Saturated and Trans FatsDietary fats come in many different types. As our knowledge of nutrition has developed, we’ve learned that some fats are more harmful to our bodies than others. These unhealthy fats are called saturated and trans fats, or trans fatty acids. Saturated fats are commonly found in animal fats and can also be found in dairy products or fatty meats. If you’re plant-based or vegan, you might think you’re safe from saturated fats. However, you can also find saturated fats in vegan products like coconut oil, cocoa butter, and palm oil. Trans fatty acids are found wherever you see “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.” Common trans-fat-containing foods are margarine and vegetable shortening (and baked goods using them), processed snack foods like crackers and microwave popcorn, and fried foods. Saturated fats and trans fats have both been shown to increase the risk of hazardous health conditions. They can raise LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels, which is considered “bad” cholesterol. Saturated fats have been linked to increased risks of heart disease, while trans fats have been linked to an increased risk of inflammation that may lead to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Healthy Fat SourcesNow that you’ve been informed of what “bad fats” are and what foods contain them, you should know about “good fats.” Fats that are considered heart-healthy are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and usually stay as liquids at room temperature. Monounsaturated fats are found in many vegan-friendly foods like nuts and nut butter, vegetable oil, and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats are also called “essential fats” because they contain elements that can’t be produced by the body. Omega-3 fatty acids are one of these elements in polyunsaturated fats, and these are found in:
- Fatty fish like salmon, trout, and sardines
- Flaxseeds, canola oil, and walnuts
- Tofu and other soy products
- Vegetable oils like corn oil, sesame oil, and sunflower oil
- Seeds like sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds and butter made from them
- Liquid or soft margarine