Fats: Fats and your health

Learn about the different fats and how they affect your health.

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About fats

Fat is an important nutrient for your health. It:

  • gives you energy
  • helps your body grow and develop
  • helps your body absorb vitamins A, D, E and K

The 3 different kinds of fat are:

  • trans
  • saturated
  • unsaturated

Choosing foods with mostly healthy fats (unsaturated) instead of foods with mostly saturated and trans fat can help lower your risk of heart disease. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in Canada.

Sources of fat

Trans fats

Trans fats can be found naturally in some animal-based foods or can be industrially produced.

They occur naturally in foods such as:

  • beef
  • lamb
  • dairy products

Industrially produced trans fats are formed during food processing. Some liquid vegetable oils, such as canola and soybean oil, contain small amounts of trans fats. These are formed unavoidably during the refining process.

In the past, the main source of industrially produced trans fats were partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs). Health Canada banned the use of PHOs. Food manufacturers now can’t add PHOs to foods sold in Canada. This includes Canadian and imported foods, as well as those prepared in all food service establishments.   

Saturated fats

Saturated fats are found in foods such as:

  • meat
  • lard and shortening
  • tropical oils such as palm oil and coconut oil
  • dairy products, including butter, cheese and whole milk

Unsaturated fats

There are 2 types of unsaturated fats:

  • polyunsaturated
  • monounsaturated

Unsaturated fats are found in:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • avocado
  • fatty fish
  • vegetable oils
  • soft margarine
  • soybeans and soy products, such as tofu

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