Many people hear the word ‘fat’ and run in the other direction. Yes, you work out and eat right to become healthier, but did you know there are healthy ways to eat fat? Fats that your body needs to run like the well-oiled machine you’d like it to be?
There are two kinds of fats in our foods: saturated / trans fats and unsaturated fats. The first should be avoided and the second has health benefits you might not be aware of!
What’s the difference between a saturated vs unsaturated fat?
Saturated fat usually comes from animal food sources, like red meats and dairy products with full fat content. Saturated fats are well known to raise levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in our bodies—LDL—increasing your risk for heart disease and diabetes. Trans fats, which have been in the news a lot over the last few years, are created during the processing of some foods. These fats not only increase your LDLs (the bad cholesterol) but can also lower your HDLs (the good cholesterol).
Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, otherwise known as fatty acids, can improve your blood cholesterol levels (less LDLs and more HDLs), decreasing your risk of heart disease or diabetes. Within this category, there are three types of fatty acids: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and Omega 3. Knowing the difference makes reading nutritional labels a whole lot easier!
What foods contain the healthy fats your body needs?
Many of the healthy fats can be found in plant-based foods, as well as fish. You need to look at nutritional labels to understand how much saturated versus unsaturated fats you are getting in what you eat.
- Oils, such as olive oil, are mostly made up of unsaturated fats and are therefore a better choice for cooking than butter, for example. A tablespoon of olive oil contains 14g of fat, but only 2g of that is saturated and no trans fats. Butter on the other hand contains 12 g of fat, but 7 grams of saturated fat.
- Fruits, such as avocado, contains 10g of fat, only 1.5 grams of which is saturated. The rest is monounsaturated. Add to that the good dose of potassium and B vitamins you’re getting, they’re a great choice!
- Nuts and nut butters as well as dairy products derived from nuts, like almond milk, are also a good source of healthy fats. They contain Omega 3 fatty acids, which are heart healthy! Make sure you are choosing the type of nut or nut butters that have little to no added sugar or salt.
- Fish, such as salmon or tuna, have Omega 3 fatty acids that can help prevent health issues, like heart disease, and even neurological issues like dementia. Two servings a week will go a long way to keeping your body healthy!
- And if you have a sweet tooth, your best bet is a piece of at least 70% cocoa dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, an antioxidant known to reduce LDLs!
That old saying ‘you are what you eat’ is true. Take your eating habits back to basics by choosing real, unprocessed fresh foods every day. Avoid added sugars, saturated fats and too much salt for a healthier body and mind. The goal is to maintain your strength and body now and in the future!