Women's Nutrition

Healthy Fats | When Do They Become Unhealthy?


Healthy fats have long been at the forefront of the media in recent years – and rightly so with all the health benefits they have to offer…

Muscle gain, weight loss, better body composition and a healthy immune system – just to name a few! We also need fat to burn fat efficiently and also to absorb fat soluble vitamins. However… as with everything else, we can definitely have too much of a good thing.

Healthy fats are calorie dense, and pack a whopping nine calories per gram of fat. To put this into context – a gram of carbohydrate and protein are both a mere four calories per gram. Due to fat being so calorific, it is a nutrient that is easily over consumed, therefore portion control (healthy or not) remains a crucial factor in obtaining your physique goals and maintaining optimal health.

So… when do you know when to put the spoon down and back away from the peanut butter? Let’s begin by smoothing something out…


Are Saturated Fats Bad?


Saturated fats have received a bad name in the media due to their association with heart disease. It’s true that many ‘bad’ foods contain a significant amount of saturated fat – but it’s important to understand how beneficial it can be too.

This is even more so relevant when fats in the likes of cake and ice-cream are immediately associated with fats in oily fish – believe me, I’ve known people to skip on a salmon salad due to believing the fat content, will make them fat.


Saturated healthy fats


The truth is – saturated fat performs several important roles in the body that may make the difference between reaching your health and fitness goals – or not…and we all know how frustrating that is.

In order for your body to assist goals such as weight loss/muscle gain/toned muscle, your hormones must be regulated – and guess what, saturated fat is a hormone manufacturer. Confused yet? Don’t panic, I’m not trying to telling you that cake will make you slim, because we all know that’s not true.

Some of the most health-friendly fats are saturate-packed – therefore, it’s important to understand the difference between good and bad ones – and exactly why they are bad.


Saturated Fats |
Good VS Bad


Cholesterol is made in the liver from any type of fat that is eaten – whether it be good or bad. (Yep – cholesterol can be good!) It is transported through the blood in two ways, as a Low density Lipoprotein (LDL) or a High Density Lipoprotein (HDL).



LDL cholesterol

The form that is most associated with negative outcomes in the human body; this is because it leads to fatty deposits and plaque developing in the arteries which is associated with adverse events such as heart attack and stroke.


HDL cholesterol

This performs the opposite – it actually removes cholesterol from areas in the body where there is too much of it to the liver where it is disposed of.


Food examples include:

HDL FOODS (good) LDL FOODS (bad)
Oily fish Processed meats
Avocado’s Fast/fried foods
Nuts/pure nut butters Animal Fats
Whole grains Cakes/cookies
Green tea Pizza
Soy products Ice-cream/cream
Cocoa Whole milk
Oils – coconut, olive Ready-cooked meats (rotisserie)


Nevertheless – the majority of your fat consumption (20-30% of daily diet) should come from unsaturated sources and only a small amount from saturated fat  – even if it is just an extra scoop of guacamole.

Consuming too much of any saturated fat causes the liver to produce an excess of triglycerides. This is a substance that is made by the liver that is of a fatty consistency and causes narrowing of the arteries when there is an excess of it in the body – that means 2 pieces of dark chocolate, not 8.


Other Healthy Fats


Healthy fats are also known as unsaturated fats and have the common characteristic of being liquid at room temperature – oils, for example. They are predominantly from plant sources such as olive oil and avocados. The two classifications for these fats are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.


Monounsaturated fat


Monounsaturated fats


Mono-unsaturated fats have many health benefits and are considered the better of the two forms of unsaturated fats. They have been shown in studies to reduce your (bad) LDL cholesterol levels, whilst raising your health-friendly HDL cholesterol levels!

FOODS: Olives/olive oil, nuts, avocados

Polyunsaturated fat

salmon steak

Polyunsaturated fats are the other form of unsaturated fats that are an extremely good addition to any diet! These are the form in which omega three fatty acids and omega six fatty acids are classed – EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid.)

These are essential fatty acids that our bodies cannot make themselves and so must be consumed through the diet in either food or supplement form.

FOODS: Salmon, tuna, flaxseed, walnuts


Fats to avoid


Trans fat

Trans fats are a man made fat. These are truly the worst fats you can consume and should be avoided where possible as they have been shown in numerous research papers to have an adverse effect on health and wellbeing.



They are often found in processed foods such as bakery goods and biscuits, and also go under the name of hydrogenated fats. It is important to check your food labels for hidden or added fats as many processed foods may contain these without you realising!


Take Home Message:


Fats are an important nutrient in all diets, specifically the healthy kind. However, it is possible to over eat foods containing these fats, and as they are so calorie dense, this main result in unwanted weight gain and negative health implications. Portion control is important, as is limiting the amount of unhealthy fats you consume.

Try to swap unhealthy fats such as trans-fats for unsaturated fats and pay attention to food labels when possible so that you are aware of what has been added to the foods that you are eating!

And remember: 20-30% of your daily diet should consist of fats – not 20-30% of a tub of peanut butter. Enjoy!







Writer and expert