Fats are as important to your diet as proteins and carbohydrates are to fueling your body with energy. Some bodily functions also depend on the presence of fat. For example, some vitamins require fat to dissolve in the bloodstream and provide nutrients.
However, excess calories from eating too much fat of any type can lead to weight gain and poor health.
What is meant by bad fats
Some fats have been linked to negative effects on heart health, but others have been found to have health benefits.
Foods and oils contain a mixture of fatty acids, but the predominant type of fat they contain makes them more or less healthy.
What fats are less useful?
Two types of fat - saturated fat and trans fat - have been identified as potentially harmful to your health.
Most foods containing these types of fats remain solid at room temperature, such as:
Trans fats should be avoided, and saturated fats should be eaten in moderation.
The most saturated fats are animal fats. They are found in high-fat meats and dairy products.
Sources of saturated fats include:
fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb;
dark chicken meat and poultry skin;
fatty dairy products (whole milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, ice cream);
tropical oils (coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter);
Eating too much saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Traditionally, doctors have associated higher intakes of saturated fats with an increased risk of heart disease.
More recently, this idea has been challenged.
According to Harvard University, researchers now believe that saturated fat may not be as bad as previously thought, but it's still not the best choice for fat.
After a review of 15 randomized controlled trials, we concluded that replacing the saturated fats in your diet with polyunsaturated fats can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Study: Reduction in saturated fat intake for cardiovascular disease
While the risk reduction is small, these differences can make a difference to your health.
How healthy fats can become unhealthy
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered more "heart-healthy" fats. These are the fats that are best for your diet.
Monounsaturated fats are found in a variety of foods and oils.
Research consistently shows that eating foods containing monounsaturated fats can improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. These products include:
nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans);
vegetable oils (eg olive oil);
Polyunsaturated fats are known as "essential fats" because the body cannot produce them and must obtain them from foods. The main source of this fat are vegetable products and oils.
A certain type of this fat, called omega-3 fatty acids, is especially good for the heart.
The following types of foods contain omega-3 fatty acids:
linseeds and oil;
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In addition to omega-3 fatty acids, you can find polyunsaturated fats in the following foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids:
seeds (sunflower, pumpkin seeds, sesame);
vegetable oils (corn oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil).
Foods that primarily contain these healthier fats tend to be liquid at room temperature.
In what cases do the listed products lose their useful properties?
They are not recommended for frying and consumed in large quantities. Fried foods contain significantly more fat and calories than their non-fried counterparts.
For example, one small baked potato (100 grams) contains 93 calories and 0 grams of fat, while the same amount (100 grams) of french fries contains 319 calories and 17 grams of fat.
As another example, a 100-gram fillet of baked cod contains 105 calories and 1 gram of fat, while the same amount of deep-fried fish contains 232 calories and 12 grams of fat.
As you can see, when eating fried foods, calories accumulate quickly.
Harm of fish oil
The health benefits of both fish oil and cod liver oil are due to their high content of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids support many body systems and can prevent a number of diseases. The human body cannot make its own omega-3 fatty acids, so you need to include them in your diet.
The fatty acids in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3 fatty acids are the "good oils" that everyone should include in their diet.
Some plant sources (such as nuts, seeds, and vegetable oil) contain another type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It has not been proven to be as beneficial as fatty acids from fish oil.
If you don't eat two to three servings of (not fried) fish a week, you may find it helpful to take fish oil or cod liver oil supplements.
Both fish oil and cod liver oil may cause minor side effects.
Discuss this with a healthcare provider before giving your child any supplements.
It is not known whether fish oil or cod liver oil is safe for people with fish and shellfish allergies.
People with heart and blood disorders should take fish oil or cod liver oil with caution.
Cod liver oil can:
Do not take cod liver oil if you are pregnant.
Fish oil can cause:
problems with blood clotting or nosebleeds;
indigestion and fishy belching;
decreased levels of vitamin E.
When it comes to supplements, good isn't always better. Too much omega-3 fatty acids in any form can have dangerous side effects.
You can visit the National Institutes of Health's Supplement Label Database if you want to research a specific brand.
It is best to take fish oil or cod liver oil alone, not both. Both oils have the beneficial properties of omega-3 fatty acids, but cod liver oil has added vitamins A and D. If you need those extra vitamins, you can only take cod liver oil.
