Types of Fats: Good Fats & Bad Fats Explained

Naturally good fat in avocado: what are the different types of fat and where do avocados fit in?

Contrary to previous popular belief, not all fats are the same, nor are they all classified as bad. Fat is a major source of energy and helps your body absorb nutrients from foods. Yet, it’s important to understand the difference between two general types of fats – saturated and unsaturated.

Saturated fats

Saturated fats (and trans fats) are often labeled “bad fats” because they tend to raise “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood. This, in turn increases the risk for heart disease. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate program advises cutting back on foods containing saturated fats and trans-fats to lower the risk of heart disease.

Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats (mono- and polyunsaturated) are referred to as “good fats” because, in the right amounts, they can be eaten as a substitute for “bad” fats. The key is to limit foods that contain the “bad” fat full-fat dairy products, processed meats, most desserts/pastries and replace them with foods that contain predominantly “good” fats” like avocados, peanut butter, nuts/seeds and plant oils.

Key Takeaways

It’s not just about low-fat, it’s about balancing the right amounts of the right types of fat.

Dietary Fats

Bad Fat:

Trans & Saturated

Good Fat:

Monounsaturated & Polyunsaturated

Avocados are a great substitute for saturated or trans fats in your favorite dishes.

Guidance on Fats:

Though the Dietary Guidelines for Americans does recommend watching your total fat intake, it also recognizes the importance of getting the right amount of “good” fats in your diet.

In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend:

  • Consuming less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fats
  • Replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatsi
  • Limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fatty acids (such as hydrogenated oils), and keep total trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible
  • Eating fewer than 300mg of dietary cholesterol per day
  • Reducing intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars
  • Reducing sodium intake to less than 2,300mg per day
  • Limit consumption of foods that contain refined grains

Solid Fats Vs. Oils:

Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like beef fat, butter, and shortening. Solid fats mainly come from animal foods and can also be made from vegetable oils through a process called hydrogenation, resulting in a “trans fat”. Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, like the vegetable oils used in cooking. Oils come from many different plants and from fish. Oils are NOT a food group, but they provide essential nutrients. Therefore, oils are included in USDA food patterns.

Types of Fat

Where Do Avocados Fit In?

  • Avocados contain naturally good fats; in fact over 75% of the fat in avocados is good fat with 5g coming from monounsaturated fat (MUFA) and 1g from polyunsaturated fat per 50g serving
  • Avocados are a plant food and therefore the fat they contain is considered an “oil” and not a “solid fat”
  • Avocados are a great substitute for saturated or trans fats in your favorite dishes
  • Avocados are cholesterol and sodium free