What Are The Best Fats?


By Lydia Wallie, Nutritional Director

Fats play an important role in the body so it's important to distinguish between the best fats and the fats to avoid.

Healthy Fats...

  • Provide a stable, dense source of energy.

  • Create healthy cell membranes.

  • Support proper liver function, including the creation of cholesterol (essential for numerous bodily functions) and bile (essential for the digestion of fats and elimination of toxins).

  • Are necessary to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

  • Form a protective lining around bodily organs.

  • Slow the absorption of food, helping to regulate appetite and energy needs.

  • Are required for the body to inflame and anti-inflame (the body needs both to heal).

  • Make foods taste better, providing both physiological and psychological satiation.

Unhealthy Fats...

  • Raise LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides.

  • Lower HDL cholesterol.

  • Inhibit the enzyme Delta-6-desaturase, which is required for proper fatty acid metabolism and the balance of pro-and anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.

  • Are implicated in the development of insulin resistance.

Now that we know why eating healthy fats is important, what are the most nutritious vs. least nutritious fats?

Most Nutritious Fats
The four main groups of healthy fats are:

  1. Omega-3s (Polyunsaturated): Wild-caught fish & oils (e.g. salmon, cod, herring, sardines & anchovies), egg yolks, and walnuts.

  2. Omega-6s (Polyunsaturated): Organic, unprocessed nuts & seeds (e.g. pistachios, pumpkin & sunflower), and cold-pressed oils from blackcurrant, evening primrose, sunflower, sesame & flaxseed.

  3. Omega-9s (Polyunsaturated): Organic olives, avocados, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, and cold-pressed oils from each.

  4. Saturated: Organic virgin coconut oil, ghee, butter, and other fats from pasture-raised animals (e.g. beef, lamb, bison, buffalo, elk, goat, etc.).

Least Nutritious Fats

Hydrogenated, Partially hydrogenated, and Trans fats and oils: cottonseed oil, canola, crisco, soy, corn, soybean oil, vegetable oil. (which have wrongly been touted as "heart healthy").

Where are these found? In margarine, most mayonnaise, most salad dressings, most chips and fried snacks, many packaged and processed foods (e.g. crackers, cereals, and bread products).

WHY: The hydrogenation process produces trans fats, which have been linked to a number of health problems:

  • Cancer: Women with higher levels of trans fats in their cells are much more likely to develop breast cancer than women with low levels of trans fats.

  • Heart disease: High levels of trans fats create platelet aggregation, which is the beginning of the plaque associated with coronary heart disease.

  • Pain and inflammation become much worse for clients who consume hydrogenated oils. They chemically prevent the formation of natural anti-inflammatory substances that are normally produced by the body. If you suffer from chronic pain or have recently been injured, strictly avoid hydrogenated oil.

  • Trans fats are incorporated into the cells and make them less resistant to bacteria and viruses. They are a source of immune system problems.

  • There may be a link between trans fats and ADD, depression, and fatigue. Brain and nerve tissue have a high content of fat. Some researchers believe that when trans fats are incorporated into the nerve cells they affect function creating problems like ADD and depression.

  • Muscle fatigue and skin problems are also linked to hydrogenated oils.

Your next step: On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best), how would you rate the quality of the fats you’re consuming? Create a simple action plan for this week to increase your rating by one point!

Note: Information is referenced from the Nutritional Therapy Association.