New reports seem to come out daily claiming to educate us on the latest health fads, diets and what you should and should not be eating. One day coffee is great for you, the next day it’s not! The good news – as of right now, it appears that coffee is once again good for you. (Sips coffee happily.)
Thankfully, there are some things that stand the test of time when it comes to healthy eating. Today’s focus is healthy fats. Yes, fat can be healthy for you! Yes, there are different types of fat. Yes, we will explain the differences. But, first, a fight for fat.
The Fight for (Good) Fat
Fat can do the body a whole lot of good! In fact, certain healthy fats can help1:
- Give the body energy
- Keep your body nice and warm
- Help build cells
- Protect your inner organs
- Help the body absorb vitamins from foods
- And help produce hormones to keep your body working properly
Different Types of Fat
Trans Fat – French fries, cakes, popcorn, frozen pizza, the list goes on and on! Why, oh why, must some of our favorite foods be filled with trans-fats? Well, it’s because most trans-fats are made industrially by companies adding in hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils. This helps the foods last longer and can give them a satisfying taste.
But don’t be fooled by their delicious textures, trans-fats can raise cholesterol levels, increase your risk for heart disease and stroke, and bring you closer to developing type 2 diabetes. It’s best to stay away from foods filled with this type of fat. In fact, some places have already banned the use of trans-fat in foods altogether (yay!)
Saturated Fat – Yikes, if this fat came with its own theme song you’d most likely hear the slowly accelerating rhythmic bass pulse of the melody from Jaws. This fat can be kind of scary because it’s in foods that most of us eat on a daily basis. Foods like red meat, butter, eggs, and coconut oils.
However, when eaten in moderation, saturated fats shouldn’t drastically raise your levels of LDL cholesterol (or “bad” cholesterol). In fact, the “American Heart Association recommends that you get no more than 5% or 6% of your daily calories from saturated fat. So, if you eat 2,000 calories a day, limit saturated fat to 120 of those calories.”1
Unsaturated Fat – Ah, the good stuff, and what you came here to read about! When you consume these foods it’s like you’re giving your heart a big old hug. Unsaturated fats come in two forms: monosaturated and polysaturated. Basically, the differences between the two are based upon their differing chemical bonds.
Here is a list of some essential healthy fats that you should be adding to your next shopping list.3
Essential Healthy Fats
This California favorite has actually been shown to help lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. They are also packed with potassium and fiber, which is all the more reason to add them to your diet! (In moderation, of course.)
Yes, cheese is a dairy product, so doesn’t that mean that it technically has some saturated fat in it? Yes, but remember – it’s OK to have some saturated fat in moderation. Too much cheese is a no-no for the heart, but some cheese is good for you. (You’ll notice a trend here, everything you consume should be done in moderation.)
Mmm… chocolate. Go ahead and let yourself enjoy about 1 to 2 oz. of dark chocolate per day, so long that it’s at least 70% cocoa.
Some of the healthier fishes include salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, and herring. That’s because these types of fish are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, loaded with nutrients and are considered a high-quality protein.
Nuts like almonds, walnuts, macadamias, and others are a great source of healthy fats and a great source for those looking for plant-based protein.
Don’t you love it when healthy foods actually have great flavor too? It makes it so much easier to eat them and cook with them! Olive oil is an excellent source of healthy fat. Try swapping out butter for olive oil when cooking to give your body more vitamins, healthy fat, and antioxidants.
Just make sure it’s not loaded with added sugars. Regular, full-fat yogurt can do the body good by improving digestive health thanks to probiotic bacteria.
Bet you didn’t know chia seeds even had fat in them – but yes, they do. An ounce of chia seeds contains about 9 grams of fat. And when breaking down the caloric value of chia seeds they come in at around 80% fat. But again, it’s good fat! Chia seeds are loaded with fiber, omega-3s (great for the heart), and minerals that help benefit the body.
Before drastically changing your diet, or to help you better understand what a healthy meal plan for you would be, consult with your personal health care provider. Please use this simply as a guide.
- “Types of Fat in Food: Understanding the Different Dietary Fats.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/diet/guide/types-fat-in-foods#1.
- Gunnars, Kris. “10 High-Fat Foods That Are Actually Super Healthy.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 2017, www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-super-healthy-high-fat-foods.