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What did you say about Fats?

Sep 24, 2013

What makes unsaturated fats “better” and how can I get more of them in my diet?

Healthy fats (unsaturated fats)
Unsaturated fatty acids are mostly “good,” or protective, fats, found in plants such as nuts, seeds, olives, or in marine life (fatty fish). Healthy, unsaturated fats fall into two categories: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
Monounsaturated. Unsaturated fatty acids have longer carbon chains than saturated fatty acids and also contain varying numbers of double bonds, or “kinks,” in the long fatty acid chain. If the chain contains only one “kink,” or one spot of unsaturation—it is called a “monounsaturated” fatty acid.
Polyunsaturated. There are two classes of polyunsaturated fatty acids: omega-3 and omega-6. Both types of fatty acids contain several kinks, or spots of unsaturation, in the carbon chain—multiple double bonds where a carbon is missing two hydrogen atoms. Thus, they are referred to as “polyunsaturated.” The multiple double bonds allow these unsaturated fats to have bends in their structure—enabling the fatty acids to favor hook shapes—limiting their ability to be closely packed together and solid at room temperature like artery-clogging saturated fat. Liquid unsaturated fatty acids tend to be heart-healthier than solid saturated fats. Not all polyunsaturated fats are created equally! One particular type of polyunsaturated fatty acid, the omega-3’s, are the most cardioprotective. A large concentration of omega-3 fatty acids is found in fatty fish such as salmon and in plant foods such as flaxseeds


Good: extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, almond oil
OK: walnut oil, sesame oil, peanut oil
Not so good: corn oil, safflower oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil
Bad: butter, lard, hydrogenated (trans) fats, tropical oils (palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil)

The best advice in the kitchen is to replace plaque-building or inflammatory fats—butter, hydrogenated fats, and tropical oils—with healthful oils containing a low amount of saturated fatty acids and a relatively high amount of the heart-healthy fatty acids: monounsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids.


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