A Guide to Different Types of Fat


Fat is an essential nutrient for the human body. It serves various body functions include enhancing the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins; A, D, E and K as well as providing a concentrated source of energy. However, not all fats are created equal. Some of them are heart-healthy or also known as the good fat, whereas the bad fat may put your health at stake.

Trans fat

Trans fat generally exists in two forms; natural and artificial. Artificial trans fat is originally an unsaturated fat derived from vegetable oil that has been subjected to hydrogenation; an industrial process that involves the addition of hydrogen to increase the food’s shelf life and improve its texture and taste. While on the contrary, natural trans fat can be found in trace amounts in meat and dairy products such as beef, lamb, and milk. Evidence revealed that the consumption of trans fat is linked with the elevated level of LDL (bad) cholesterol, a risk factor for atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a narrowing and hardening of the arteries due to the buildup of cholesterol, fats, and other substances.

Furthermore, a systematic review discovered that trans fat not only elevated the risk of chronic heart disease but was also able to distort the cell membrane. Consequently, the neuron signaling in the brain becomes less efficient.

Trans fat sources include:

  • Margarine and shortening

  • Processed meat

  • Cookies and cakes

  • Animal products

Saturated fat

Saturated fat, along with trans fat are categorized under bad fat. Normally, saturated fat exists in solid form at room temperature. Most of the time, it comes from animal sources such as fatty meat, dairy products and poultries’ skins. Sometimes, it can also highly be found in plant-based fat for instance palm and coconut oil. Saturated fat has a bad reputation as it is linked with the raised level of LDL cholesterol which eventually favors the development of atherosclerosis, a risk factor of chronic heart disease and other chronic diseases.

Saturated fat can be found in:

  • Pastries

  • Coconut milk

  • Fatty meat

  • Processed foods

  • Margarine, butters and lard

Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fat consists of at least one double bond between the carbon atoms within its structure. It is subcategorized into two groups; monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Unsaturated fatty acids are mainly found in liquid form at room temperature and plant-based. They are considered heart-healthy fats due to their good reputation of improving the lipid profile and reducing plasma cholesterol. Its consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, the Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest diets in the world also highlights unsaturated fat as the primary source of fat.

High unsaturated foods:

  • Plant oils

  • Nuts

  • Seeds

  • Dark chocolate

The takeaway

While different types of fats have different effects on our health, we must choose the right fat. A healthy diet includes all nutrient groups, including fat. Choose the heart-healthy option to meet your fat requirements!


Dhaka, V., Gulia, N., Ahlawat, K. S., & Khatkar, B. S. (2011). Trans fats-sources, health risks and alternative approach – A review. In Journal of Food Science and Technology (Vol. 48, Issue 5, pp. 534–541). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13197-010-0225-8

Ginter, E., & Simko, V. (2016). New data on harmful effects of trans-fatty acids. Bratislava Medical Journal, 117(5), 251–253. https://doi.org/10.4149/BLL_2016_048

Siri-Tarino, P. W., Sun, Q., Hu, F. B., & Krauss, R. M. (2010). Saturated fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease: Modulation by replacement nutrients. In Current Atherosclerosis Reports (Vol. 12, Issue 6, pp. 384–390). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11883-010-0131-6