Myths and Facts about Fats

This article explains different types of fats and their main sources. It also highlights some myths and facts associated with fat.

People are often confused about fats and it’s quite understandable. After all, in earlier times fats were assumed to be the worst, but now they are considered to play a major factor in a healthy diet.

Fats often tend to get a bad rapport, but a certain misconception about the amount of fat people eat and the fat they store in their bodies may be wrecking their health or weight loss goals. 

Let’s start with the basics and know the types of fats.

Fats are mainly of four types: Saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fats.

Saturated fats are in a solid form when chilled or at room temperature, and liquify when heated. They are best suited to cook over high heat and are commonly found in:

  1. Butter
  2. Ghee
  3. Cheese
  4. Coconut oil
  5. Red Meat

Monounsaturated (MUFA) fats are suited to cook over medium-heat and are liquid at room temperature. They are mainly found in:

  1. Avocado
  2. Olive oil
  3. Sesame oil
  4. Sunflower oil
  5. Nuts and seeds

Polyunsaturated (PUFA) fats are delicate and highly susceptible to heat, air and light. They are liquid when chilled and at room temperature. PUFAs when heated may develop free radicals that are capable of damaging the body, so they should not be heated. PUFAs are mainly found in:

  1. Vegetable oils like sunflower, corn, soyabean etc.
  2. Egg yolks
  3. Chia and Flax seeds
  4. Walnuts and walnut oil
  5. Hemp seeds
  6. Fish and fish oil

Omega 3 and 6, the two types of polyunsaturated fats especially omega 3s are anti-inflammatory and support health, balances blood sugar levels, supports heart health etc.

Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fatty acids and they are found in both organic and inorganic forms. They are organically present in meat and dairy, derived from animals such as goats. Inorganic trans fats are created during the processing of foods.

Now that we have got a scoop about fats lets discuss the misconceptions about them.

Myth 1. All fats are bad!

Fact: This is the biggest delusion people hung up on lumping all fats together under the term “bad”. Whereas over the past decade researchers have found that not all fats are created equally and it is crucial to understand that how good fats can be for a human body. For example, fish is high in polyunsaturated Omega 3 fatty acids that may be beneficial for cardiovascular health. There have been many researches that indicates about how this type of “healthy” fat can actually decrease the risk of Chronic Artery Disease and blood pressure levels.

There are mounting researches evidencing that Omega 3 fatty acids may act as a mild-antidepressant, may help in keeping brain cells healthy, improves mood, skin and also decrease the risk of many brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Good sources of Omega 3 include:

  1. Fish (sardines and salmon, especially)
  2. Flax seeds
  3. Walnuts

Myth 2. Eating fats will make you gain weight

Fact: Fat doesn’t make you gain weight. Good fat is good for you and won’t make you fat, but people still have this mentality that fat makes you “fat” or “gains weight.” Healthy fats like- avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds- take more time to breakdown and keep us feeling fuller longer than carbs.

Myth 3. Plant Fats are loaded with Cholesterol

Fact: Plant fats like nuts, seeds, oils and avocado does not contain cholesterol- that’s actually found in animal fat. However, plants do have “cholesterol” known as plant sterols, which in fact tends to lower our cholesterol levels.

Myth 4. Eating only low-fat foods will make you lose weight

Fact: Many people believe that following a low-fat diet is the key to lose weight. Well, not necessarily.

Many pre-packaged foods that are labelled as “low-fat” or “fat-free” are extremely high in sugars, preservatives and additives. When the dietary fat is removed by the food manufacturers to make it low-fat or fat-free, the food automatically loses its flavor and texture. They load up the food with sugars, to compensate for the bland taste, as well as add fat substitutes to enhance the ‘mouth-feel’ of the food. Since people with the “low-fat” or “fat-free” mentality think that the food is “low calorie,” which isn’t and they tend to eat it over and over again.

However, for the essential growth of cells, fat is a major source of energy. Not all fats are needed to be avoided necessarily. One needs to be conscious of what they are replacing saturated fat with. Replacing saturated and trans fats with healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is the best way, as they may lead to weight gain if consumed in access.

Myth 5. Fat loss is always reflected on scale

Fact: People tend to get frustrated when they don’t see changes on the weighing scale that may make them want to give up, but when one loses inches around the waist, they are losing more visceral fat which surrounds organs and is more detrimental.

Myth 6. High-intensity workouts are the best to burn fat

Fact: High intensity workout training is often an effective way to burn fat, even if a person is doing it for 20 minutes a day. However, while high intensity interval training is beneficial when a person is short on time, continuous exercise training for 30-45mins per day is actually more effective fat-burning strategy for overweight persons. Many studies have shown that in a 30 minutes continuous cardiovascular exercise your body’s fuel source shifts from mainly glycogen to stored body fat.

Myth 7. Starvation helps you burn more fat

Fact: A review published in 2006 in the journal Obesity found that diets containing 1,000-1,500 calories per day are just as effective as very low-calorie diets, providing less than 800 calories daily, for long-term success. Furthermore, while intermittent fasting or following very-low calorie diets could be beneficial for short-term fat-loss strategies, you’ll likely have better luck focusing on a diet you can stick with long-term.

With the above discussions, it can be concluded that fats are never bad if they are consumed with proper knowledge or under proper guidance. It is highly recommended that one should always consult a health professional or a qualified dietitian to get a proper diet plan inclusive of all good fats in the recommended amounts.

About The Author

Dt. Sanjana Sharma

A dietitian by profession, running an online clinic  named  "Diet My way." Also, practicing as consultant nutritionist  with an.... Read More..

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