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Get excited about nutrition, and learn as you go with these information-packed resources on a wide variety of nutrition-centric topics! Our bistroMD experts review the importance of the macronutrients protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as how to make them work most efficiently for you.

8 Types of Fats You Need to Know About

Not all fats should be treated the same, as there are some thought to be more healthful than others. Find out which fats are healthy and which you should avoid with this list of six types of fats.


"Low-fat" and "fat-free" products became highly popularized not terribly long ago. Consumers of these products correlate health with their consumption - generally thought to lead to weight loss and lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease. But all fats are not treated the same, as there are some thought to be more healthful than others.

6 Types of Fats You Need to Know About

1. Trans Fat

If any fat should be avoided, all fingers point to trans fat. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deadlines trans fat out of processed foods by the year 2018 related to negative health effects. But until then, it is recommended to consume no more than one percent of total daily calories from trans fats - this translates to only 20 calories and two grams based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Trans fats are also recognized as "hydrogenation" or "partially hydrogenated oil" and commonly found in margarine, dressings, pastries, fried and convenience foods such as chips.

2. Saturated Fat

Though saturated fats often have a poor connotation, they can absolutely fit into a balanced diet. Saturated fats are also known as "solid" fats and actually match what its name implies - a type of fat solid at room temperature. Animal sources are generally rich in saturated fat and include milk, beef, and eggs which are significant sources of calcium, iron, and protein, respectfully. When consuming saturated fat-containing products, it is valuable to consume whole products and keep their intake controlled. For example, when preparing a steak, stray away from sugar-laden sauces that may also contain trans fats.

Unsaturated Fats

Unlike saturated fats, unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and mostly come from plant sources. Unsaturated fats are further broken down into monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.

3. Monounsaturated Fat

Also known as monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), monounsaturated fats have shown to have profound effects on health with the potential to decrease LDL or "bad" cholesterol while maintaining HDL or "good" cholesterol levels. The combination may ultimately reduce the risk of heart disease. MUFAs come from avocados, nuts and their correlated nut butters and vegetable oils including canola and olive oils.

4. Polyunsaturated Fat

Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), polyunsaturated fats are also shown to reduce LDL cholesterol when used in place of saturated and trans fat products. PUFAs are further broken down into omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.

5. Omega-3

These fats are known to be heart-protective, as they can reduce triglyceride levels and act as powerful antioxidants. Omega-3 fatty acids are popularized and researched as the primary healthy fat. Significant sources of omega-3s include seed oils, chia seeds, tofu and fatty fish including herring, tuna, salmon and trout.

6. Omega-6

Omega 6 can also be heart healthy, especially when consumed in balanced amounts. Ultimately, omega-3s should surpass the intake of omega-6s to optimize heart protection. Omega-6s are primarily found in liquid vegetable oils.

So conclusively, when ranking "good" fats vs "bad" fats, the following order identifies their consumption from more (healthy fat) to lesser (unhealthy fat) amounts and is as follows: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, saturated fats and trans fats. It is essential to remember, even with healthy fats, that they should be consumed in moderation as all fat sources provide 9 calories per one gram - more than double the amount of calories in carbohydrate and protein sources that provides 4 calories per one gram. But most importantly, the intake of healthful fat is extremely valuable to health as they help control hunger, transport fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) throughout the body, cushion and protect vital organs and aid in a healthy, steady metabolism.

Written By Sarah Asay, RDN. Published on April 03, 2013. Updated on September 07, 2016.


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