Distinguishing the difference between beneficial and detrimental fats

Although good and bad fats have always been prevalent in foods, understanding how to regulate and maintain these different types of fats, is important in nurturing a healthy body.

Some good fats include polyunsaturated fat that is contained in vegetable oil, Omega-3 fatty acids found in tuna, and monounsaturated fat that is contained in nuts.

These are all fats that are both safe and necessary to consume more frequently than not.

Narayana Darst, interim director at the Student Health and Counseling Center at CSUF, explained how good fats such as unsaturated fats — both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated—have been proven to decrease a person’s total cholesterol.

“Omega-3 fatty acids in particular, are related to the prevention and treatment of heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and cancer,” said Darst.

Darst explained that although good fats are necessary for a healthy body and lifestyle, the amount each person should consume ultimately varies based on a person’s height, weight, gender, and lastly, a person’s activity level.

“Keep your total fat intake between 20 and 30 percent of calories from mostly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat sources,” Darst said. “An individual consuming a 2,000 calorie diet needs to consume between 55 and 85 grams of fat from healthy sources.”

Michael Houser, a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness, explained how important fats are when it comes to diet, and ultimately how important fats are towards maintaining a healthy body.

“Fats are important for your diet because a lot of hormonal functions are controlled by fats,” Houser said. “Our endocrine system needs fats to work properly, but also a lot of our hormones in our body are lipid based, and without the proper fat in our body, we can’t create muscle.”

He explained that when the body does not receive a good amount of fats such as Omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, the body will hoard all the fat that it has because it does not know when it will receive more fats.

Houser added that although saturated fat is looked down upon, he feels that based on multiple studies, adding a little saturated fat to a person’s diet may be beneficial.

“For a healthy cholesterol, you still need some saturated fat in your diet to help erase your HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein),” Houser said. “That is why when you have three eggs or so, you usually want to follow the rule of one yoke and two egg whites.”

Darst explained that in regards to bad fats such as saturated fats, a person should limit the amount of fat to less than seven percent of their total energy.

“Individuals with heart disease should take an Omega-3 supplement containing one gram per  day,” Darst said. “Healthy people wishing to reduce their risk of heart disease may take a supplement of 500 mg per day.”

Francesca Protano, the assistant vitamin manager at Mother’s Market, explained the importance that certain vitamins contain in regards to increasing good fats in the blood stream.

“We have essential fatty acid supplements such as flax oils and fish oils, whether it be in a liquid or a pill form,” said Protano.

She said that besides the supplements being beneficial for the blood stream, fish oils that contain the Omega-3 fatty acids and algae oils are also beneficial for brain functions.

Houser added that although saturated fats are necessary in moderation, trans fat on the other hand should never be consumed.

“Trans fats are basically unnatural,” Houser said. “They are found in nature, but very rarely and usually they are found in fast food and other companies, and their chemical structure makes it very unhealthy to eat.”

About Lauren Davis