snack on olives and nuts and not chocolate, chips or candy
  • Eat fish in place of red meat several times per week
  • Sprinkle ground flax seeds on your breakfast cereal


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Hi, my name is Sarah and I’m so happy that you’re here! I've shared my story here

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