Is there such a thing as good fat?

It’s hard to escape the message that fat is bad for you, but like most things it’s not always black and white.

The good news is that while plenty of fatty foods are bad for you, there are also fatty foods that are good for you. 

The difference is the type of fat.

There are four main types of fat – monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated and trans. Those last two are the baddies. They are generally found in animal fats, including butter and ghee, coconut oil and processed foods such as cakes and pastries, salamis and fried and takeaway foods.

So, we want to eat more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, but what are they, why are they good for us and where can we find them?

Good fats

Technically, monounsaturated fats are fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule. Polyunsaturated fats are fat molecules that have more than one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule. 

Let’s not get into the nitty gritty of how they work, because it’s rather technical.

However, basically, they both help reduce the bad cholesterol in your blood. Monounsaturated fats also help provide vitamin E and polyunsaturated fats help provide vitamin E and essential fats that your body needs but can’t produce itself, including omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. And just in case you are wondering what fatty acids do, well it’s a lot. Everything from brain health to preventing heart disease. 

Vitamin E is vital for keeping your immune system healthy, and supports healthy vision and skin. 

Both fats are typically liquid at room temperature but start to turn solid when chilled. 

So, how do we get more of the good fats? Foods rich in healthy fats include nuts and seeds and their butters/spreads, olives, avocados, and their oils and spreads, and oily fish such as salmon and sardines.

Which foods? 

More specifically, oils high in monounsaturated fats include olive, canola, peanut, safflower and sesame oils. Foods high in monounsaturated fats include avocados, peanut butter and nuts, especially almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and pumpkin and sesame seeds. 

Oils high in polyunsaturated fats include canola, corn, soybean and sunflower. Foods high in polyunsaturated fats include fatty or oily fish such as anchovies, herring, mackerel, salmon and bluefin tuna. Other foods include some nuts and seeds such as walnuts, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, tofu and tofu products.

You only have to make a few tweaks to your diet to add more of the good fats. Maybe include one more fish meal a week, treat yourself to avo on toast, have a bowl of unsalted nuts and seeds handy to snack on and make a point of using olive oil when cooking.

And just in case you were wondering why you shouldn’t eat the bad fats, well trans fats not only increase the bad cholesterol in the body, they also lower the good cholesterol. As a result they increase the risk of heart disease and are considered so unhealthy they are banned or limited in many countries. 

Most trans fats are formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, which causes the oil to become solid at room temperature.

This oil is less expensive and has a longer shelf life, so it has a great deal of appeal to food manufacturers and for deep frying as it doesn’t have to be changed as often as other oils. 

Do you worry about your fat intake? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Also read: How to safely get rid of used cooking oils

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


  1. The information in this article is so out of date I don’t know where to start. Telling us to eat seed oils! Just watch your arteries corrode.
    Please read The Clot Thickens if you want some real information about oils. Then start reading much more broadly and you will discover how appalling most of this health advice is.

  2. Teeto, you are absolutely correct. Seed oils are highly processed using bleaching agents, deodorants etc and high temperatures and thus are most toxic. The exceptions are fruit oils: avocado, coconut and virgin olive oil. Butter is good!
    Yes indeed read Dr Malcolm Kendrick, “The Clot Thickens,” and also “Dark Calories and Toxic Oils Detox For Healthy Healing: Exposing the Dark Side of Seed Oils and Vegetable Oils,” by Dr. Charlotte Jay.
    The “information” in the article about cholesterol is at least 20 years out of date. There is much excellent current information, eg, “Fat and Cholesterol Don’t Cause Heart Attacks and Statins Are Not The Solution,” by Malcolm Kendrick, Uffe Ravnskov, et al.

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