Sign Up for Updates
Beneficial fats can help promote heart health. Here are some tips for working more beneficial fats into your diet.
Confused about beneficial fats and bad fats? You’re not alone. Aside from questions about weight loss, the topic of beneficial fats seems to come up more than any other. Many people I talk to remember the low fat diet era of 20 years ago—just as they remember the high fat/low carb era that followed right behind. Then suddenly it wasn’t merely about how much, or how little fat we should be eating, but whether or not we were eating the right kinds of fat.
Fats can be divided up into two broad categories: saturated (unhealthy fats) and unsaturated (beneficial fats). Of the two, the unsaturated fats are considered better for you, since these fats are derived primarily from plant foods and can help to keep blood cholesterol levels within a normal range. On the other hand, a diet with a lot of saturated fats (found primarily in animal products like butter, cheese, whole milk and meat), can contribute to a rise in cholesterol.
Unsaturated fats can be further broken down into two categories: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. You’ll find monounsaturated fats in nuts, seeds, olive oils and avocados. They’re considered beneficial when eaten in moderate amounts.
Polyunsaturated fats can be further classified as either omega-3 or omega-6 fats. While your body requires both types, you need them in the proper balance to promote health. The problem for most of us is that we eat too many omega-6 fats (fried foods, snack foods and sweet baked goods) and not enough fish, nuts, seeds and leafy greens that provide the omega-3s.
Now, added fats do add calories to your diet. All oils, regardless of their source, have about 120 calories a tablespoon. Just because olive oil is a beneficial fat, doesn’t mean you should pour it all over your food.
The foods that contain beneficial fats include nuts and seeds, olives and olive oil, seafood and avocados. Here are some ways to work more of these beneficial fats into your day.
Almonds, pistachios, walnuts and pecans are considered tree nuts, which have more heart-healthy omega-3 than peanuts (not actually nuts, but beans). Here are some ways to include more nuts and seeds into your diet.
Olive oil is also one of the richest sources of monounsaturated fat. If the flavor of extra-virgin olive oil is too strong for you, look for light olive oils that have the same calories as regular olive oil, but are lighter in flavor.
Fish fat naturally contains heart-healthy omega-3.
Avocados are technically a fruit and a good source of monounsaturated fat. Here are a few of my favorite uses for avocado.