Updated: Jan 13, 2021
Ever wonder, if it's possible to eat too much healthy fats? Well to start off, let's begin by learning what types of fats are good, bad and in-between. Trans fat is considered bad fat, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated are considered good fats, while saturated fats fall somewhere in-between, according to Harvard Medical School.
Bad Trans Fats
Trans fat is the worst type of dietary fat. It has zero health benefits and there is no safe level of consumption. When eating foods high in trans fats, it increases the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and reduces the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol. On top of that, these fats create inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. They even contribute to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Even small amounts of trans fats can harm health. For example, for every 2% of calories from trans fat consumed daily, the risk of heart disease can rise by 23% (1).
Somewhere In-between Saturated Fats
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and they are the most used type of fat in the American diet. These fats are common in red meat, whole milk, cheese coconut oil, and many commercially prepared baked goods and other foods. Most nutritionists recommend limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of calories per day (2).
There are a handful of recent reports that have really muddied the connection between saturated fats and heart disease. Although replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats may indeed reduce the risk of heart disease, one meta-analysis of 21 studies said that there was still not enough clear evidence to conclude that saturated fat will for sure increase the risk of heart disease (3).
There were to other major studies that have narrowed the prescription. They concluded that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats is the best bet to reduce the risk of heart disease. However if you replace saturated fats with highly processed carbohydrates, it would do the complete opposite (4).
Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Good sources of monounsaturated fats are found in avocados, olive oil, canola oil, peanut butter oil and most types of nuts. The discovery by Seven Country Study revealed that people in Greece and other parts of the Mediterranean region had a low rate of heart disease, despite their high-fat diet. Their main source of fat came from olive oil, which is mainly made up of monounsaturated fats(5).
Polyunsaturated fats are essential, meaning they're required for normal body functions. But your body can't make them, so you must get them from food. These fats are used to build cell membranes and the covering of nerves. They are needed for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation. In fact, there are two main types of polyunsaturated fats - omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Both of these types offer health benefits. Consuming polyunsaturated fats reduces harmful LDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides. You can find omega-3 fatty acids in salmon, sardines, walnuts, canola oil, flaxseeds, and unhydrogenated soybean oil. They help prevent and can even treat a stroke and heart disease. It reduces blood pressure and raises HDL. Omega-6 fatty acids has been linked to protection against heart disease as well (6).
CAN YOU EAT TOO MUCH HEALTHY FATS?
So this leads us back to the question - can you eat too much healthy fats? There's no recommended daily intake - The Institute of Medicine recommends using monounsaturated as much as possible, along with polyunsaturated fats to replace saturated and trans fats. But if you want a number to aim for, according to Dr. Roshini Raj (MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine At The NYU School of Medicine, Health Medical Editor), if you’re a generally healthy adult, he suggests getting anywhere from 25 to 35 percent of your daily calories from mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which is a moderate amount. (So if you eat, say, 2,000 calories per day, shoot for 65 grams or so of fat, which is equivalent to roughly one avocado plus 2 1/2 tablespoons of EVOO.) A registered dietitian can look at your diet and tailor that number to fit your needs, depending on your current health status and/or fitness goal.