Do We Need Fat in our Diet?

Fat is one of the three macronutrients (Protein, Carbohydrates, Fat) and is a source of stored energy. As a Bariatric Patient we rely heavily on Protein sources in our diets, especially early on after surgery. Fats are an important issue because while it is important to keep Protein high, Fat also needs to be kept in check as calories from fat good or bad add up very quickly.


Dietary fats can be divided into four main categories:

  1. Saturated fats

  2. Trans fats

  3. Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs)

  4. Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs)

All four types of fats are sources of energy but each affects our bodies differently. This is why some fats are classified as good and others are bad.

  • Saturated fats and trans fats are the bad fats;

  • Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are the good fats;

2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans




Do we need fat in our diet?

Yes, Fats are necessary in our diet

But the caveat is that we need good fats in our diet.


Good fats:

  • Give us energy

  • Support healthy skin

  • Protect against memory loss

  • Ease joint pain

  • Help us absorb important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K

So the goal is to consume good fats while minimizing or eliminating bad fats.

But how do you know which fats are good and which fats are bad?

Let’s talk about each of the different types of fats in more detail .

The Bad Fats: Saturated and Trans Fats

Let’s start with the bad fats since those are the most common in the Standard American diet.

What are the bad fats? Bad fats are easy to spot since they tend to be solid at room temperature. Think butter, cooled bacon grease, margarine, and shortening.

The bad fats are:

  • Saturated fats

  • Trans fats

Saturated Fats

According to the American Heart Association, “Saturated fats are simply fat molecules that have no double bonds between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules.”


Saturated fats are mostly found in animal foods such as meat and dairy products.

Here are some examples of animal foods with saturated fat:

  • Beef

  • Bacon

  • Pork

  • Sausage

  • Lamb

  • Chicken skin

  • Whole and 2% milk

  • Butter

  • Lard

  • Cheese

  • Cream

  • Ice cream

Given the most popular foods we eat here in America, the main sources of saturated fats in the Standard American diet are mixed dishes made of meat and/or cheese.


Here are some examples of typical American dishes that contain saturated fat:

  • Burgers

  • Sandwiches

  • Tacos

  • Pizza

  • Rice/pasta/grain dishes

  • Meat/poultry/seafood dishes



Saturated fats are also found in certain tropical plant-based oils—coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil, to be exact. That’s why these oils are solid at room temperature.


What They Do in the Body

Saturated fats raise bad LDL cholesterol in the blood, which can cause blockages to form in the heart and other parts of the body. That’s why saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Saturated fats are also associated with:

  • Increased total cholesterol

  • Insulin resistance

  • Type 2 diabetes

Why You Should Avoid Saturated Fats

It’s pretty clear that saturated fats aren’t good for you and that it’s best to avoid them as much as possible, but here is another interesting point to note about saturated fats:

The human body uses some saturated fats for physiological and structural functions, but it makes more than enough to meet those needs. Individuals 2 years and older therefore have no dietary requirement for saturated fats.


2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans


Trans fats

Trans fats come in two forms: naturally-occurring and artificially-made trans fats.

The naturally-occurring kind come from some ruminant animals such as cattle and sheep. Artificial trans fats are made by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.


Small amounts of trans fats are present in certain meat and dairy products made from ruminant animals. Here are some examples of foods with naturally-occuring trans fats:

  • Beef

  • Lamb

  • Butterfat

However, the main source of trans fats in the American diet is from processed foods such as commercially-made baked goods, packaged snack foods, fried foods, and frozen dinners. Foods that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, even if they claim to be trans fat-free, contain trans fat. Here are some examples of processed foods that contain artificially-made trans fats:

  • Cakes

  • Pastries

  • Cookies

  • Muffins

  • Doughnuts

  • Pie crusts

  • Biscuits

  • Crackers

  • Microwave popcorn

  • Chips

  • Frozen pizza

  • Pizza dough

  • French fries

  • Chicken nuggets

  • Margarine

  • Vegetable shortening

  • Coffee creamer


If you read over the lists of foods that contain saturated and trans fats, then you might be wondering how on earth you can minimize the bad fats in your diet, especially since the standard American diet mainly consists of those very foods. Nobody said choosing a healthier way would be easy. If you’re interested in minimizing the bad fats in your diet, then here are some actionable steps to take:

  • Avoid or strictly limit your intake of animal foods such as meat, seafood, poultry, and dairy products

  • Avoid or strictly limit your intake of processed foods such as prepackaged snacks, commercially-made desserts, frozen meals, and fried foods

  • Eat more fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), nuts, and seeds

  • Make your meals at home using fresh, minimally-processed ingredients

Everything You Need to Know About the Good Fats

Good Fats: Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats


What are good fats? Good fats are unsaturated, and they tend to be liquid at room temperature. We call these good fats “oils.” Refined oils like olive oil are easy to spot, but oils in their natural state are less obvious since they’re found inside foods such as avocados, olives, nuts, and certain fish.

The good fats are:

  • Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs)

  • Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs)

Monounsaturated fats

According to the American Heart Association, “Monounsaturated fats are simply fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule, this is also called a double bond. Oils that contain monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but start to turn solid when chilled.”


Monounsaturated fats are found in greatest amounts in plants.

Here are some examples of plant foods high in monounsaturated fats:

  • Liquid vegetable oils such as olive, sunflower, peanut, safflower, and sesame oils

  • Avocados

  • Nuts

  • Seeds

  • Peanut butter


Why You Should Consume Monounsaturated Fats

Since your body needs good fats to function properly, it’s a good idea to replace unhealthy saturated fats and trans fats with healthy monounsaturated fats.



Polyunsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats are fat molecules that have more than one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule. Like monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature. Polyunsaturated fats are unique in that they provide essential fats that your body needs but can’t produce itself, namely omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.


Polyunsaturated fats are found in plants and certain fish.

Here are some examples of foods high in polyunsaturated fats, specifically ones high in omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Soybean oil

  • Walnuts

  • Flaxseed

  • Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines

Here are some examples of foods high in polyunsaturated fats, specifically ones high in omega-6 fatty acids:

  • Liquid vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, sunflower, walnut, and safflower oils

Other good sources of polyunsaturated fats include:

  • Seeds such as sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds

  • Soybeans and tofu

  • Fish oil supplements

Why You Should Consume Polyunsaturated Fats

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential for your body to function properly, so it’s important that you regularly eat foods rich in polyunsaturated fats.

Also, this quote from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasizes the relationship between polyunsaturated fats and cardiovascular disease (CVD):

Strong and consistent evidence shows that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats is associated with a reduced risk of CVD events (heart attacks) and CVD-related deaths.


2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans


How to Get More Good Fats in Your Diet

It’s fairly easy to get more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in your diet, especially if you’re already a big fan of whole plant foods. Remember that these good fats are present in nuts, seeds, nut butters, olives, avocados, and oils made from plants. They’re also found in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna.


Here are some actionable ways to include more good fats in your diet:

  • Eat a variety of whole plant sources of fats each day

  • Eat fatty fish on occasion (unless you’re vegan, vegetarian, or 100% whole food plant-based)

  • Replace butter or margarine with extra virgin olive oil when cooking (unless you’re 100% whole food plant-based)

  • Add mashed avocado to your sandwich instead of mayo

  • Top your salad with cubed avocado, nuts, and/or seeds

  • Toss in a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your oatmeal or smoothie

etary Fat and Weight Loss

Considerations for Dietary Fat If You’re Trying to Lose Weight

We know dietary fat is important for your health, but what if you’re trying to lose weight?

As I mentioned before, fat is the most concentrated source of calories. At 9 calories per gram, it has more than twice as many calories per gram as carbohydrates and proteins (they only have 4 calories per gram each).


Added Oils

Since oil is pure fat, you’ll want to be especially vigilant about added oils, even the so-called “good” oils like olive oil. Oils pack a serious calorie punch (a whopping 120-130 calories per tablespoon) without any of the fiber that contributes to satiety, so they’re basically a waste of calories when you’re trying to lose weight. Translation? You eat the calories without feeling full.


Whole Food Sources of Dietary Fat

Whole food sources of good fats such as avocados, nuts, and seeds, are more calorically-dense than other foods that don’t have as much fat in them, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. For example, you’ll consume more calories when you eat a handful of nuts than when you eat a handful of berries because the nuts have more fat in them than the berries. If a certain food is a good source of good fat, then it literally means that food has a significant amount of fat in it. Of course, whole food sources of dietary fat aren’t as calorically-dense as pure oil, but it’s still important to recognize the higher fat content when you’re trying to lose weight. When preparing meals, you’ll want to limit your intake of those calorically-dense foods. You can still have those good sources of good fats, but it’s important to limit your intake so you don’t consume excess calories.


ecap of ietary Fats

Summary on Dietary Fats

The bad fats are:

  • Saturated fats

  • Trans fats

Saturated fats are found in animal products such as meat and dairy products, while trans fats are mostly found in processed foods such as prepackaged snacks, commercial pastries, frozen dinners, and fried foods. Both of these types of fats increase bad LDL cholesterol, which can cause heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.


The good fats are:

  • Monounsaturated fats

  • Polyunsaturated fats


Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are mostly found in plant foods. Think nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, and oils made from plants. They’re also found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna. These good kinds of fats decrease bad LDL cholesterol and help prevent heart disease and stroke while supplying the fat our bodies need to function properly. Polyunsaturated fats are also a source of two essential fatty acids that our bodies need but can’t produce on their own: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. While refined oils are technically a good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, they might not be the best use of your allotted daily calories. Oils contain about 120-130 calories per tablespoon but without any of the components that contribute to satiety. This means you eat the calories without feeling full. Oils are also nutritionally-deficient since they’re stripped of the fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The best way to get good dietary fat is through whole food sources. But if you need to lose weight, it’s important to remember that even those whole food sources of good fats are more calorically-dense than other foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Cutting out oil and limiting your intake of high-fat plant foods will allow you to get the dietary fat you need without consuming excess calories.



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Here at Bariatric Nutrition we recommend a “Diet” aka Meal Plan based on Macronutrient ratios customized for the individual. This can be customized for any stage of the Bariatric Journey. Our method always prioritizes protein and use carbohydrates and fats as variables depending on individual goals. The simple truth is adherence to a meal plan is highly dependent on individual preferences. There is no one plan that is going to work for everyone and that’s why BariActive Coaches work with clients to develop their own individual meal plan based on Macros & Activity data. Our goal at BariActive Nutrition is for our clients to be able to achieve their Health & Nutrition goals long term by educating them on nutrition fundamentals and teaching strategies for sustainable success.


Author: Jim Laur

Jim is a successful gastric sleeve patient (09-19-17) as well as a NASM Certified Nutrition Coach and Founder of Bariactive Nutrition .


Certified Nutrition Coaches are not medical professionals e.g. Registered Dietician or Physician therefore BariActive Nutrition Coaching Services are not regarded as medical advice. Coaching Services at BariActive Nutrition are a combination of accountability , evidence based nutrition education , and weight loss processes & strategies that are tailored to the individual that produce results for our clients. Please consult with your Doctor before making any changes to your Meal Plan including but not limited to : Caloric Intake, Macros, Food Volume, Vitamins & Supplements.