What You Need to Know About Healthy Fats vs. Harmful Fats
What You Need to Know About Healthy Fats vs. Harmful Fats.So you’ve decided to make your New Year’s resolution to live healthier and lose weight. You’ve been eating better, exercising more and drinking lots of water, but you still can’t seem to shed those last 10 pounds.
Saturated, Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated
Knowing which fats are healthy and which are harmful helps you make better food choices and leads to healthier living. Healthy fats come from nuts, seeds, fish, and avocados—they’re high in omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon) or monounsaturated fatty acids (olive oil). Harmful fats come from fatty cuts of red meat and processed foods like cookies, pastries, ice cream, and cake. These kinds of foods are high in saturated or polyunsaturated fat—and eating them increases your risk for developing heart disease or stroke. The solution? Eat more healthy fats! Just make sure that you limit portions so you don’t wind up with a lot of extra calories every day.
An avocado contains over 20 grams of monounsaturated fat, which is one of two types of healthy fats your body needs (the other being omega-3s). Monounsaturated fats are responsible for a lot more than keeping your heart healthy; they also promote a feeling of fullness and help fight off hunger pangs. In fact, researchers from Loma Linda University found that when women replaced unhealthy carbohydrates with monounsaturated fats for eight weeks, they ate less, lost weight and saw their waistlines shrink by up to an inch! Best part? They didn't even eat fewer calories or exercise more during that time period—their bodies simply responded better to healthy fats than they did unhealthy carbs.
A healthy fat for your heart! Nuts are a healthy way to add flavor and texture to your meals, but not all nuts are created equal: Some varieties, like peanuts, contain unhealthy fats that can clog arteries and put you at risk for heart disease. The best nuts for you include almonds, pecans, walnuts and pistachios—which provide plenty of protein without too much saturated fat or sodium. However, only eat about 1 ounce (about 20 nuts) per day if you're trying to lose weight; high-calorie foods like nuts are easier to overeat than lower-calorie ones! Plus, always keep in mind that a handful of nuts is equivalent in calories and fat grams as one tablespoon of oil-based salad dressing.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Use EVOO in moderation because it is high in monounsaturated fats, which are a heart-healthy fat but also high in calories (about 120 calories per tablespoon). Since those on a ketogenic diet strive for as few carbs as possible, choose low-carb options like avocado oil instead of olive oil if you're worried about your carb intake. Coconut oil is also a healthy fat option since it's high in medium chain triglycerides, which have been shown to boost metabolism and increase energy expenditure. While coconut oil has many uses—it can be used as a cooking oil or even hair conditioner—it is solid at room temperature so it can be hard to measure exact servings.
Loaded with essential omega-3 fatty acids and numerous other nutrients, fish is healthy for you—especially oily fish like salmon and tuna. Healthy fats are a good source of energy, and they make your cells function optimally. Omega-3s help maintain cognitive health, combat inflammation in your body, and keep your heart functioning properly (2). Make sure to buy wild-caught salmon instead of farmed salmon because it contains more vitamin D and omega-3s than its counterpart (2). Plus, fish is an excellent source of lean protein, making it great for muscle growth and weight loss (2). And don’t forget that it’s also delicious!
When you’re watching your fat intake, be sure you’re not cutting out healthy fats like those found in grass-fed meats. Grass-fed cows produce high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and encourage healthy brain function. These are also beneficial to heart health and your overall longevity, so pick up some lean cuts next time you're at the store. Alternatively, add grass-fed meats into your diet in healthier ways (think: burgers with lettuce wraps instead of buns or omelets with spinach).
Coconut and Coconut Products
Coconut oil is a tasty, healthy fat. It contains properties that help you digest your food better and can even help fight certain viruses or bacteria (1). Coconut oil is safe for cooking, since it has a high smoke point of 350 degrees Fahrenheit; however, refined coconut oil is not as beneficial as virgin coconut oil (2). If you’re looking for an easy way to add some healthy fats into your diet, try using coconut oil on your toast in place of butter or margarine! Or try eating a spoonful of coconut oil straight up; it’s delicious!
Seeds & Legumes
There are plenty of healthy fats in food, but there’s a reason why so many people skip out on nuts and seeds: they can also be loaded with unhealthy fats. Luckily, you can find them pre-packaged at your grocery store or buy them whole and grind them up at home using a food processor or blender. It takes just minutes to put together your own trail mix that includes cashews, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds (all great sources of healthy fats). The best part is you know exactly what you’re putting into it!
Dark Chocolate (With at Least 70% Cocoa Content)
Dark chocolate, also known as unsweetened chocolate or baking chocolate, has a long history of being used for its nutritional value and health benefits (since it's high in antioxidants). However, even with just a small amount of dark chocolate per day, you can lower your risk of obesity and heart disease—even more so than with regular low-fat dairy products! A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that women who ate a dietary bar made from 70% cocoa content found an increased intake of fiber and magnesium but fewer cravings for carbohydrates. In fact, people who consume cocoa on a regular basis have been shown to have lower blood pressure overall than non-consumers do.
Dairy Products That Are Low in Fat, Like Milk, Yogurt, & Cheese
Choose low-fat dairy products like fat-free or 1% milk, yogurt, and cheese instead of high-fat options like whole milk and regular cheeses. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your daily intake of saturated fats (the type found in meats, butter, eggs, cheese, and other dairy products) to less than 6 ounces a day. Saturated fats raise your LDL or bad cholesterol levels while reducing your HDL or good cholesterol levels which can increase risk for heart disease and stroke later in life. Saturated fats can also be hidden in foods you might not expect them such as lunch meats, pizza crusts, bread sticks and bagels!