Many of us are taught that fat is bad for us and that we should steer clear of it at all costs. While that may be true of some types of fats, there are also beneficial fats that are essential to our health. Healthy fats are found in foods like avocados, salmon, tuna, nuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds and they do everything from keeping our hearts healthy to boosting our energy levels to supporting cell function. They’re absolutely crucial to our overall wellness and are an important part of a balanced diet. If you’re wondering about healthy fats vs unhealthy fats, we’re laying it all out for you here!
What Are Dietary Fats & Why Are They Important
Dietary fat is one of the three macronutrients that make up the bulk of our diets. Along with protein and carbohydrates, dietary fats are an essential part of our diet and impact our overall health. Dietary fat comes in different forms – some that are good for you and some that are detrimental. Healthy fats give your body energy and support cell function. They also help protect your organs and keep your body warm. Healthy fats help you absorb vitamins and minerals and balance your hormones. Unhealthy fats, on the other hand, can lead to serious health problems down the road.
Healthy Fats vs Unhealthy Fats: What’s The Difference?
There are good and bad types of fat and it’s important to know the difference when choosing what to put into your body.
The worst, most harmful type of fat is trans fat. Foods high in trans fat include fried foods like French fries and doughnuts, spreads like margarine, commercially baked goods like cakes, cookies and pies, frozen pizza, microwave popcorn, non-dairy coffee creamer and refrigerated dough such as biscuits and rolls. Trans fats increase the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in the body and reduce the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol. They increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke and are overall awful for your health and heart.
Saturated fats are also not great for you. Common sources of saturated fat include red meat, whole milk and other whole-milk dairy foods, cheese, bacon, sausages, cured meats, coconut oil, butter and many commercially prepared baked goods and other foods. You should limit your saturated fat intake as much as possible, as it has proven to raise your bad cholesterol and put you at higher risk for heart disease. It can also lead to obesity.
Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats
When it comes to good fats, also called unsaturated fats, there are two broad categories: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats include avocados, lean meat, olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, most nuts and seeds, as well as high-oleic safflower and sunflower oils. There are two types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Beneficial sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines, flaxseeds, walnuts and canola oil. Good omega-6 fatty acids include vegetable oils like safflower, soybean, sunflower, walnut and corn oils.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help you avoid diseases like heart disease and stroke by keeping your arteries clear, helping boost good cholesterol, and reducing bad cholesterol when they replace unhealthy fats in your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids also come with a number of health benefits. They’re good for heart, eye, joint and mental health. They can boost brain and nervous system development and strengthen the immune system. They can also be good for pain relief, stiffness and inflammation.
How Much Dietary Fat Should You Consume?
Dietary fat should make up 20 to 35 percent of the total calorie intake an adult eats in a day. If you follow a 2,000 calorie per day diet, for instance, you should get about 400 to 700 of those calories from fat each day. This is keeping in mind that all fat has 9 calories per gram. Ideally, almost all fat you consume should come from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated food sources. You don’t need to avoid all saturated fats, but limit them as much as you can. Try to replace all unhealthy fats in your diet with beneficial fats.
12 Unhealthy Fats to Avoid
1. Fried foods
4. Vegetable shortening
5. Processed snack foods
6. Commercially baked goods
7. Beef or pork fat
8. Dark chicken meat and poultry skin
10. High fat dairy foods
11. Microwave dinners
12. Frozen pizzas
12 Healthy Fats to Add to Your Diet
3. Nut and seed butters
4. Vegetable oils (olive oil, peanut oil)
10. Chia seeds
20 Healthy Fat Recipes & Snacks
1. Avocado Tomatillo Breakfast Tacos | Love and Lemons
2. Crunchy Rainbow Thai-Inspired Peanut Chicken Wraps | Ambitious Kitchen
3. Salmon, Spinach and Basil Rice Bowls | For the Love of Basil
4. Avocado Peanut Butter Smoothie | Cook Craft Love
5. Chia Coconut Pudding | Low Carb No Carb
6. Avocado Egg Salad | Pinch of Yum
7. Fudgy Avocado Brownies | Frugal Mom Eh!
8. Loaded Hummus | Food Network
9. Chili Lime Baked Salmon | Recipe Tin Eats
10. Avocado Hummus | Cooking Classy
11. Peanut Butter Chia Pudding | Eating Bird Food
12. Almond Shortbread Cookies | Food Network
13. Banana Cashew Flaxseed Smoothie | Food Faith Fitness
14. Granola and Yogurt Breakfast Bowls | Jar of Lemons
15. Garlicky Cashew Broccoli and Tofu Stir Fry | I Love Vegan
16. Mediterranean Sardine Pasta with Lemon, Capers and Chilli Flakes | Tori Avey
17. Trout with Garlic Lemon Butter Herb Sauce | Julia’s Album
18. Moroccan-Spiced Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad | Ambitious Kitchen
19. Spicy Peanut Tofu Bowls | Pinch of Yum
20. Maple Balsamic Rainbow Trout | Two Kooks in the Kitchen
Fat gets a bad rap, but not all fats are bad for you. In fact, healthy unsaturated fats are crucial for your health and wellbeing and are part of a well balanced diet. Make sure you’re getting a good dose of healthy fats every day to reap the benefits.
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