What’s the difference between good fats and bad fats? The popular diet terms decoded

Baffled by nutritional buzzwords?
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  • Do you know your gluten from your glucose? What about the difference between good fats and bad fats? If you haven’t got a clue, you’re not alone.

    Commenting on this research by Whey For Living, nutritionist Jenna Hope said: ‘Many people are unaware of the definitions of some common nutritional terms and in order to help the population make light of topical nutrition related headlines, more education is required.’

    So, to make things a whole lot clearer, we’ve decoded some of the confusing diet buzzwords you may come across when looking to lose weight and eat healthier.


    The ketogenic diet – also known as keto, is based on eating a high amount of fat, few carbohydrates, with a moderate amount of protein. On this plan, the body switches from burning carbohydrates for energy to burning fat for energy. This causes levels of ketones to increase in the body and it enters a stage known as ‘ketosis’ – where the body is burning fat.


    Paleo is a diet of fruits, veg, lean meat, seafood and nuts – eating closely to what our hunter-gatherer ancestors thrived on millions of years ago. The idea is that by cutting out processed foods and meals loaded with sugars and fats, we can protect our bodies from obesity and other modern-day health issues.

    Glycaemic index

    The GI index is a 0-100 rating system for foods containing carbohydrates. The numbers show how quickly each food affects your blood sugar (glucose) level when eaten on its own. Watch out for foods with high GI number as these cause blood sugar levels to spike.

    Lo GI

    Low-GI foods are broken down slowly and cause a gradual rise in blood sugar, so have a low number on the Glycaemic Index. These include wholegrain bread, muesli, quinoa, legumes and lentils, vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower and some fruits such as apples, strawberries and peaches.

    Monounsaturated fats

    You’ll find monounsaturated fats in olive oil, rapseed oil, avocados and some nuts such as almonds, brazils and peanuts. These ‘good fats’ maintain levels of good HDL cholesterol and reduce levels of bad LDL cholesterol to help protect our hearts.

    Trans fats

    These are often called ‘hydrogenated oils or fats’ on ingredients lists and are found in pastries, cakes, biscuits and some hard margarines. Health guidelines recommend adults should not have more than about 5g a day as trans fats can raise cholesterol levels in the blood.

    Polyunsaturated fats

    There are two main types of polyunsaturated fats – omega-3 and omega-6. These are considered ‘good fats’ as they can help to lower levels of LDL cholesterol and you’ll find them in corn, sunflower and soya oil, pine nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds, and margarines and spreads that are high in polyunsaturated fats.

    Complex carbohydrates

    Based on their chemical make-up, carb are classed as ‘simple’ or ‘complex’. It takes more time for the body to break down complex carbohydrates so they provide you with a more consistent amount of energy. Compex carbs are found in whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables.

    Amino acids

    Amino acids are compounds with a vital role to play in the body to keep it functioning – from muscle development and tissue repair, to regulating energy. There are nine essential amino acids that can’t be made by the body so they must be obtained through your diet. Animal proteins such as meat, eggs and poultry are good sources of essential amino acids.


    Whey protein is a fast-digesting protein that is easily absorbed by your body. It’s created in the process of making cheese – liquid whey is separated from the curd and then pasteurised and dried into a powder form. It’s a complete protein and contains all nine essential amino acids.

    Refined sugar

    Refined sugar is the processed sugar that has no nutritional value and is often added to packaged foods and drinks to improve taste. Reducing the amount of refined sugars in your diet is better for your health.

    Blood glucose

    Blood glucose is the sugar in the blood from food or drink. This is transported around the body to provide energy. It’s normal for blood glucose levels to fluctuate throughout the day, but keeping them within a safe range can protect against heart disease and diabetes. Healthy targets for blood sugar levels in non-diabetics are 72 to 99 mg/dL, when fasting, and up to 140 mg/dL 2 hours after eating.


    This is a type of protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It gives foods like bread and pasta their springy texture, and helps baked goods stay fresh and moist. Certain people follow a gluten-free diet as they are intolerant to gluten, either suffering with a sensitivity, or a more serious autoimmune disease called coeliac disease .


    A type of sugar found in milk and dairy products. Those who have difficulty digesting it are known as lactose intolerant. Common symptoms of this include bloating, tummy ache, diarrhoea and gas.


    Or carbs for short. These are one of our three macronutrients (the others being fat and protein) and are body’s main source of energy. In food, there are three different types of carbohydrates: sugar, starch and fibre.


    Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance that’s made in the liver and found in the blood. It’s used by every cell in the body and plays a part in making Vitamin D and steroid hormones for healthy bones, teeth and muscles – but too much cholesterol can clog up your arteries and cause health problems. Eating a healthy diet, avoiding saturated fats and staying active can help lower cholesterol levels.


    One of our core macronutrients, protein is needed by the body to repair body tissue and build muscle mass – it also lowers blood pressure and helps you to maintain a healthy weight, High protein foods include eggs, milk, chicken and turkey, seafood, nuts and seeds, soya and beans.


    Organic products have at least 95% of  ingredients from organically produced plants and animals. This means animals are not given any kind of antibiotics or growth hormones, are only fed with organic feed and are not given medication, aside from vaccinations or to treat an illness. They must also be given access to fields. Fruit and vegetables that are labelled organic are grown without using most pesticides or fertilisers with synthetic ingredients. Only products labeled 100% organic are guaranteed GM (genetically modified) free.

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