What Are Fats?

Fats are one of the three macronutrients that we need to stay healthy. Fats can also be called lipids or fatty acids. Fats provide our bodies with energy, insulin and nutrients they need to work well.

Role of Fat in the Body

Fay plays many important roles throughout our body. Some of the most important roles include,

    • Energy 
    • Insulation 
    • Absorption of vitamins and minerals 

Types of Fat

There are 4 main types of fat you’ll hear dietitians and doctors talk about.

Saturated Fat 

Saturated fats are the type of fat that has no double bonds and is sometimes known as the dairy fat. These fats can increase both our cholesterol and our risk of heart disease. 

Trans Fat

These fats are well known as the “bad fats”. But the story of trans fats isn’t so black and white. Some trans fats occur naturally, while others are artificially made during the cooking process. Natural trans fats occur in some animal products and are not considered harmful. On the other hand, artificial trans fats which may be added to foods can have negative health consequences. As of September 2020, Canada has banned the addition of artificial trans fats to foods. For more information on Canada’s trans fat ban, check out this Heart & Stroke foundation page. 

Polyunsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats are widely considered to be the “healthy fats”, with many heart-health benefits. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can be found in many polyunsaturated fats and are essential for energy production and help regulate inflammation. 

Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats are another type of “healthy fat.” These fats contain only one carbon-to-carbon double bond, whereas polyunsaturated fats have more than one carbon-to-carbon double bond in their structure.

Role of Fat in Chronic Disease

High intakes of “bad” fats are associated with a higher risk of some chronic diseases including,

    • Diabetes 
      • Consuming large amounts of saturated and trans fat can promote systemic inflammation and increase the risk of developing diabetes. Alternatively, diets rich in unsaturated fats have been associated with a decreased risk of diabetes.
    • Heart diseases
      • Saturated fats have been linked to increased LDL cholesterol and an elevated risk of many heart diseases. On the other hand, diets rich in unsaturated fats, such as the Mediterranean diet, are often used to promote heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

How Much Fat Do I Need?

Although fat is essential for keeping us healthy and supporting many of our body systems, eating too much fat can be a bad thing.

Fat should make up 20-35% of our daily caloric intake. This means if we are consuming 2,200 calories a day, between 440 to 770 calories should come from fat. This roughly translates to consuming 49 to 85 grams of fat each day. You can use the % Daily Value on the nutrition facts label to estimate the amount of fat you’re consuming. You can learn more about reading labels from my nutrition facts labels post.

Prioritizing unsaturated fats in our diet can help lower the risk of many chronic diseases while meeting our body’s fat requirements. For more details on the recommended fat intake, check out Heath Canada’s page on fat.

Where to Find Fats? 

Foods contain both saturated and unsaturated fats. You cannot find food that only has one type of fat and not the other. However, there tends to be more of one kind of fat than the other.

Saturated Fats 

Saturated fats are mainly found in animal foods but can also be found in smaller amounts in many plant-based foods. Some popular sources of saturated fat include,

    • Milk and other dairy products
    • Animal meats (such as beef, lamb, chicken and pork)
    • Palm oil
    • Lard and shortening
    • Palm and coconut oil

Trans Fats 

Naturally occurring trans fats can be found in some animal products including,

    • Dairy products (such as milk and cheese)
    • Animal meats (such as beef, lamb, chicken and pork)

Artificial trans fats can be found in other foods such as,

    • Hard margarine (the kind not found in the tubs)
    • Commercial bakery products
    • Non-dairy coffee creamers

Remember — Canada has banned the addition of artificial trans fat to the food supply! 

Polyunsaturated Fats 

Polyunsaturated fats can be found in both plant-based and animal-based foods. Some great sources of polyunsaturated fats include,

    • Oils (soybean, corn, safflower, cannoli, walnut and flaxseed) 
    • Fatty fish (Atlantic and Pacific mackerel, sardines, salmon, trout)  
    • Shellfish 

Monounsaturated Fats 

Similar to polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats are also commonly found in oils including, 

    • Olive and avocado oil
    • Seeds 
    • Nuts and nut oils (peanut, almond, pecans) 

Creating a Healthy-Fat Diet

The Mediterranean diet is frequently praised as a heart-healthy diet, boasting high amounts of healthy fats and is often used in the management of heart disease.

Unlike the diets you may be thinking of, the Mediterranean diet is not a restrictive diet with approved and banned foods. It is a general eating pattern that incorporates many different foods and eating patterns found throughout various countries.

Some common themes in the Mediterranean diet that can be used to make your diet more heart-healthy include, 

    • Incorporating many plant-based foods such as, nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables and fruit 
    • Limiting the amount of saturated fat consumed such as, milk and other dairy products, and processed or red meat
    • Regularly including fish and other seafood in your diet


Ready to make your diet more heart-healthy? Check out my heart-healthy blog to get started, or book a FREE discovery call today to find out more.