In the age of “fat-burning exercises” and “fat-free diets,” the term healthy fats might seem like an oxymoron. This bad reputation that fat has comes from post-World War II research which linked high-fat diets to high cholesterol levels. While there wasn’t any significant evidence to back this conclusion, by the 1960s, Americans had adopted a “low-fat” lifestyle to lose weight and keep their hearts healthy. Despite this, obesity became widespread in America.1 2 Surprisingly enough, it was also found that diets rich in healthy fats – particularly the Mediterranean diet – reduced the risk of heart diseases and obesity.3
In order to embrace healthy fats, it’s important to first understand what falls under the umbrella term “fats.”
Types Of Fats And Their Sources
Fats consist of trans fat, saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats.
Bad Fats Or Saturated Fats
- Trans fat (trans-unsaturated fat): It is the most harmful type of fat, commonly added to shortenings, hydrogenated oils, and bakery items. Trans fat is linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic illnesses.
- Saturated fat: While it isn’t as bad as trans fat, saturated fat isn’t the best for your health either. It is solid and greasy and is found in red meat, dairy, and baked products. It is known to clog arteries and cause heart disease.4
Good Fat Or Unsaturated Fat
- Monounsaturated fats: These fats are mostly found in foods from plant sources – such as olive oil, avocados, flax seeds, and most nuts (especially walnuts).
- Polyunsaturated fats: Polyunsaturated fats are the most important, since they’re essential for proper body functioning and can’t be produced by our body.5 They are mostly found in fatty fish like wild salmon, herring, trout, tuna, and mackerel.
It is recommended that one get 25–30% of their daily calories from fats of which saturated fats must be less than 10%. If you are at risk of heart disease, then saturated fat intake must be limited to 6%.6 Mediterranean diets are healthy because they are rich in both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.7
Here are 5 ways to add these healthy fats to your diet.
1. Incorporate Seeds Into Your Diet
They feature in fancy desserts, vegan meal preps, and health blogs. The health industry now calls them “superfoods.” The more popular of these include chia and flax, while options like hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame are slowly gaining popularity. Seeds are high in protein, essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and polyunsaturated fats.
2. Say No To Refined Vegetable Oils
Refined vegetable oils contain trans fats and cause high cholesterol. Choose olive oil instead since it is rich in monounsaturated fats, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Whenever possible, opt for extra-virgin or the cold-pressed kind which are said to have more benefits than the regular kind. Unrefined vegetable oils like sunflower, canola, soybean consist of polyunsaturated fat and are also known to reduce inflammation.9
3. Eat Omega-3-Rich Foods
Omega-3 fats are responsible for genetic function, the production of hormones, the clotting of blood, and the steady rhythm of the heart. They are polyunsaturated fats that have to be sourced from food.10 These fats are of 3 kinds, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). A good source of EPA and DHA is seafood, while ALA is found in nuts, beans, seeds, and eggs. You could also take supplements for omega-3.11
4. Snack On Nuts
Nuts are good sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Studies have shown that consuming nuts leads to lowered risks of cancer, gallstones, heart disease, and overall respiratory disease. Nuts have also shown to increase good cholesterol and decrease bad cholesterol. Since they are rich in protein and fiber, they make you feel full and prevent overeating. While peanuts and almonds are the most popular, all nuts (in moderation) are good for you. You could add them to your morning cereal, have them raw, or spread nut-butter on your toasts.12 13
5. Give Avocados A Shot
From being the star of guacamole to leading a popular food trend called “avocado toast,” avocados have become quite popular in health food circles. They are nutrient rich and a good source of monounsaturated fats. Research links avocado consumption to lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease.14 Studies also link avocado to weight management and healthy aging.15 Here’s a look at the many health benefits avocados offer.
Healthy fats are required for your body to absorb vitamins and minerals and stay energetic. They’re vital to psychological and physiological health. They fill you up so you don’t overeat. They could even help fight the early signs of prostate cancer. Considering their benefits and how easy it is to source them, there really is no reason you shouldn’t add more fat to your daily diet.16 17
|↑1||La Berge, Ann F. “How the ideology of low fat conquered America.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 63, no. 2 (2008): 139-177.|
|↑2||Siri-Tarino, Patty W., Qi Sun, Frank B. Hu, and Ronald M. Krauss. “Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease.” The American journal of clinical nutrition (2010): ajcn-27725.|
|↑3||Mediterranean diet linked with lower risk of heart disease among young U.S. workers. Harvard TH.Chan.|
|↑4||The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑5||The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑6||Dietary fats explained. US National Library Of Medicine.|
|↑7||Shai, Iris, Dan Schwarzfuchs, Yaakov Henkin, Danit R. Shahar, Shula Witkow, Ilana Greenberg, Rachel Golan et al. “Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or low-fat diet.” N Engl J Med 2008, no. 359 (2008): 229-241.|
|↑8||Ros, Emilio, and Frank B. Hu. “Consumption of plant seeds and cardiovascular health.” Circulation 128, no. 5 (2013): 553-565.|
|↑9, ↑11||Choosing Healthy Fats. Help Guide.|
|↑10||Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution. Harvard T.H Chan.|
|↑12||Ros, Emilio. “Health benefits of nut consumption.” Nutrients 2, no. 7 (2010): 652-682.|
|↑13||Eating nuts linked to healthier, longer life. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑14||An avocado a day keeps the cardiologist away. Penn State.|
|↑15||Dreher, Mark L., and Adrienne J. Davenport. “Hass avocado composition and potential health effects.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 53, no. 7 (2013): 738-750.|
|↑16||Are Fats So Bad. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑17||Healthy fats may fight early-stage prostate cancer. Harvard Health Publications.|