Fats 101: How to tell Good Fats and Bad Fats

Written By: Gloria Tsang, RD

Title: Founding Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

The fact is: we all need fats. Fats helps nutrient absorption, nerve transmission, maintaining cell membrane integrity etc. However, when consumed in excess amount, fats contribute to weight gain, heart disease and certain types of cancer. Fats are not created equal. Some fats promote our health positively while others increase our risks of heart disease. The key is to replace bad fats with good fats in our diet.

Good fats vs Bad Fats

The Good Fats

1. Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), also known as Omega 9, come from plant foods only. They lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). Nuts including avocado, nuts, vegetable oil such as olive oil are high in monounsaturated fats. MUFAs have also been found to help in weight loss, particularly body fat.

2. Polyunsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Seafood like salmon and fish oil, as well as corn, soy, safflower and sunflower oils are high in polyunsaturated fats. The most known polyunsaturated fats include:

The Less-Healthy “Bad” Fats

1. Saturated Fats

Saturated fats raise total blood cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol. Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs and seafood. Some plant foods are also high in saturated fats such as coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil.

2. Trans Fats

Trans fats are invented as scientists began to “hydrogenate” liquid oils so that they can withstand better in food production process and provide a better shelf life. As a result of hydrogenation, trans fatty acids are formed. As the negative health impacts became known, countries started banning the use of artificial partially-hydrogenated oil in foods. Nowadays, both United States and Canada have banned artificial trans fat.

Replace “Bad” Fats with Good Fats

  • Avoid using cooking oils that are high in saturated fats and/or trans fats such as coconut oil, palm oil or vegetable shortening. Instead, use oils that are low in saturated fats and high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado oil and canola oil. Check out our healthy cooking oil chart.
  • Snack on whole foods such as nuts or fruit with nut butter, instead of packaged snacks that may be processed with palm oil.
  • Instead of using butter on toast, try mashing avocado and spread on toast. Alternately, choose non-hydrogenated margarine.
  • As saturated fats are found in animals products, trim visible fats or skins from meat products.


cholesterol, fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, saturated fats, trans fat, unsaturated fats


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