It’s a story we’ve all heard before. If you want a healthy heart, you need to choose “good” fats over “bad” fats in your diet. But what makes a fat good or bad? And isn’t there conflicting research on the healthfulness of fat intake?
The Skinny on Fat
Dietary fat is an essential part of our diet. That’s simple enough, but things get a bit more complicated when you consider that there are four types of dietary fats that we typically ingest:
The Bad: Saturated and Trans
The Good: Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated
The difference between good and bad fats is their molecular structure, which changes how they affect our bodies. Saturated and trans fats raise our blood cholesterol levels when we eat them, increasing our odds of heart disease. The good fats do the opposite: they lower our blood cholesterol and decrease our chance of illness.
Saturated Fat: Do or Don’t?
While the belief that saturated fats hurt our health has existed for decades, recent research has challenged the idea. Scientists researching the effects of saturated fat have found conflicting evidence over whether saturated fat intake is bad for you. They argue that while saturated fats do raise cholesterol, the effect cholesterol has on heart disease isn’t as strong as we think.
However, many nutritional organizations (including the American Heart Association) still argue against saturated fats. They claim that arguments for saturated fat intake are based on faulty science and are not conclusive evidence. While both sides have evidence, the idea that saturated fat is bad has far more backing behind it.
At the end of the day, assess your diet to see what your fat intake looks like. Small amounts of saturated fat won’t hurt, but shouldn’t be chosen over good fats that have proven benefits for your heart health.