The Story About Fats

I wrote a very lengthy article about a year ago about fats.  While it is packed with some really good info and a lot of research to back it up, I wanted to write a simpler version for those of us who are short on time.  What I mean by that is, everyone.  So here it is, the story about fats.

The Buzz

Recently, you have probably heard some buzz about how coconut oil is one of the truly healthy oils.  Perhaps you have heard promises that it will help you lose weight, look younger, and that it may cure many of your diseases and health ailments.  You have also heard the opposite view that it is really not that great, and you shouldn’t be eating it.  Is olive oil is the best or avocado oil?  What is true?


I am not trying to sell you something, nor am I trying to convince you to believe something.  Facts are important, and I am here to present to you the facts.  I will include my conclusions from the research available and I will tell you how I would recommend that you apply this information.  I dug deep into the world of scientific research and looked at all of the HUMAN studies I could find.

Fatty Acids

There are many different kinds of fatty acids or fats, but really just a few categories.  There are trans fatty acids, saturated fatty acids, and unsaturated fatty acids.  Each of these categories have many types within them, but for our purposes, we try to keep it simple.  It is useful to think of these fats not as good or bad, but on a continuum of least healthy to healthiest.  The research is pretty clear where they fall in this continuum.

Trans Fats

Also known as trans fats.  These include our hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.  They are also found in small amounts in animal products like beef, pork, and chicken.  Lastly, they are found in fried foods.  These fats are the least healthy of any of the fats.  When oil is heated hot enough it morphs into trans fat.  You can start with a perfectly healthy oil and when heated to hot temperatures it becomes this trans fat which we know is not our best choice.  Trans fats have the ability to damage our blood vessels more than any other fat.

Saturated Fats

These saturated fats are found in animal products, dairy products, and coconut and palm oils.  There are two subcategories of these: MCFA’s (Medium Chain Fatty Acids) and LCFA’s (Long Chain Fatty Acids).


LCFA’s are found most predominantly in animal fats.  These include beef, pork, chicken, eggs, and there are some LCFA’s in dairy products and palm oil also.  These fats are a better choice than trans fats, but still not the best for our overall health.  Consider limiting the amounts of animal fats for your overall health.


In this category we find coconut and palm oils, and also dairy fats.  Coconut oil is the highest of these three in MCFA’s which is why they have received the reputation they do.  These MCFA’s are clearly a healthier choice than the LCFA’s, but still not as healthy as our unsaturated fatty acids which we will discuss next.  If you want to read more about all of the research behind this, see

Benefits of MCFA’s include reducing weight when compared with animal fats, lowering cholesterol again when compared to animal fats.  They also show some potential in protecting the brain from damage and therefore helping to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  Lastly, they are more easily absorbed than other fats and so many be helpful if absorption issues exist.  You may see MCT oil available in the store.  MCT oil is MCFA oil.  They are the same.

In the kitchen, coconut oil can make a very good substitution if you are sensitive to dairy and can’t use butter.  Since these fats are similar chemically, they can be used interchangeably a lot.  Coconut oil also has a nice tropical flavor that comes through when you cook with it.

Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fatty acids are our healthiest category of fats.  When compared with saturated fats and even the medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil, these unsaturated fats are still better for our overall heart health, cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight.  There are also two subcategories for these: MUFA’s (Monounsaturated Fatty Acids) and PUFA’s (Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids).


Here we find many of our common cooking oils including canola, peanut, and olive oils.  We also find MUFA’s in most nuts and in avocados.  MUFA’s have many heart health benefits.


PUFA’s include foods like fatty fish, flax seed oil, grape seed oil, soybean oil, and safflower oil.  This category is where we find our amazing omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega 3’s have so many great benefits including promoting healthy aging, reducing inflammation, improving heart health, decreasing anxiety and depression, and lowering blood pressure.  Omega 3’s are sometimes a challenge to include in our diets, but they are so important!

Eating salmon once a week is a great place to start.  You can also add hemp, chia, or flax seeds to smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt.  Soybeans are a great source also, so consider using edamame or roasted soybeans once and a while for snacks!

The Continuum

In our continuum of fats, think about trying to get more of the ones towards the end of our list.  Work to limit your intake of the fatty acids at the top of our list, and work to increase the fats at the end of our list.  Did you eat your salmon this week?


Trans fats———–LCFA’s—————MCFA’s————MUFA’s———-PUFA’s

Remember, small changes can make a big difference!

To see a comparison of commonly used oils and their composition of these fatty acids click Fat chart 2.


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