Nutrition Supplement

Decoding Fats: No Fat is all Evil

FATS. A four-letter word that has the potential to create a love-hate relationship with our favourite foods. 

Yet, it doesn't have to be that way. The key to having a healthy relationship with food is to have balance. The same principle applies to fats as well. And no, it's not just a balance in how much you consume but a balance between the different types of fats you consume.

This is what we’ll be talking about today,


Let me give you a quick overview first. 

Fats are of three types - 

  1. SFA - Saturated fatty acids
  2. USFA - Unsaturated fatty acids
    1. MUFA 
    2. PUFA
  3. TFA - Trans fatty acids

Under PUFA comes two varieties, omega-6 and omega-3. 

They are all found in our food. Trans fats are found in small amounts in red meat and dairy, but are mostly formed through processing, and are found in packaged foods. 

SFA - Saturated Fatty Acids

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and many other organizations consistently recommend a limitation on intake of saturated fat, typically to <10% of energy.

This is because several studies have found an association between saturated fat and LDL cholesterol levels and thus, increased incidence of CVD. [1]

However, recent studies have brought forth an interesting insight. Sure, we need to limit our saturated fat intake, but what also matters is what we replace it with. 

For example, if you reduce your SFA consumption and increase refined carbs, cardiovascular health and obesity can worsen even more.

Instead, what has shown improvement is our next type of fat.

USFA - Unsaturated Fatty Acids

These are the healthy fats which our diets lack in. There are two types of unsaturated fatty acids - MUFA & PUFA.

Several studies have linked replacing saturated fats with MUFA to improved management of diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors. [2]

Results are stronger when it comes to replacing saturated fats with PUFAs, especially Omega-3. For every 1 percent of energy coming from saturated fats replaced with PUFA, CHD risk is cut down by 2-3 percent. 

And so, this is where we need to act. Increase your intake of MUFA by adding in foods such as:

  • Oils such as Olive oil, canola oil
  • Nuts such as almonds, cashews, peanuts
  • Seeds such as sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds
  • Avocados

Increase your intake of PUFA (Omega-3) by adding in foods such as :

  • Oils such as soybean oil and canola oil
  • Seeds such as chia seeds, flax seeds
  • Nuts such as walnuts and peanuts
  • Oily fish such as salmon and mackerel 
  • Avocados

TFA - Trans Fatty Acids

With trans fats, I think you must’ve guessed it already. They are the worst when it comes to affecting your body’s fat composition. They will favour an increase of LDL (the bad cholesterol) and cut down HDL (the good cholesterol). They also increase inflammation in the body. Unfortunately, our diets are full of them as we continue to consume processed and packaged foods, especially when we ignore the labels or eat out too often.

The hidden culprits are hydrogenated oils which are often used in restaurants, street joints, and in packaged as well as junk foods. And so it's important to check both the labels and the ingredients list and avoid anything that mentions “partially hydrogenated oil” or margarine. Best is to consume home-cooked meals as much as possible and limit intake of outside food.


Now you know the fats in your food and can definitely pause before you make a choice. Try replacing sources of saturated fats with those containing unsaturated fats while trans fats must be avoided! Meanwhile, our diets are also primarily high in Omega-6 and low in Omega-3, so to bring in a balance between the two, make sure your daily diet has some sources of omega-3 as well.

Bon Appétit!