If you don't need these extra vitamins, take fish oil only.
Fish oil or cod liver oil with food, especially fatty foods, can help you better digest and absorb omega-3 fatty acids.
What are trans fats and how do they affect health?
Trans fats are a form of unsaturated fat. There are two types - natural and artificial trans fats.
Natural trans fats are produced by bacteria in the stomach of cattle, sheep, and goats. These trans fats make up 3–7% of the total fat in dairy products such as milk and cheese, 3–10% in beef and lamb, and only 0–2% in chicken and pork.
On the other hand, artificial trans fats are mostly formed during hydrogenation, a process in which hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to form a semi-solid product known as partially hydrogenated oil.
Partially hydrogenated oils were first used in food preparation in the early 20th century as a substitute for butter, and became more common in the 1950s and 70s due to the discovery of the negative health effects of saturated fatty acids. Partially hydrogenated oils are used primarily in the preparation of deep-fried fried foods, as well as in baked goods; in both cases, they can be replaced by other substances.
Although the evidence is limited, natural trans fats are less harmful than artificial ones.
Study: Consumption of industrial and ruminant trans fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies
For example, the FDA ban on trans fats went into effect on June 18, 2018, products manufactured before that date may be sold until January 2020 or, in some cases, until 2021.
In addition, foods containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving are labeled as containing 0 grams of trans fat.
WHO recommends that total trans fat intake should not exceed 1% of total calories, which is less than 2.2 g per day for a 2,000 calorie diet.
Trans fats increase LDL cholesterol, a known biomarker for cardiovascular disease risk, and lower HDL cholesterol, which transports cholesterol from the arteries to the liver, where it is converted into bile.
A diet high in trans fat increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by 21% and mortality by 28%. When trans fats are replaced with unsaturated fatty acids, the risk of cardiovascular disease is reduced, in part by mitigating the negative effects of trans fats on blood lipids. In addition, there are suspicions that trans fats can increase inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.
Since 2018, six countries have introduced restrictions on industrially produced trans fatty acids, and another 24 countries have introduced regulations that will come into force within the next two years. However, more than 110 countries still do not have regulations restricting the use of these harmful compounds, which means five billion people are at risk of consuming industrially produced trans fats in their daily diet.
Actions are planned to achieve global phase-out by 2023. WHO has also released a set of step-by-step REPLACE modules that provide specific guidance to countries on how to reduce industrial trans fats in foods and save lives.
“The movement to phase out industrialized trans fats globally is gaining momentum, with almost a third of the world's population in 28 countries already protected from their harmful effects,” said WHO Director-General Dr TedrosAdhanom Ghebreyesus. “However, more than two-thirds of the world's population is not protected from the presence of industrial trans fats in their diet. WHO stands ready to support phase-out efforts in other countries. We applaud the industry's commitment to product reformulation and the elimination of trans fats."
The European Union, building on existing best practices, introduced a regulation in 2018 to exclude industrially produced trans fats from food. The regulation will come into effect by 2021.
Implementation of measures to limit trans fats has begun in more than 40 countries.
The first progress report also shows that policies to tackle trans fats are mostly being taken in high-income countries. No low-income country has a trans fat policy, and only three lower-middle income countries (India, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan) have such a policy.
So while food companies are reducing trans fats in their products, some products still contain artificial trans fats. To reduce your intake, it is best to read the ingredient lists carefully and limit your consumption of the foods listed below.
Foods high in unhealthy fats
Popcorn is a popular and healthy snack
It is high in fiber but low in fat and calories.
However, some varieties of microwaveable popcorn contain trans fats.
Food companies have historically used partially hydrogenated oil to cook popcorn in the microwave due to its high melting point, which keeps the oil solid until the popcorn bag is microwaved.
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Notably, due to the recognized health risks of trans fats, many companies have switched to oil without trans fats in recent years.
If you prefer to cook in the microwave, choose brands and flavors that do not contain partially hydrogenated oil. Alternatively, cook popcorn on the stovetop.
Margarines and vegetable oils
Some vegetable oils may contain trans fats, especially if the oils are hydrogenated.
Because hydrogenation hardens the butter, these partially hydrogenated oils have long been used to make margarine. Therefore, most of the margarines on the market were high in trans fats.
