The Difference Between
the “Bad” and the “Ugly” Fats?

By Anthony Pacitto

Studies have shown that two unhealthy dietary fats (Saturated and Trans) affect the cardiovascular system differently. A major question that arises frequently among many Canadians when reading food labels is: What are the differences between Saturated and Trans fats? Read on to find the answer to this question…


What is it?

Saturated fat is commonly known as the “bad” fat within our diet that increases our low-density lipoproteins (LDL – “bad” cholesterol). It can be naturally found within many food products

What does it do?

Elevated LDL levels result in plaque build-up within the inner walls of the arteries that decreases proper blood flow to the brain, heart and other vital organs and increases the chances for heart attack, stroke and/or cardiovascular disease.1

Where can it be found?

High Saturated Product(s) Substitute with Lower Saturated Products Saturated Daily Intake
Coconut & Palm Oils 6 Olive or Sunflower Oil No more than 10% of daily caloric intake 4
Butter Tub 5 Margarine ≤ 60% fat, tub 5
Meat Products 6
(high-fat beef, chicken and pork)
Lean Meat Products,
trimmed fat 6
Lard/Shortening Products Soft Margarines, low-fat 5


What is it?

Trans Fat is a polyunsaturated fatty acid which has been transformed from its liquid form into a semi-solid state by the process of hydrogenation. It is found in many processed foods such as breakfast cereals, some margarines pastries, cakes, etc. Fortunately, most jurisdictions require that food labels now have to list the contents including the presence or absence of trans fat. It is commonly known as the “ugly” fat within our diet 7.

What does it do?

Trans Fat increases our LDL low-density lipoproteins (“bad cholesterol”) and also significantly decreases our high-density lipoproteins (HDL “good cholesterol”). This results in an even greater increase in plaque build-up and risk for heart disease when compared to saturated fat alone!

Where can it be found?

High Trans Product(s) Substitute with Lower Trans Products Trans Daily Intake
Deep-Fried French Fries Sweet Potatoes, Brown Rice 2 Avoid all foods that contain Trans fat
Deep-Fried Chicken Grilled Chicken with light seasoning 2
Ice Cream Bars (high-cream) 2 Frozen Yogurt, low-fat 2
Sour Cream 2 Unsalted Cottage Cheese,
low-fat 2

…Read your food labels carefully and always choose your food products wisely!


  1. American Heart Association. (2012). Good vs. bad cholesterol. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/Good-vs-Bad- Cholesterol_UCM_305561_Article.jsp
  2. American Heart Association. (2010). Smart Substitutions. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/ HealthyCooking/Smart-Substitutions_UCM_302052_Article.jsp
  3. Dietitians of Canada. (2011). Trans fats. Retrieved from http://www.dietitians.ca/Dietitians-Views/Trans-Fats.aspx
  4. Dietitians of Canada. (2011). Dietary fats. Retrieved from http://www.dietitians.ca/Dietitians-Views/Dietary-Fats.aspx
  5. Food and Drug Administration. (2012). Trans fat now listed with saturated fat and cholesterol. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/NFLPM/ucm274590.htm
  6. Heart and Stroke Foundation. (2011). Nutrient standards for fat. Retrieved from http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.4391459/k.F050/Health_Check_nutrient_standards_for_fat.htm
  7. Fats: The Good the Bad and the Ugly. (2012), Health Canada, Retrieved from http://hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/med/fats-gras-eng.php

The articles, on the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada website, are presented with the understanding that the Foundation is providing information only and not rendering medical advice. Please check with your family physician, specialist or health care professional before implementing any of the ideas expressed in these articles.