The health risk of fats is a popularly accepted view. While all fats, when consumed in excess, will contribute to weight gain, unsaturated fats, when taken in moderation, help lower blood cholesterol levels as they replace harmful saturated fats.

Unsaturated fats stay liquid at room temperature. Some examples of food where these are found in high concentrations are olive, peanut, and canola oils, avocados, nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, and pumpkin and sesame seeds. These are examples of foods that are rich in monounsaturated fats.

The sources of polyunsaturated fats in high concentration include sunflower, corn, soybean, flaxseed oils, walnuts, fish, and canola oil (this has both mono and polyunsaturated fat).

Omega 3 is unsaturated fat. While fish is a good source of this type of fat, it is also found in flax seeds, walnuts, canola oil, and soybean oil. The American Heart Association suggests 8 to 10% of daily calories should come from polyunsaturated fats.

A good diet should decrease saturated fat and reduce blood cholesterol by consuming more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and poultry and less red meat. This diet will protect the body from cardiovascular diseases (Krish-Etherton et al., 2001; Hu., 2003).

Polyunsaturated margarine with plant-based phytosterols reduced cholesterol absorption in the gut and lowered blood cholesterol levels. It reduces heart disease risk by 25% (Law, 2000).

Nuts (tree nuts and peanuts) are nutrient-dense foods rich in unsaturated fats and bioactive compounds like high-quality vegetable protein, fiber, and minerals. This food provides wide-ranging cardiovascular and metabolic benefits (Ros, 2010).

Monounsaturated fatty acids in plant oils like rapeseed or olive oil positively impact the blood lipid profile. These favorably influence the metabolism of diabetics too. Suppose the fatty acid composition of the diet is optimized. In that case, even a total dietary fat content of 35% of total energy intake (at the top end of the recommended energy information from fats) continues to have a protective effect. In such cases, a higher level of physical activity is recommended. This diet is largely plant-based (Wahrburg, 2004).

The health risks of fats, therefore, should be looked at in a nuanced manner. When choosing the fat we should consume in our diet, it is best to avoid trans-fatty acids or trans fats. Heating liquid vegetable oils make trans fats in the presence of hydrogen gas and a catalyst. This process is called hydrogenation. Partial hydrogenation makes the oil more stable and less likely to turn rancid. Fat is converted into a solid and functions more like margarine or shortening.

Additional reading:

Nutrition Facts – a guide to good health

Natural Solutions for obesity

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