When it comes to food content, many associate the word ‘fat’ with weight gain and an all-round negative impact on health, but not all fats are bad for you. Eating fat can be heart healthy if you pick the right kind.
Too many of us cut fat out of our diet in an attempt to keep our weight under control but by so doing, we are missing out on the benefits of healthy fats. As well as looking at the amount of fat you consume, you should be paying attention to the type of fat.
The “healthiest” types of fats are generally considered to be unsaturated fats, which can be further divided into two main categories: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
These fats are deemed healthier because they can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, stabilise heart rhythms, and provide a number of other health benefits.
Let us take a look at the different types of fats, where we can obtain them and the possible benefits and potential health risks.
- Olive oil, canola or rapeseed oil, and peanut oil.
- Many nuts and seeds, like almonds, peanuts, and sesame seeds.
- Can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood.
- May lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Provides nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells.
- Sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed or linseed oils.
- Flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds.
- Fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, trout, and sardines.
- Types and Benefits:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
- Essential for brain function and cell growth.
- Linked to a lowered risk of coronary artery disease.
- Omega-6 Fatty Acids:
- Help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Trans Fats and Saturated Fats:
- Trans Fats:
- Found in partially hydrogenated oils, many fried foods, and processed snack foods.
- Generally considered the least healthy fat due to their ability to increase bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lower good cholesterol levels (HDL).
- Should be avoided or limited in the diet.
- Saturated Fats:
- Commonly found in red meat, whole milk dairy products, cheese, and coconut oil.
- Though necessary in moderate amounts, excessive consumption is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and high blood cholesterol levels.
- Balance: A healthy diet includes a balance of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
- Replacement: Where possible, replace saturated fats and trans fats with unsaturated fats.
- Moderation: Despite their health benefits, fats are high in calories, so they should be consumed in moderation.
A number of foods contain good or healthy fats, which will help to protect your heart and boost your overall health.
Which foods contain healthy fats?
Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which offer a host of health benefits. They’re known to lower triglycerides – a type of fat in the blood stream – and slow down the growth of plaque in the arteries. They can also reduce inflammation throughout the body and reduce your risk of depression.
Avocados contain good, heart-healthy fats, which help to lower bad cholesterol levels when consumed in moderation. The recommended amount for a single serving is half of a medium avocado, which will contain around 115-160 calories, and there are plenty of ways to incorporate it into your diet. You could use it to make guacamole, add it to a sandwich or use pureed avocado as a substitute for butter or oil in your favourite baked goods recipes.
Many seeds contain good cholesterol-lowering fats. Try snacking on pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, or adding them to your favourite meals.
Most types of nuts are great sources of healthy fats, from hazelnuts to pecans. Walnuts in particular contain a significant dose of these good fats. When snacking on nuts, it can be easy to over-indulge, so keep in mind that good fats should still be eaten in moderation.
Olive oil is high in good fat, and is easy to incorporate into your diet because you can use it as cooking oil. It also makes a great salad dressing and can be used as an ingredient in homemade pesto.
Some types of dark green vegetables contain omega-3s, including spinach, kale and sprouts. These are not the same omega-3s that are found in fish, and they are present in vegetables in much lower quantities. Nevertheless, you should be eating vegetables every day for the number of health benefits they offer, and the healthy fat content of certain types is a bonus.
A typical large egg has less than 5 grams of fat, most of which is healthy fat, including omega-3s. To reap the benefits without overdoing it, it’s best not to eat more than one egg a day.
To read more about the possible health benefits of eggs, click on the link to our article:
For more detailed information regarding your diet, please click on the following link to the British Nutrition Foundation:
If you would like to find out more information about the health benefits of avocados, please click on the link.
To maintain a healthy amount of fat in your diet, consume foods containing healthy fats in moderation and avoid bad fats. Saturated fats and trans fats are unhealthy types of fat, which will raise your cholesterol and your risk of heart disease. Good fats will do the opposite. You don’t need to make major changes to make your meals healthier in general, small changes can make a significant difference.
The understanding of dietary fats is evolving, and some saturated fats (like those found in coconut oil) may have health benefits. However, the general consensus still favours unsaturated fats as the healthiest option. Always consider your personal health conditions and dietary needs, and consult with a healthcare provider or a dietitian for tailored advice.
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