Fortunately, trans-fat-free margarine is becoming more widely available as these oils are being phased out.
However, be aware that some non-hydrogenated vegetable oils may also contain trans fats.
Two studies that analyzed vegetable oils, including canola, soybean, and corn, found that 0.4–4.2% of total fat was trans fat.
Study: LEVELS OF TRANS GEOMETRICAL ISOMERS OF ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS IN SOME UNHYDROGENATED US VEGETABLE OILS
To reduce your intake of trans fats from margarine and vegetable oils, avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated oils, or opt for healthier oils such as extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil.
Fried fast food
When eating on the go, be aware that trans fats can be hidden in some takeout options.
Fried fast foods such as fried chicken, battered fish, hamburgers, french fries, and fried noodles can be high in trans fats.
The trans fats in these foods can come from several sources.
First, restaurants and takeout chains often fry food in vegetable oil, which can contain trans fats that are absorbed into the food.
In addition, the high cooking temperatures used during frying can lead to a slight increase in the oil's trans fat content. The trans fat content increases each time the same oil is reused for frying.
Study: Analysis of Trans Fat in Edible Oils with Cooking Process
It's hard to avoid trans fats from fried foods, so it's best to limit your intake of fried foods altogether.
Baked goods such as muffins, cakes, pastries, and donuts are often prepared using vegetable fat or margarine.
Vegetable oil contributes to a more puffy and soft dough. It is also cheaper and has a longer shelf life than butter or lard.
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Until recently, both vegetable fat and margarine were made from partially hydrogenated oils. For this reason, baked goods have traditionally been a common source of trans fats.
Today, as manufacturers reduce the amount of trans fats in their butter and margarine, the total amount of trans fats in baked goods has also decreased.
Study: Trends in trans fatty acids reformulations of US supermarket and brand-name foods from 2007 through 2011
However, it cannot be assumed that all baked goods do not contain trans fats. It's important to read labels whenever possible and avoid baked goods containing partially hydrogenated oils.
Even better, make homemade cakes to control the ingredients.
Trans fats can also be found in smaller amounts in a number of other foods, including:
Potato and corn chips: While most potato and corn chips are now free of trans fats, it's important to read the ingredients as some brands still contain trans fats in the form of partially hydrogenated oil.
Cakes and buns: This is due to the presence of partially hydrogenated oil, which forms a soft crust. Pay attention to this ingredient on the label.
Pizza: Trans fats can be found in some brands of pizza dough due to the partially hydrogenated oil. Keep an eye on this ingredient, especially on frozen pizza.
Baking Icing: Mainly made up of sugar, water and butter.
Crackers, cookies, waffles, cream cakes, candies and other confectionery products.
To reduce your intake, be sure to read labels and check ingredient lists for partially hydrogenated oil, especially when purchasing any of the products listed above.
Milk fat substitute: harm and possible benefits
What does milk fat replacer (BMF) mean? It is a mixture of several vegetable oils that are pre-refined and well processed. The production process is carried out under the influence of high temperature and using a catalyst. As a result of their interaction, olein is formed, which is able to replace milk fats.
For the manufacture of ZMZH, oils such as:
Sunflower and corn oils are used in Russia more often than others. These are proven products, the quality of which is known to many. Exotic oils cause strong distrust in the domestic market. However, the raw materials used have no effect on the properties of the MMF. Some manufacturers mix several types of oils, which will not affect its benefits.
What are the similarities and differences between HMF and natural milk fat? Products have different composition and quality characteristics. These indicators determine the degree of their use in some areas of the food industry. Visually, the properties of products can be analyzed using a table.
Monounsaturated fatty acids,%
Polyunsaturated fatty acids,%
Melting point, hail
up to 50
As can be seen from the table, the products have a different fatty acid balance.
The composition of the milk fat substitute is stable, does not contain cholesterol, which in excess can cause chronic pathologies in the human body. However, it has a high specific gravity of fatty acids. These indicators indicate that HMF is more nutritious than a natural product.
The melting point of the product is higher, which allows it to be used for the production of ice cream. It is able to retain taste, aroma and texture for longer under a variety of conditions.
Natural products spoil quickly and are a favorable environment for the reproduction of microbes. The shelf life of products containing HMF is higher. In addition, such products have a stable oxidative balance.
