What Are The Good Fats and Bad Fats?

I’m headed to Orlando this weekend for a much-needed mommy vacation (and some work). I’ll be doing Disney (alone) and then I get to work the weekend and top it all off with the ProBowl.

To say that I’m excited might be an understatement. But that also means that I’ll be way outside my comfort zone for almost 5 days. Between airport food (not great), theme park food (yes, I’m planning to eat at Disney World), and stadium food, it’s going to be a long, but interesting, weekend.

Which means I’ve been doing a lot of research on how to travel and stay healthy without packing a crap ton of gym clothes and protein shakes.

The results of my digging will be coming later this week, but one thing stood out to me (and I thought that it probably deserved its own article, so here we are).

One thing that seems to be everywhere is advice to eat a higher ratio of fat and protein versus carbs while traveling, which is actually pretty easy (turkey legs, anyone?!).

Most people understand fats and protein (butter and steak) versus carbohydrates (those rolls they bring you when you sit down).

The problem comes when you don’t know your good fats and bad fats and you end up eating too much of a bad thing.

Here’s what I found.

good fats and bad fats

Good Fats and Bad Fats

The fact of the matter is that all fat is NOT created equal.

Fat is one of the three critical macronutrients (the other two being protein and carbohydrates). Some fats are super-health-boosting while others aren’t.

Good fats support your brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and even your mood.

Bad fats spend their time making function difficult for your body’s systems.

As a general rule, fats derived from whole foods (those that are the least processed) are the healthiest for you.

Good Fats

Luckily, good fats are also super tasty, and you can find them in lots of foods that you should already be eating on a regular basis, such as:

  • Nuts and seeds (hemp, flax, and chia)
  • Fish
  • Seaweed
  • Pasture-raised and/or grass-fed animals
  • Pasture-raised eggs
  • Olives
  • Avocados
  • Coconuts

That’s a pretty big list of foods that we eat on the regular.

A Note About Cooking Oils

You can buy cooking oils at all different price points, but there are some that are worth paying a bit more for, and those are “virgin” cooking oils.

There are a lot of ways to extract the oil from a whole food, and they all involve some processing.

Some oils are processed by squeezing, or heating. And other times chemical solvents are used to extract the oil (YUCK).

And then there are “virgin” oils. The word “virgin” is used to show minimal processing.

According to the World Health Organization’s Codex Alimentarius:

Virgin fats and oils are edible vegetable fats, and oils obtained, without altering the nature of the oil, by mechanical procedures, e.g., expelling or pressing, and the application of heat only. They may be purified by washing with water, settling, filtering and centrifuging only.”

So. Extra virgin olive oil must:

  • Be cold pressed
  • Not contain any refined olive oil
  • Possess superior quality based on chemical composition and sensory characteristics.

I mean, I definitely don’t want to be pouring chemicals into my food, which means they’ll end up in my body…and my kid’s bodies. YUCK.

Minimal processing helps to maintain some of the delicate fat molecules, as well as their antioxidants.

Bad Fats

Now let’s talk about bad fats. The ones that you probably should use for science experiments (because they are one).

Bad fats are usually priced a lot cheaper than good fats because they’re far easier to produce:

Hydrogenated oils are really, really bad. Avoid them. They contain small amounts of trans fats that lead to insulin resistance, inflammation, and belly fat.

Trans fats also drastically increase your risk of heart disease. For me, it’s just not worth it.

Good Fat or Bad Fat?

If you’re like me, you’re just coming back from going through your pantry and pulling out all of the bad fats that have a home there. Use them for a science experiment (fill a bowl with water and add a thin layer oil. Then you drop some food coloring on the oil. Use salt to “sink” the color through the oil layer. My boys LOVE this…and they’ll be doing it a lot!).

If you haven’t already started, why not?

Ditch any foods in your cupboards that contain safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, or hydrogenated oils.

Start using healthy oils instead. Try flax oil in your salad dressing, avocado or olive oil in your cooking, and coconut oil in your baking (make sure that the coconut oil you’re using is solid at room temperature).

Now that I have a solid understanding of good fats and bad fats, I will be sure to ask the chef at each restaurant how they’re cooking my food, and looking for healthy ingredients (I probably can’t save the turkey legs). Knowing that I’m eating mostly good fats will help to balance out any bad fats I end up accidentally (or on purpose) consuming.

What’s your favorite type of fat?

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