Good Fats Vs. Bad Fats

Bad fats and good fats in diet

October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness or SCA Month. Join PIM at Cabrini’s Iadarola Hall on 10/17 at 6:30 pm for a FREE Group Class on Cardiovascular Health!

Last week’s post touched on blood cholesterol and where comes from. We now know that blood cholesterol has much less to do with dietary cholesterol, and that consuming “bad” or trans fat does negatively impact cholesterol levels. One of the most important part of your daily diet can be the quality of fat and oils consumed. There has been an explosion in the past 20-30 years of research on the significance of fats in disease and health. There is evidence that links many of the most common forms of degenerative diseases that afflict us today with unhealthy fats. This includes heart disease and cancer. Not all fats are created equal. There are good fats and bad fats. Certain fats that support beneficial body processes and others have detrimental effects. Becoming aware of different types of fats and oils will help your daily food choices health-enhancing and informed.

Defining Fats

In order to understand fats, we need to start with some definitions. Oils are liquid at room temperature and fats are solids. The basic units of both fats and oils are Fatty acids. The characteristics and nutritional activity of a type of fat depends on the particular fatty acids it contains. Fats are divided into classifications that include:  monounsaturated, saturated or polyunsaturated The classification is related to the type of fatty acids and quantity it contains.

There are two primary sources that Dietary fats are available from: animal and vegetable.  Vegetable fats like sesame oil - polyunsaturated and olive oil - monounsaturated are usually liquid. Animal fats, such as lard or butter, tend to be solid and are saturated fats. Many important functions in the body are supported by dietary fats. Structural functions are among the most important - the major constituent of every cell in the body. The outer lining, or membrane of a cell, determines what can go in and out of a cell. The membrane work as a gatekeeper and is critical to the function.

As previously mentioned, there are “bad” and “good” fats. Good fats are generally derived from unprocessed food sources. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils are more fluid and are almost always healthy for you. It is known that these may even participate in gut and brain cell formation! Fats that contribute to this functions are medium and short chain saturated fats, for example, coconut oil. Two families of fats that are termed essential on top of good are Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. This means that the body cannot live without them and cannot make them itself, so we must eat them. These are termed as Essential Fatty Acids or EFA's. These EFA's perform crucially in the body by producing prostaglandins - or "tiny messengers." This substance can be thought of as a "master switch"  that is hormone-like. Prostaglandins regulate and control nearly all cellular activity. They  can control inflammation,  immune system activity and blood pressure.  The balance of these messengers are controlled by certain Omega-3 fats. Maintaining this balance is critical for proper function. Ideally, our diet simply supplies the appropriate amount and  ratio of EFA's to balance our Prostaglandins.


  • Essential, unprocessed fats should make up half of your daily intake

  • Recommended total fat consumption is 20-30% of total calories per day.

    • 1500 calorie diet can have up to 35-50 grams of fat.

    • 2000 calorie diet can have up to 45-66 grams of fat a day.

    • 2500 calorie diet can have up to 55-83 grams from fat.


  • Cook with medium heat and use regular olive oil instead of extra virgin.

  • It is important to purchase good quality oils. Look for labels that indicate that they are not exposed to chemical alteration and heat such as “cold-pressed.” Your oils should be stored in glass, tinted bottles with a tight lid. Keep refrigerated. Look for olive oils labeled “first-pressing” or “extra-virgin.”

  • Avocado, almond, walnut, grapeseed, sesame (or tahini), and cold-pressed extra virgin olive oils are the optimal polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats to add to your diet.

  • Use medium or short chain saturated fats that are natural, like coconut oil. These don’t have the risks that come with processed hydrogenated fats and are more stable. Because essential fatty acids can be destroyed at certain temperatures, avoid deep frying or using high heat. Safflower oil as this is most stable under higher heat conditions if necessary.

  • All processed fats should be avoided. Processed baked goods,margarine and chips are a few. Avoid labels that are “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated.” These fats are damaged and unnatural. Choose butter over margarine.

  • Consumption of saturated fats derived from animals should be kept to a minimum. Fatty cuts of meat, and items prepared with high amounts of saturated fats should be avoided.


Interested in connecting with PIM? Register for our upcoming group free class at Cabrini College: October 17th: Live Long and Prosper: Functional and Integrative Medicine for Cardiovascular Health. Keys to Heart and Blood Vessel Health with Annmarie McManus, MMSc, PA-C, PT, IFMCP. Admission is FREE!

If you or your loved one has ongoing stress, mood or hormone imbalance, or they are suffering from a chronic illness, please consider scheduling a 20 minute free consultation or an appointment with Annmarie McManus, MMSc, PA-C, PT, IFMCP, our certified Functional Medicine PIM provider


Adapted from Dietary Fats, Institute for Functional Medicine

Jill MaddockComment