What Is Saturated Fat & Trans Fat? – The Unhealthy, Bad Fats
You know all of the negative stuff you’ve heard about fat over the years? About how bad, unhealthy and flat out evil is can be?
Well, in nearly 100% of those cases, it’s trans fat or saturated fat that are the specific types of fat being referred to as the cause (or supposed cause) of all of those bad/unhealthy things.
This of course brings up some important questions. For example…
- Is it all true? Are they both really that bad and unhealthy?
- What effects do they each have on the human body?
- What foods are high in trans fat? What foods are high in saturated fat?
- How much of each should you eat per day, if any at all?
Now for some answers. Let’s start with the definite worst of the two…
What Is Trans Fat?
Trans fat has been shown to raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels, cause heart disease, strokes and type 2 diabetes. There is also at least some research showing that trans fat may cause, increase the risk of or worsen everything from Alzheimer’s Disease, to cancer, to infertility.
Remember in the previous post when I used the phrase “worst-thing-you-can-possibly-eat?” Well, it was in reference to trans fat.
It has absolutely no positive benefit to the human body in any way, yet it has been scientifically proven to harm the body in a variety of ways.
It’s literally as bad and unhealthy as it gets, and this fact may be the only thing unanimously agreed upon by everyone in the nutrition field.
For all of these reasons, trans fat shouldn’t just be kept to a minimum in your diet. It should pretty much be avoided completely.
Foods High In Trans Fat
Common sources of trans fat include:
- Fried foods.
- Fast food.
- Typical snack foods (chips, cookies, etc.).
- Various pastries.
- Many other obviously crappy foods you already know you shouldn’t be eating too often.
The Big Trans Fat Lie
Another important trans fat fact (more like a hidden secret, really) that you must know is that even if your food label says “trans fat: 0 grams,” it may still contain trans fat.
This is because, due to some extremely idiotic labeling rules, food companies only need to list trans fat content if the food contains 0.5 grams or more per serving.
So, if a food contains 0.4999 grams of trans fat in one serving, it will say “Trans Fat: 0 grams” on the label. Yes, it’s super crazy dumb.
Even worse is the fact that many of the foods that do this then go the extra mile to print “0g Trans Fat” in big bold letters somewhere on the front of the package to really entice you to buy it.
Pretty scummy, isn’t it? And then all you need to do is eat a few servings of a food like this and you will have unknowingly eaten a couple of grams of trans fat all while thinking you haven’t eaten any at all.
Luckily, there is a way to spot the foods that do this (and there are MANY of them). Check the ingredients for the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated.”
If those words show up somewhere in the ingredients (typically followed by an oil of some sort), then you know that food contains some amount of trans fat no matter what lies the label tells you.
Just another reason to always read the ingredients before buying/eating an item.
What Is Saturated Fat?
Next up on our list of so called “bad” and “unhealthy” fats is saturated fat.
While it’s definitely not as bad as trans fat (nothing is), it still appears as though saturated fat is probably pretty bad for most people in high amounts.
Did that sentence come across a bit unsure sounding? If so, it’s because I honestly am a bit unsure as to exactly how bad saturated fat truly is these days.
Unlike trans fat where literally 100% of the research shows nothing but negatives, saturated fat is a bit more complicated than just calling it “good” or “bad.”
On one hand, saturated fat has been referred to as the biggest dietary cause of high blood cholesterol for decades now, with it increasing our risk factor for heart disease and stroke. And yes, there is research that supports this.
On the other hand, research in recent years has called this into question a bit. For example, there are actually different types of saturated fatty acids, and it appears that not all of them cause negative effects.
Plus, while saturated fat may be pretty bad for the average person who isn’t very active and eats too much junk (and just eats too much in general) or already has some health or medical issue, it may actually not be too harmful at all (in sane amounts) for fit and healthy people who eat right and exercise regularly.
So what does this all mean, other than that it’s pretty complicated? Well, it’s tough for me to say for sure without turning this into an entire guide to saturated fat.
What I will say though is that saturated fat intake should still certainly be limited to some degree, the exact extent of which depends on factors specific to you and your health and your lifestyle.
In general though, it definitely shouldn’t be avoided completely like trans fat should (unless you have some specific reasoning or doctors orders to), but at the same time, you also shouldn’t run out and start eating bacon on a regular basis either.
Speaking of which…
Foods High In Saturated Fat
Common sources of saturated fat include:
- Dairy products made from whole milk (milk, cheese, butter).
- Poultry skin.
- Coconut oil and Palm oil (which are often found in the typical junky snack foods you already know you shouldn’t be eating too often).
Summing Up The “Bad” And Introducing The “Good”
So, trans fat and saturated fat are the types of fat that get all of the negative press. They are your so called “bad” and unhealthy fats.
With trans fat, this is 100% true in every single case. Aim for a legit 0 grams per day. It’s borderline poison.
Saturated fat on the other hand isn’t as black and white. Yes, it should probably be limited to some degree in most diets, but it doesn’t need the same level of fear or avoidance (unless your doctor has told you otherwise) as trans fat, especially among the healthy and active.
Even still, saturated fat should always only make up the minority of your fat intake, with the majority coming from the types of fats I’m going to tell you about right now…
(This article is part of a completely free and amazingly awesome guide to creating the absolute best diet plan possible for your exact goal and preferences. Check out the entire guide here: The Best Diet Plan)