It’s natural for us to think that avoiding fats will make us shed some weight. But apparently, it's not that simple. It turns out fats play an essential role in a healthy diet, too!
They do not only contain fat-soluble vitamins but essential fatty acids as well. But here's the thing: There are good fats and bad fats. And we have to know what is the difference between the two, so we can avoid unhealthy fat sources.
If you want to figure out what are the good fats to eat, this article is for you. These healthy fat sources can boost your heart health, improve your eyesight, lift up your mood, and make you lose pounds!
We’ve summarized in this list the foods that contain the good guys and all of their amazing benefits. And as a bonus, we’ve also included some handy tips on how you can fit them into your diet!
So, what exactly are “healthy” fats?
Unsaturated fats are considered “healthy” fats. They are deemed good for your health because of their ability to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or the "bad" cholesterol that block your arteries.
Studies also claim that these kinds of fats help to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, preventing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Monounsaturated fats, in particular, are dense in nutrients and anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Because of the essential compounds they contain, they also help to reduce inflammation, a risk factor for various chronic diseases.
Polyunsaturated fats are good for your health, too! Like monounsaturated fats, they also contain important nutrients such as vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps guard your cells against free radical damage.
This kind of fat also contains essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6. These fatty acids play a crucial role in brain health and cell growth.
Omega-3s, which can be found mostly on fish, nuts, seeds, and algae are particularly good for heart health. Omega-6s, on the other hand, are prominent in vegetable oils and plant oils.
These fatty acids are found to be beneficial in reducing LDL cholesterol, raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol, and preventing the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Researchers, meantime, highlight the importance of optimizing your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio to enjoy its benefits to your health.
And what about “unhealthy” fats?
Many diets, such as the common American diet, are incredibly high in saturated fats. And this comes as no surprise because they are widely available and taste oh-so-good! But are they really that bad for you?
Now here’s where it gets a bit more complicated: We’ve all been warned for years against eating saturated fats that are commonly found in meat and dairy products.
But, new research counters this belief. Recent studies surprisingly did not find any connection between saturated fats and heart disease.
So, if saturated fats aren’t necessarily that bad to our health, what is? Many doctors and health experts agree that trans fats are the worst type of fat you can consume.
Compared with other dietary fats, trans fats or trans-fatty acids increase your bad cholesterol levels, raising your risk of heart disease.
While some meat and dairy products have little amounts of trans fat, significant amounts of these “unhealthy” fats are commonly found in many processed foods.
Which Healthy Fats Should You Eat?
So, now that you know what exactly are healthy fats, and unhealthy fats, it’s time to reveal which foods contain the good guys. You can add these healthy fats to your diet, and enjoy its vast benefits for your health:
Avocado is among the top ten healthiest foods on the planet, and with its nutritional content, there’s no doubt why.
A medium-sized avocado contains about 23 grams of fat, which is primarily monounsaturated. It is also packed with key nutrients, fiber, and lutein.
You can enjoy it as a healthier alternative to your sandwich mayo, butter, and sour cream. Remember, though, that avocados are also high in calories, so try to moderate your avocado intake.
Who says you need to give up chocolates altogether? The happy news is, you don’t, but you have to pick the dark variant. An ounce of dark chocolate, which is equal to one serving, contains approximately nine grams of fat.
And while it also contains the less healthy saturated fat, it is still incredibly rich in vitamins and minerals, and flavonoids that help reduce LDL cholesterol.
Aside from boosting your skin health, dark chocolates can also improve your mood as they contain serotonin or the “happy chemical”.
Never underestimate these little seeds because they are big in essential nutrients. Chia seeds are loaded with fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, and antioxidants. Their reputation as a superfood is unmistakable.
What’s more, you can enjoy it in various ways! You can add it to your smoothies, pudding, yogurt, and baked goods. You can even make a chia detox water to help your weight loss efforts!
Eggs are a favorite kitchen staple in many homes because they are so versatile. They are also a practical and accessible protein source.
There is approximately 11 grams of fat in a 100-gram boiled egg, only 3.3 grams of which are saturated.
Egg whites are considered a healthier option as they come with less fat. But while this is true, egg yolks also boast key nutrients. Whole eggs are packed with choline, with the egg yolk containing around 300 micrograms.
Among the benefits of this essential B-vitamin are its ability to support brain health, lower LDL cholesterol, and prevent cardiovascular diseases.
A cup of black olives contains 15 grams of fat, which are mainly monounsaturated.
In general, olives of different varieties are rich in beneficial nutrients and hydroxytyrosol, a phenolic phytonutrient that contains antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.
This important phytonutrient has been linked to a reduced risk of bone loss as well.
Olives also make a great snack for people suffering from pain and inflammation as studies suggest they work as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory ingredient.
But while olives are good for you, it is important to stick to an appropriate portion (five large olives or ten small olives) as they can also be high in sodium.
Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and have a good reputation in promoting heart health.
Including oily fish in your diet is one of the easiest and best ways to gain the healthy fat.
According to the American Heart Association, consuming at least two servings of oily fish per week will let you enjoy its benefits to your health.
Tuna also contains significant amounts of omega-3s and healthy fats. All kinds of tuna – canned or the one you find in your sushi – are rich in these beneficial compounds.
What makes it even more awesome is the fact that it’s so easy to add to your diet! You can make a tuna salad, tuna steak, or a tuna burger!
Experts, however, recommend sticking with 12 ounces or two servings every week to prevent your exposure to harmful elements such as mercury, which is present in seafood in little amounts.
While it doesn’t contain high amounts of fat like the other foods mentioned, tofu still contains a good amount of unsaturated fats. A three-ounce serving of tofu has five to six grams of fat and about a gram of saturated fat.
Tofu is low in sodium and high in protein, calcium, and iron. What’s more, you can enjoy many yummy tofu recipes!
Walnuts, and other nuts
Omega-3 fatty acids-rich walnuts were found to reduce LDL cholesterol and boost blood vessel function. Studies also reveal that walnuts can prevent the risk of blood clots and improve the health of your arteries lining.
Other nuts like almonds, cashews, pecans, and pistachios are also rich in healthy fats and other key nutrients.
Almonds, for instance, are dense in vitamin E, while pistachios boast lutein and zeaxanthin, which promote eye health.
To enjoy the benefits of nuts, experts recommend eating ¼ cup of serving per day. Other varieties such as macadamia and cashews are fattier, so it’s best to watch your serving sizes.
Which Fats Should You Avoid?
So, you already know which healthy fats to eat. Let us now find out which fats are bad for you:
While certain studies see no link between saturated fats and cardiovascular diseases, it is still recommended to minimize your saturated fat intake.
Saturated fats are present in meats, butter, cheese, coconut oil, palm oil, and other baked goods. Experts suggest you restrict your saturated fat consumption to no more than 7 to 10 percent of your daily calorie intake.
If there’s anything you should totally nix from your diet, it’s trans fat. They increase your bad cholesterol and decrease your good cholesterol, putting you at a higher risk of developing heart diseases.
Trans fats can be found in many processed foods such as packed chips, frozen pies and pizzas, microwave popcorn, and ice cream.
While they are highly addictive because they taste so good, they are harmful to your heart, so avoid them as much as possible.
While it’s hard to avoid them, try to replace unhealthy fats with healthier fats. Keep in mind, though, that the secret is still moderation.
You have to remember that all fats contain high amounts of calories, so you still need to watch your portions carefully.
It’s also best to incorporate into your diet other food sources that are rich in essential nutrients and health benefits.