How to select healthy fats for your diet
In the 1990s, we were all told to eat a low- or no-fat diet. Now we are told to keep our “good” fat intake up because it protects us from heart disease. So, what is good fat and how do you incorporate it into a healthy diet?
First, let’s talk about the “bad” fat. These are the ones that you want to stay away from or use in moderation. There are two main types of potentially harmful fat: saturated fat and trans fat.
- Saturated fat comes mainly from animal sources such as red meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy.
- Trans fat occurs naturally in some foods, but most trans fats are made by putting oils through a processing called partial hydrogenation. These oils are easier to cook with and less likely to spoil, so they are used in mass production of processed foods. Trans fats are listed as partially hydrogenated oil on ingredient lists. Look at cracker or cookie ingredients and see if it’s in there—it mostly like is!
These two “bad guys” are the fats that becomes solid at room temperature: butter, lard, shortening, margarine, beef fat, and pork fat. Too much of these fats adversely affects your heart health and your waistline.
So, what are “good” fats?
- Monounsaturated fat is found in a variety of foods and oils, and studies show these fats can improve cholesterol levels, benefit insulin levels, and control blood sugar (which is especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes).
- Polyunsaturated fat is found mostly in plant-based foods and oils and can also contribute to a healthy heart by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, studies show, is the most friendly fat. It contributes to good heart and brain health. It can be found in plant sources, like avocado, however, the body is even more able to convert and use omega-3 from fish.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, such as olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, and corn oil. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, sardines, and herring. Plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed (ground), oils (canola, flaxseed, soybean), and nuts and other seeds (walnuts, butternuts, and sunflower).
Go ahead and add fat to your diet—just make sure its the good kind.
Image via Shutterstock.com
Debi Conocenti has been keeping people fit and healthy for more than 20 years. A developer of corporate health, fitness, and wellness programs, she stays active with her two sons and English sheepdogs.
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