Categories: Nutrition2.8 min read

by Stephen Luther, M.D.


A Fat Choice, Understanding the Food Label

A Comprehensive Guide to Fats

Americans are given important information on the total fat breakdown in food products because fats differ in how the body uses and processes them. What fats should you indulge in, eat in moderation, sparingly, or avoid? You can smartly feast on the best, life-altering nutrition from fats by reading a food label such as this:

Total Fat

  • Saturated Fat
  • Trans Fat
  • Polyunsaturated Fat
  • Monounsaturated Fat

Note: Not all foods list the types of unsaturated fats.

Saturated Fats

  • Recognizable by its ability to turn from liquid to solid, causing it to clump easily and turn rancid over time.
  • Eat freely: A variety of animal protein sources such as eggs, meat, seafood, poultry, and cheeses.
  • Eat sparingly: Full-cream milk and yogurt, coconut milk, and processed meats (bacon, sausage)
  • Avoid tropical oils (palm or palm kernel oil), commercially fried products in oil with saturated fat, fast food, commercial baked goods, and processed foods such as margarine and dressings.


  • An unsafe, manufactured, less-expensive byproduct created through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to oil to cause it to solidify at room temperature, thus extending shelf life.
  • Avoid hydrogenated vegetable oils and seed oils such as soy, corn, canola, safflower, sunflower, and peanut oils.
  • Watch for packaged foods that may contain unlisted trans-fat. Foods with .5g or less trans-fat per serving show 0g on the label (small serving sizes may result in the consumption of several grams of trans-fat unknowingly).

Partially Hydrogenated Fats

  • A modified hydrogenation process that slightly solidifies oil and may contain trans-fat.
  • Avoid commercially processed foods such as dough, cakes, donuts, processed cheese spreads, and coffee creamers.

Unsaturated Fats (Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated)

  • Unsaturated fats are defined as having a double bond for every three carbon atoms on the molecular fat chain. They are typically a healthy option because they are less likely to leave a residue when processed.
  • Polyunsaturated fats carry multiple double bonds on the fatty acid chain forming bends that keep the fat liquid at room temperature. However, where the bond starts on the chain and its orientation plays a role in its fluidity.
  • Omega-3s and Omega-6s must be consumed in your diet because your body cannot synthesize this type of fat. Omega-3s are essential for good health and are highly recommended by Symbios Nutrition. Eat Freely: Oily fish, nuts, avocados, olives, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and macadamia oil.
  • Monounsaturated fats are fatty acids with one double bond on the fatty acid chain, making it L- shaped, causing it to remain liquid.
  • Omega 7s and Omega-9s can be produced by your body but are also found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives.

Overcoming the Challenge of Selecting Good Sources of Fats

  • Avoid industrially processed fats such as vegetable and seed oils such as sunflower, canola, or corn oil. When choosing an oil, use non-heat extracted oils such as extra virgin olive oil.
  • Nutrients may be decreased or lost when fats are heated; therefore, choose raw nuts, seeds, and fresh produce.
  • Healthy fats will oxidize faster (making them rancid), thus causing the fats to be unstable.
  • Diversify your selection of fats by rotating types of meats, fish, and unroasted nuts.

Symbios Nutrition at 843.738.4800 takes the guesswork out of food selection and can personalize weekly menus with recipes that meet your needs and taste.


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