What Are the Different Types of Fats?
classifications of fats
+ which fats to eat?
Many fatty foods fall into several categories, this is why I try to look at the whole food product, not just the macronutrient. When you read the list of fatty foods in each category zoom out and look at the food as a whole. Even though avocados and avocado oil are both monounsaturated fats – I’m always going to go for the whole food.
I have broken down all fatty foods into the following five categories. In each section, I break down what you need to know about that type of fat and which foods fall into that category. Now go forth, and eat your omegas.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 is the holy grail in the fat kingdom. This is where you should focus your fat intake. The benefits of omega-3 make them my top choice of fat. Eat them all the damn time.
The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are in cold water fish, fish oil supplements, and algae oil. They are all rich source of EPA and DHA. The FDA recommends you avoid large fish such as swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel due to ocean pollutants. I also wrote a guide on the best supplemental sources of omega-3. So click it.
Plant-based omega-3 is a rich source of ALA. However, the conversion rate of ALA to EPA and DHA is less than 10 percent. This means plants are not a great source of DHA and EPA. The only exception is algae oil. If you are vegan or vegetarian please look into taking an algae oil supplement.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 and omega-3 are both essential fatty acids and must be consumed in our diet. However, our standard American diets are saturated with omega-6 and are lacking in omega-3.
A diet high in omega-6 and low in omega-3 is not favorable. This is why I recommend focusing primarily on eating omega-3 fatty acids. If you look at the list of foods that are high in omega-6 fatty acids you will notice that most of them are oil.
Oils are not my favorite sources of fat. Instead of oils think nuts and seeds, they are high in omega-6 and low in omega-3, with the exception of flax and chia. Unlike oils, whole nuts and seeds are unrefined, are a great source of fiber, and still have vitamins and minerals intact. In the meantime, go easy on the oils.
Foods High in Omega-6:
Again, take a note of all the oils in this category. I will always rank a whole food over its liquid counterpart. Many oils rich in monounsaturated fats also have an unfavorable omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.
With that being said – there are several health benefits from monounsaturated fats. Pick avocados before avocado oil. The less processed the food the higher the nutritional properties.
The main reason I rank on oils so much it the potential for oxidization. It’s difficult to know how long oils have been on the shelf, what the temperature conditions were, and how they were shipped and handled. It’s important to know the smoke point of oils and how to prevent them from becoming rancid.
Foods High in Monounsaturated Fats:
Saturated fats are in a middle zone. Eat these in moderation and don’t make them your primary source of fats. Most saturated fats come from animal meat, dairy, and processed food products. The only plant-based source of saturated fats is palm and coconut oil. Remember, go easy on saturated fats.
Foods Containing Saturated Fat:
cheese, ice cream, yogurt, milk, cream, butter, sausages, hot dogs, hamburger, fried chicken and poultry, bacon, pork, ribs, lamb, cookies, donuts, pastries, cake, croissants, french fries, pizza, fried food, palm and coconut oil
Many foods that contain trans fat are also a source of saturated fat. Trans fats don’t do your body any favors. In fact, they can have a negative impact. I understand it would be difficult to cut trans fats out completely, but try to seriously cut back on eating foods containing trans fats. Learn how to read labels and avoid purchasing food with trans fat. In the meantime cut back on the fried food and coffee creamer.
Foods Containing Trans Fats:
margarine, vegetable shortening, crackers, cookies, processed snack foods, fried food, pizza, frozen pies and cakes, baked goods, refrigerated dough products, coffee creamer, microwave popcorn, fried partially hydrogenated oils, meat and dairy in small amounts
THE TAKEAWAY ON FATS
Stop being afraid of butter and eat avocados on a regular basis. Don’t put that dressing on the side, just check the ingredients first. There is no need to fear fatty foods especially if they come from plants. Always remember whole food fat sources are more nutritious than their processed counterparts.