There are four types of fat:
1. SATURATED FATS - have been associated with chronic illnesses such as heart disease
2. MONOUNSATURATED FATS - appear reasonably neutral
3. POLYUNSATURATED FATS - are recognized as protective.
4. TRANS FATS - have been associated with chronic illnesses such as heart disease
are known as the “good fats” because they are good for your heart, your cholesterol, and your overall health.
are known as the “bad fats” because they increase your risk of disease and elevate cholesterol.
Appearance-wise, saturated fats and trans fats tend to be solid at room temperature (think of butter or traditional stick margarine), while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats tend to be liquid (think of olive or corn oil).
Therefore, the greater the proportion of mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids contained in a particular fat or oil, the healthier it is.
TALLOW: (rendered beef fat) or ghee (rendered butter) are often used for frying, but these are saturated fats, so they’re among the least healthy.
BUTTER: is also a saturated fat, but has other components as well. The dairy proteins, relatively high water content and short chain fatty acids mean butter is great for browning food, but not for frying as it starts to splatter when heated to a high temperature.
VEGETABLE OIL: is a term used for any (non animal-based) oil from vegetable or seed origin. Or it can be a blend of these oils. It is mainly polyunsaturated fats of different chain lengths, so it’s one of the healthier options.
CANOLA OIL: which was developed from rapeseed, was specifically developed for frying as it contains predominantly longer chain monounsaturated fatty acids and has a relatively high smoke point.
PEANUT OIL: (from peanuts) is mainly long chain omega 6 (polyunsaturated) fatty acids. It has a high smoke point and is also good for frying.
OLIVE OIL: is predominantly monounsaturated fatty acids, but has the added benefit of polyphenolic compounds which act as antioxidants and contribute to the health qualities of this oil. Olive oil does not have a high smoke point, so should only be used for low-temperature cooking.
COLD PRESSED OLIVE OIL: is the best choice, as it is not heated or processed by chemicals in the extraction of the oil from the olive. Olive oil is easily oxidised so should be stored in a dark place in a coloured bottle.
COCONUT OIL: has 85-90% saturated fatty acids. It has traditionally been used in curries, but its recent popularity with health conscious consumers has seen it added to all kinds of foods from muesli to smoothies. The predominant fatty acid in coconut oil is Lauric acid. Its shorter chain length is thought to be why coconut oil may not have the same effects on LDL (bad) cholesterol as other saturated fatty acids. But there is little evidence for any health benefits of Lauric acid at this point. To be prudent, it is best to use coconut oil occasionally as part of a healthy eating plan.
FLAXSEED OIL: (also known as linseed oil) is claimed to have similar health benefits to marine omega 3 fatty acids. Flaxseed oil contains a high proportion of α-Linolenic acid (ALA), which in theory can be converted to omega-3 fatty acids by the body. But we are not efficient at doing this and there is little evidence that flaxseed oil has the same protective effects as the omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil.
Good sources include fish, walnuts, ground flax seeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil.
HOW MUCH FAT IS TOO MUCH?
How much fat is too much depends on your lifestyle, your weight, your age, and most importantly the state of your health. The USDA recommends that the average individual:
- Keep total fat intake to 20-35% of calories
- Limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your calories (200 calories for a 2000 calorie diet)
- Limit trans fats to 1% of calories (2 grams per day for a 2000 calorie diet)