Updated: Aug 15, 2019
Fats are one of the most confusing areas of nutrition to most people. For years we have been told to avoid and limit the amount of fats that we take in on a daily basis. In recent years, we have learned that some fats are good and even necessary for our health.
A study conducted in the 1960’s revealed that people in Mediterranean countries experience lower rates of heart disease despite consuming high levels of fats in their diets. The type of fats that they consumed was mostly monounsaturated fats from olive oil.
Dietary fats help protect against heart disease, lowers your bad cholesterol, (LDL), and triglyceride levels, provides essential fats that your body cannot produce itself and even reduces risk of death from all causes. Eating the right kind of fats help to reduce inflammation in the body, helps us to feel full after eating and provide many important vitamins and minerals.
Fats come in many forms but the healthiest fats contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with omega-3 fatty acids. Limit the amount of saturated fats in your diet and fats that contain omega-6 fatty acids.
Evidence shows that Omega-3 fatty acids reduce blood pressure, raise HDL, (good cholesterol), lower triglycerides and may even help prevent heart disease and strokes.
Omega-6 fatty acids are also important to health and can even help protect against heart disease. Vegetable oils like safflower, soy, sunflower, corn and walnut oil are rich in omega-6 fatty acids. The problem with omega-6 fatty acids is the amount that is consumed in the typical American diet. The ration of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids on our diet should be somewhere between 1-1 and 1-4 as recommended by Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S. in his book, “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.”
A good way to increase your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is to include fatty fishes such as salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel and sardines in your diet twice a week. Walnuts, flaxseed and eggs from chickens that are fed grains high in omega-3 fatty acids are also good sources. Nuts, Olive Oil, Avocado, un-hydrogenated soybean oil and Peanut Butter are good sources on monounsaturated fats.
To reduce the amount of omega-6 fatty acids that you consume, limit the sources of saturated fat such as pizza, burgers, processed foods and snacks, sweets and fatty meats. Be careful of the total amount of fat from calories in your diet. The 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that you ingest less than 10 percent of your total daily calories from saturated fat. All fats are high in calories so be careful how many fat calories you take each day. Stick with fats from vegetables, nuts, seeds and fish. Healthy fats are liquid at room temperature.
Another type of fat to avoid is trans fats. Trans fats or hydrogenated vegetable oils are found in crackers, cookies, baked goods like cakes and pies, French fries and many snack foods. Always read food labels to see if there are any trans fats.
Here is a list of some foods that contain healthy fats:
Almond Oil Avocado Canola Oil Cheese Coconut Dark Chocolate Flax and Chia Seeds Grass fed Beef Greek Yogurt Heavy Cream and Milk Macadamia Nut Oil Nut Butter Nuts Olive Oil Red Palm Oil Sesame Oil Soybeans Tuna Whole Eggs Wild Salmon
Eat This, Not That!
Eat Right, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
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The Mayo Clinic Diet The Facts on Fats
The American Heart Association
The 150 healthiest Foods on Earth; Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.