There are three (3) types of fats and oils. But what is the difference, and are some all “bad” and some all “good?”

Not really. It's all about balance.

The word “fat” is a general term, the scientific term being “lipid.”  Lipids include natural oils, waxes, and steroids.  All oils are fats, but not all fats are oils.

Let me explain.

Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, because of a higher percentage of monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated fats. The “unsaturated” part is what makes them liquid. Fats are solid at room temperature because of having a higher percentage of saturated fats.

There is no oil or fat that is strictly saturated or unsaturated. All oils and fats are a combination of saturated and unsaturated parts.

The more saturated a particular fat is, the higher the melting point. “Melting point” refers to the temperature at which a substance will melt. For example, butter has a melting point of about 90 degrees F.  This is why butter is solid at room temperature. On the other hand, olive oil, which becomes partially solid in the refrigerator (40 degrees F), will melt once you put it at room temperature, around 70 degrees F.

Are some fats healthier than others?

The unsaturated fats are more “heart healthy.” However, our bodies need some saturated fat to be healthy. Thus, limiting your saturated fat to 10% of total calories from fat is considered optimal.

Another crucial point is that certain types of polyunsaturated fats are anti-inflammatory. For example, the omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. In contrast, the omega-6s are proinflammatory, if there are too many of them in the diet. The ratio is important for good health. An ideal ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is about 4:1. Thus, omega-6 fats are essential, but balance is important.

Below is a list of fats/oils that are categorized by the type of fat they are primarily composed of.  Fats are not composed of all one or the other. For example, olive oil has 10 grams of monounsaturated, 1 gram of polyunsaturated, and 2 grams of saturated fat. Olive oil starts to get solid in the refrigerator. Canola oil, on the other hand, has 9 grams of monosaturated, 4 grams of polyunsaturated, and 1 gram of saturated fat. Thus, canola oil stays liquid in the refrigerator.

Sources of Mainly Saturated


Coconut Oil


Beef Fat or Tallow

Shortening (Artificially Saturated using a scientific process known as “partial hydrogenation”)

Best Sources Monounsaturated

Olive oil

Canola Oil

Avocado Oil

Nut Oils (Almond, Cashew, Macadamia, Pecans)

Peanut Oil (peanuts are classified as legumes/beans)

Best Sources of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated

Fish Oil

Walnut Oil

Flaxseed Oil

Hemp Oil

Perilla Oil (Used in Korean Cuisine)

Chia Seed Oil

Best Sources of Omega-6 Polyunsaturated

Soybean Oil

Corn Oil

In a future article, I will go more in-depth about each individual type of fat. All fats are essential to good health.

I will also discuss in future articles the differences between Omega-6 and Omega-3 oils. They are both important, but ratio DOES matter.

The anti-inflammatory properties of Omega-3s can be therapeutic in treating children with autism and ADHD, especially if they are deficient in the diet. Stay tuned for more…

Other Posts of Interest by Homeschooling Dietitian Mom

Fatty Foods Can Be Healthy

5 Reasons You Should Eat More Fish


Choose my plate: Oils

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