Despite a number of advantages, there are some negative points when using a substitute for milk fat. The harm of a product depends on the factors that make it dangerous to consume.
Palm oil, consumed in excess, is considered a carcinogen, clogs the body with toxins. According to RF Legislation No. 163, palm oil is prohibited for use in its pure form in Russia.
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HMF does not contain palm oil, but olein, which is safe to use. However, products that contain it are best not to use in the children's diet. The product promotes the excretion of calcium from the body.
Harm is noted in the abuse of products containing ZMZH.
According to the legislation of the Russian Federation, a restriction has been introduced on its permissible amount in products: no more than 50%. We recommend that you carefully read the composition of the goods.
Why is visceral fat dangerous?
Most of the fat in our body is under the skin. This is fat that can be squeezed or pinched on the arms, abdomen, thighs, and buttocks.
A certain amount of body fat is normal and healthy, but too much fat can lead to imbalanced hormone levels.
Too much white fat, especially visceral fat, can be detrimental to your health. Visceral fat can increase the risk of the following diseases:
type 2 diabetes;
some types of cancer.
Visceral fat is a type of fat that is stored in the abdominal cavity. It is located near several vital organs, including:
It can also accumulate in the arteries.
Visceral fat is sometimes referred to as "active fat" because it can actively increase the risk of serious health problems.
If you have belly fat, it's not necessarily visceral fat. Belly fat can also be subcutaneous fat, which is stored just under the skin.
Visceral fat is found inside the abdomen and is difficult to see.
People with excess belly fat are at increased risk, even if they look thin.
Study: Normal-Weight Central Obesity: Implications for Total and Cardiovascular Mortality
How is visceral fat diagnosed?
The only way to definitively diagnose visceral fat is with a CT scan or MRI. However, these are expensive and time-consuming procedures.
Instead, healthcare providers usually use general guidelines to evaluate your visceral fat and the health risks it poses to your body.
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According to a study, about 10 percent of all body fat is visceral fat. If you calculate your total body fat and then take 10 percent of it, you can estimate the amount of visceral fat.
The easiest way to determine if you have a health problem is to measure your waist.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health T.H. Chana, if you are a woman and your waist is 85 cm or more, you are at risk of health problems due to visceral fat.
Men are at risk of health problems if their waist is 100 cm or larger.
You cannot measure visceral fat percentage at home.
However, you can determine your waist to hip ratio (WHR).
To calculate your WHR at home, follow these instructions:
Stand up straight.
Find and measure the smallest part of your waist. This is usually right above the navel. This is your waist size.
Find and measure the widest part of your hips or buttocks. This measurement is the circumference of the hips.
Divide your waist circumference by your hip circumference. This is your WHR.
According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, a waist-to-hip ratio greater than 0.85 for women and 0.90 for men indicates abdominal obesity.
It also increases the risk of metabolic complications such as diabetes.
You can also use the waist height ratio (WHtR).
According to the 2020 Study, WHtR is especially beneficial for people with type 1 diabetes. They found that a high WHtR was one of the best indicators that a person with type 1 diabetes also had a high percentage of visceral fat.
It was considered a more reliable indicator than WHR, body mass index (BMI) and body shape index (ABSI).
A large waist circumference was also closely associated with a high percentage of visceral fat.
Study: Waist-height ratio and waist are the best estimators of visceral fat in type 1 diabetes
To calculate WHtR at home, simply divide your waist circumference by your height. You can measure in centimeters as long as you measure your waist and height in the same units. The ideal WHtR is usually less than 0.50.
How to eat to reduce visceral fat
Visceral fat is extremely susceptible to:
For every kg you lose, you lose some visceral fat.
Practice for at least 30 minutes every day if possible. Be sure to include cardio and strength training.
Cardio includes aerobic exercises such as:
a ride on the bicycle;
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Such workouts will burn fat faster.
Strength training will gradually burn more calories as your muscles get stronger and consume more energy.
Ideally, do 30 minutes of cardio 5 days a week and strength training at least 3 times a week.
While burning fat in this area can be difficult, there are a few things you can do to reduce excess belly fat.
Top 10 Scientifically Backed Nutrition Tips to Lose Belly Fat
Eat plenty of soluble fiber
Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel that helps slow the passage of food through the digestive system.
