Being a  mom is a great responsibility to introduce healthy eating habits to the whole family. There’s tons information about healthy nutrition on the Internet. The problem is that the majority of it is little trustworthy, contradictory and even misleading. The oils is not an exception. We hear a lot about bad and good fats and their correlation with cholesterol levels, coronary and other diseases, therefore it is of paramount importance to learn to differ those at least for purposes of prevention.

Types Of Fats

Fats can be of animal-based and vegetable-based. Depending on their molecular structure fats are grouped into saturated and unsaturated. Fat containing fatty acids with only single bonds are called saturated, and fat containing fatty acids with double bonds – unsaturated. Unsaturated fats containing fatty acids with one double bond are called monounsaturated, and fatty acids with more than one double bond are called polyunsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats, which naturally are liquid at room temperature, are found in most vegetable products and oils. Meat products contain both saturated and unsaturated fats. The greater the degree of unsaturation in a fatty acid, the more vulnerable it is to rancidity (lipid peroxidation).


Transformed Fats

First thing you need to know is that all natural fats that are found in food are ‘good fats’, if consumed cold and in moderate amounts. Simply speaking, ‘bad fats’ are fats that are transformed during cooking and chemical processing. Heating is, in particular, bad for unsaturated fats such as vegetable oils, which are more prone to transformation than saturated fats. The more unsaturated bonds fatty acid has the more it gets transformed the more harmful it is. Based on this, animal and vegetable-based saturated fats, coconut oil, in particular, are considered to be the best option for cooking. Olive oil that is high in monounsaturated fatty acids is an alternative to saturated fats. Vegetable oils that contain a high amount of polyunsaturated fats, such as sunflower and flaxseed oil, are only healthy if consumed cold. Conveniently, an amount of saturated and unsaturated fats are often printed on the label.

The manufacturing of vegetable oils includes pressing and full or partial hydrogenation, also called hardening. Pressing can be chemical and mechanical. Mechanically pressed oils are healthier since they do not contain harmful chemicals that are left in small amount after the chemical process. The chemical hydrogenation, which is meant for increasing product shelf life, converts liquid vegetable oils into solid or semi-solid fats, called trans fats. Trans fats can be naturally found in small amounts of animal products have, including human milk. Artificial trans fats, that are found in margarine and mayonnaise, have  proved to have huge negative effect for health.

Trans Fats And Cholesterol

It has been proven that trans fats heavily contribute to an elevated risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). The reason being, trans fat is a type of unsaturated fat that behaves like a saturated fat because of its chemical structure. It increases the “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, while also lowering the “good” (HDL) cholesterol in the blood, increasing the risk of the heart disease. The studies have proved that replacing the trans fat with non-hydrogenated unsaturated fat and/or natural saturated fat reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by half. Further reading about fats and cholesterol →