The Good Fat

By: Cassidy Hobbs
Johnston County FCS Agent

Not all fats are created equally. Low-fat, reduced-fat, fat-free foods could be the reason you can’t lose weight, and here is why:

Food manufacturers create low-fat, reduced-fat, and fat-free products by removing fat and compensating with salt, sugars, and refined carbohydrates. Think about it- what role does fat play in the flavor profile? Fat is a source of flavor. When fat is removed, flavor must be compensated with something! Studies show that the reduced-fat campaign a few years ago contributed to an increase in obesity and diabetes. The refined carbohydrates and sugars that compensate for the fat reduction in foods triggers the body to release insulin. Insulin helps the body break down sugars and promotes fat storage. With that, let’s talk about fats!

The primary fats are saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and stable over time. Saturated fats have been linked to heart disease because they increase low-density lipoproteins- a.k.a. LDL- the “bad” cholesterol. Sources of saturated fat are palm oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and animal fats. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends saturated fats compose less than 10% of daily caloric intake, and saturated fats should be replaced with unsaturated fats.

Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and unstable meaning that unsaturated fats can become rancid over time. Unsaturated fats decrease LDL, “bad” cholesterol, and increase HDL. HDL is the “good” cholesterol. Unsaturated fats are beneficial to cholesterol levels. When consumed, unsaturated fats help consumers feel full and satisfied sooner and for longer periods of time. As a result, studies have shown that diets high in unsaturated fat contributes to weight loss. Sources of unsaturated fats are fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, and liquid oils such as vegetable oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, olive oil, canola oil, and avocado oil.

Beware that not all plant-based oils are sources of healthy fats. Palm and coconut oils are high in saturated fat and have a different chemical structure than other plant-based oils. Recently, liquid coconut oil has been added to grocery store shelves. Liquid coconut oil continues to be high in saturated fat. Read the nutrition label to make sure that you are making a healthy choice!

Next week, I will talk more about the importance of healthy fats. The traditional Mediterranean eating pattern is pattern of eating lots of healthy, unsaturated fats with numerous scientifically-proven health benefits. Be on the lookout next week! For more information, contact Cassidy Hobbs at the N.C. Cooperative Extension Office, Johnston County Center at 919-989-5380 or by emailing

In the meantime, check out this great recipe for a delicious introduction to healthy fats, and pair with a fresh salad or green beans.