An observational study of over 1,100 adults found that for every 10 grams of increase in soluble fiber intake, belly fat gain decreased by 3.7% over a 5-year period.
Study: Lifestyle Factors and 5-Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort: The IRAS Family Study
Excellent sources of soluble fiber include:
Don't drink alcohol
Observational studies have linked excessive alcohol consumption to a significantly increased risk of fat accumulation around the waist.
One study of alcohol use involved more than 2,000 people. The results showed that those who drank alcohol daily but drank less than one drink a day on average had less belly fat than those who drank less frequently but consumed more alcohol on the days they drank.
Study: Alcohol drinking patterns differentially affect central adiposity as measured by abdominal height in women and men
Eat a high protein diet
Protein increases the metabolic rate and helps maintain muscle mass during weight loss.
Many observational studies show that people who eat more protein tend to have less abdominal fat than those who eat a low protein diet.
Study: Quality protein intake is inversely related to abdominal fat
Be sure to include a good source of protein in every meal, such as:
Don't eat a lot of sugary foods
Sugar contains fructose, the overconsumption of which has been linked to a number of chronic diseases.
Observational studies show an association between high sugar intake and increased abdominal fat.
Research: Fructose Consumption: Considerations for Future Research on Its Effects on Adipose Distribution, Lipid Metabolism, and Insulin Sensitivity in Humans
It is important to understand that not only refined sugar can lead to an increase in belly fat. Even healthier sugars like real honey should be consumed in moderation.
Reduce your intake of carbohydrates, especially refined ones
Reducing your carbohydrate intake can be very beneficial for burning belly fat.
You don't have to follow a strict low-carb diet. Some research suggests that simply replacing refined carbs with unprocessed starchy carbs can improve metabolism and reduce belly fat.
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According to the famous FraminghamHeartStudy, people with the highest intake of whole grains were 17% less likely to have excess abdominal fat than those who ate a diet high in refined grains.
Study: Whole- and refined-grain intakes are differentially associated with abdominal visceral and subcutaneous adiposity in healthy adults: the Framingham Heart Study
Eat oily fish
Some evidence suggests that omega-3 fats may also help reduce visceral fat.
Studies in adults and children with fatty liver disease show that fish oil supplements can significantly reduce liver and abdominal fat.
Study: Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults, A double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial to evaluate the efficacy of docosahexaenoic acid supplementation on hepatic fat and associated cardiovascular risk factors in overweight children with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
Try to get 2-3 servings of oily fish per week. A good choice:
Don't drink fruit juice
Although fruit juice contains vitamins and minerals, it contains just as much sugar as sodas and other sweetened drinks.
Eating large amounts may carry the same risk of increasing abdominal fat.
A 240 ml serving of unsweetened apple juice contains 24 grams of sugar, half of which is fructose.
To reduce excess belly fat, replace fruit juice with water, unsweetened iced tea, or water with a lemon or lime wedge.
Use coconut oil
In one study, obese men who took coconut oil daily for 12 weeks lost an average of 2.86 cm from their waist without intentionally changing their diet or exercise regimen.
Study: An open-label pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of virgin coconut oil in reducing visceral adiposity
Keep in mind that coconut oil is very high in calories. Instead of adding extra fat to your diet, replace some of the fat you already eat with coconut oil.
Eat probiotic foods or take probiotic supplements
To reduce the stomach, add the following strains of bacteria: Lactobacillusfermentum, Lactobacillusamylovorus and especially Lactobacillusgasseri.
Study: Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women, Effect of Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 in fermented milk on abdominal adiposity in adults in a randomized controlled trial
Probiotic supplements usually contain several types of bacteria, so make sure you buy one that contains one or more of these bacterial strains.
Try intermittent fasting
One popular method involves 24-hour fasting once or twice a week. The other consists of fasting every day for 16 hours and eating all food in an 8 hour period.
In a review of studies on intermittent fasting and every other day fasting, people experienced a 4-7% reduction in abdominal fat over 6-24 weeks.
Study: Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings
While some modified intermittent fasting methods seem like better options, stop fasting immediately if you experience any negative effects.
Conclusion: Limit bad fats in your diet, carefully read the composition of industrial products. Instead, eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein.