The Four Kinds of Fat

Lanby Team

Fat v. Fiction

Fat has been through every PR campaign in every direction, rivalved perhaps only by carbohydrates in the amount of misinformation you can find out there about it. The truth is, some fats are really bad for you. But others are crucial to your health — especially those that your body can’t produce itself. With so much information out there, it can be hard to keep track of your “good fats” and “bad fats”. At a high level, fat comes in four varieties. Understanding the four kinds of fat and using them as your mental buckets for making good choices can help streamline your sorting.

Polyunsaturated Fats

TLDR: Must have. Stock up.

Polyunsaturated fats are essential to our diet because our bodies can’t produce them, and they’re required for many bodily functions (reducing inflammation, clotting blood, and muscle movement, to name a few). These fats work their magic by building cell membranes and covering nerves. They come in two primary forms: omega-3s (EPA, DHA, & ALA), and omega-6s. 

Find polyunsaturated fats in:

  • Wild salmon
  • Sardines
  • Flaxseed
  • Walnuts

Monounsaturated Fats

TLDR: Uncontroversially good. Go for it. 

Monounsaturated fats have two fewer hydrogen atoms than their saturated counterparts, meaning you’ll usually find them in liquid form. These healthy natural fats are the stars of the lauded Mediterranean diet, and can and should be enjoyed frequently. 

Foods high in monounsaturated fats include:

  • Olive oil
  • Avocado
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts

Saturated Fats

TLDR: Not the worst, not the best. Enjoy in moderation.

The name is derived from the fact that their chain of carbon atoms is “saturated” with hydrogen atoms (this means you’ll usually find them in solid form). Calling saturated fats purely bad would be an oversimplification, as they’ve often been studied in combination with other clearly harmful compounds. More specifically, saturated fats don’t pair well with excessive carb consumption. And, too much saturated fat can drive up cholesterol. 

Saturated fats are found in:

  • Butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Cheese
  • Red Meat

Trans Fats

TLDR: Hard pass. Stay away.

Trans fats are a byproduct of the hydrogenation process used to preserve healthy fats. These artificial, highly processed fats have technically been banned in the US. Trans fats wreak havoc on our heart health, driving up harmful LDL, and increasing insulin resistance and inflammation. They have been linked to myriad chronic conditions. 

Trans fats have traditionally been found in:

  • Margarine
  • Shortening
  • Commercial processed foods
  • Cooking oils used in fried foods

Nutrition