When you’re working towards health goals, it’s hard to see fat as anything but the enemy. But that’s not always the case. With any lifestyle change, it’s important to consult your health care professional to ensure you’re making the right choices.

The big mistake with fatty foods is considering them outright unhealthy and reaching towards products labelled “fat-free” or “low-fat”. Usually these types of products are filled with more sugar and are overly processed, which ultimately are less healthy.  

Fatty foods
These are foods that have the healthy fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, which are naturally occurring and not bad for you. Monounsaturated fats are among the healthiest and contain anti-inflammatory properties, are full of healthy nutrients and help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) work to lower cholesterol and help with brain and heart health.

Just make sure your omega-3 is always higher.

These kinds of fats can be found in foods like the popular avocado, full-fat cheese, fatty fish (like salmon), whole eggs, nuts and chia seeds. Your system will have an easier time breaking down and using these foods than it would with “low fat” processed products.

Saturated fats are still in a bit of a grey area. Most health organizations recommend limiting your intake of these foods. Most healthy fat foods like the ones listed above contained some saturated fats, but it doesn’t make up the majority of the total fat content.

These three types (mono, poly and saturated) should each represent one third of your total fat intake.

Fat foods
The bad fats are the artificial ones. Usually found on labels listed as “partially hydrogenated oils”, these trans fats raise your LDL cholesterol which increases your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and can lead to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Some trans fats are naturally occurring in the guts of animals, so some meat and milk products contain small amounts of trans fats. When it’s produced, hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oil to make it more solid. The more you avoid classic junk food, packaged foods and baked goods, the easier it is to avoid trans fat.

As of September 2018, Health Canada banned foods containing partially hydrogenated oils due to the health risks they possess. Researchers predicted the ban could potentially prevent 12,000 heart attacks in Canada over the course of 20 years.