Eating healthy doesn’t mean that you have to eliminate all kinds of fats from your meals! In fact, there are some good fats that are extremely healthy for your skin, hair, nails and for the overall betterment of your health. It’s the bad fats that you need to avoid. 

Before that, you need to recognize the bad fats you are, knowingly or unknowingly, consuming every day. Bad fats are a common presence in our lives and can be found almost everywhere, but they are not very hard to eliminate once you learn to recognize them. 

What are Bad Fats?

There are actually two main types of bad fats in food: saturated and trans fat. Saturated fat is available in nature and these are the kinds of fat that become solid at room temperature, i.e. butter, beef fat, and pork fat, etc.  Saturated fat is harmful but can be used sparingly, mainly because they add flavour to food and are delicious. 

Trans fat, on the other hand, is the worst kind of fat for our health. This is the fat found in fried foods, processed snacks, and baked goods. This kind of fats should be avoided completely, if possible. 

Alternatively, there are two kinds of good fats: monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fats. These good fats are found in fatty fish, nuts and seeds, nut butter and vegetable oils. These fats can be a part of our diet but in moderation. 

We need to make sure the bad fats are not a part of our daily meals, but the good fats are. 

Recognizing Bad Fats

Here are the different sources of bad fats in the food we consume almost every day. 

  • Margarine 

Margarine is a cheaper substitute for butter, often needed in baking. Margarine sticks are made from vegetable oil and are about 18% saturated fat, with 0 to 30% trans fats. Butter is a better substitute that you can use instead of margarine, even if it costs more. Margarine is actually needed in recipes where you need a lot of it, simply for reducing the cost of production. Most store-bought baked goods have margarine in them instead of butter, just to reduce the price. 

  • Shortening 

Solid shortening is another ingredient needed in baking, particularly in making pie crusts. Shortening is made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and contains about 20 to 30% saturated fat. They are also high in trans fats and should be eliminated from our meals. 

  • Lard

Although lard isn’t very common these days, it was a staple ingredient in baking before. Lard is made from pig fat and contains about 40% saturated fat. Lard was especially used in American Southern cuisines, British cuisine, Mexican, Norwegian and Chinese cuisine, and a favourite because it gave the food a delicate texture. 

  • Microwavable Popcorn 

Popcorn is a healthy and filling snack, but most of the microwavable brands of instant popcorns contain a large amount of trans fat. These brands use partially hydrogenated oil in the popcorn, keeping the oil solid in the packet. The oil melts and cooks the popcorn when heated in a microwave, giving its taste and texture. 

However, many of the brands available in the market have switched from trans-fat-enriched formula to trans-fat-free formula, making the popcorn much healthier. 

  • Some Vegetable Oils 

Some of the most popular brands of vegetable oil that we use contain high levels of saturated and trans fats. These include soybean, canola and corn oil – which contains 0.4% to 4.2% trans-fat content. Palm oil contains about 50% saturated fat, usually found in processed food, cakes, cookies and crackers, and also in microwavable popcorn. 

Coconut oil, at the same time, contains around 87% saturated fat. Made from coconuts, this oil is very popular in South Indian dishes, Thai and Polynesian cuisines. Although high in saturated fat, coconut oil actually helps in raising good cholesterol, so consumption in moderation can be healthy. 

  • Fried and Fast Foods 

The more fried, fast foods you eat, the more trans-fat you are consuming, especially in fried chicken, fried seafood and fish, French fries, hamburgers, battered fish, fried noodles and fried wontons, etc. Fast-food chain restaurants usually fry their food in vegetable oil, especially the ones loaded with saturated and trans-fat. The oil is soaked into the food that goes into our stomachs directly; besides, when a high temperature is used, the amount of trans-fat in these oils is actually increased which we consume. 

At the same time, the same oil is used again and again, and the amount of trans-fat keeps increasing in our food, making these hamburgers and fried chickens some of the unhealthiest food we can ever eat. 

  • Store-bought Baked Goods   

Store-bought or home-made, all baked goods have some harmful ingredients in them, especially the ones that you buy contain margarine and vegetable shortening. 

Vegetable shortening is used by bakeries to make their pastries and pie crusts softer and flakier, but also adds calories and saturated fats to their products. At the same time, margarine is used as a cheap substitute for butter because bakeries want to lower their cost of production. 

People who bake at home rarely use margarine or shortening in their products, because they are more worried about quality and health rather than cost. 

  • Some Coffee Creamers 

Artificial coffee creamers and coffee whiteners that you might use as a substitute for milk or cream in your hot beverages contain a huge amount of oil and sugar. These creamers and whiteners also use partially hydrogenated oils to increase the shelf life of their products. 

Using whole milk or half-and-half milk, or full-fat cream is a much healthier, natural substitute to coffee creamers. They may contain some fat, but these are healthier fats compared to artificial creamers. 

  • Frozen Meals and Pizzas 

When meals are frozen and kept in freezers in supermarkets for you to microwave at home, they are loaded with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. These oils keep the food intact and increase its shelf life, and melts into the food once you put the packet into your microwave oven. Buying freshly-cooked food from restaurants can be a healthier choice than buying frozen meals, even if they cost a little more. 

  •   Canned Frosting 

The main ingredients in the canned frosting are water, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and sugar – everything that’s harmful to your body. All canned frostings contain some traces of trans-fat, even when the labels say “0 grams of trans-fat” or “Trans-fat free”. So, this is an ingredient to completely avoid while making cakes or pies. 

All of these foods are a part of our lives, even when we try to live a natural, healthy life. The important point is that you learn to recognize trans-fat and saturated fat in your regular food sources and avoid them the best you can.