Change Up Your Diet With Healthy Fats
“Is butter a carb?” The famous Mean Girls line isn’t far off from the way many people question their daily fat intake. Sure, there are good fats and bad fats, but how does one distinguish them, and what does a “healthy fat” really mean?
To help us understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats, CircleAround spoke to Latonya Fore, MSN, APRN-CNP, a certified nurse practitioner in adult gerontology primary care and weight management.
Types of Healthy Fats
Fore explains there are two types of healthy/good unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. “Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. The benefits of unsaturated fats are improvement in blood cholesterol and inflammation,” says Fore. Here’s a breakdown of these two types of healthy fats:
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Consuming monounsaturated fatty acids [MUFAs] may help lower your risk of heart disease by improving your risk factors. MUFAs may also help improve the function of your blood vessels, which benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control.”
Many MUFAs are part of the Mediterranean diet, which is a particularly effective food regimen for those with diabetes, as well as anyone looking to pretend they are having dinner on a sunny Greek island.
To incorporate more MUFAs, Fore recommends adding foods like olives and olive oil, peanuts, avocados, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and pecans to your diet.
We hope you like seafood because fish are a major source of polyunsaturated fats. Healthline explains that these include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which “are essential for brain function.” It’s impossible for the body to produce these fats on its own, so the only way to build that super brain is by eating them.
If the idea of slurping down herring and sardines is unappealing, you can also get your omega-3s from flax seed and walnuts, though salmon has the highest amount with 1.8 grams per 85 grams of fish. Fore notes that Omega-6’s can be found in more plant-based oils, like sunflower and flaxseed oils, walnuts, canola oils.
3 Foods to Eat in Moderation
While many foods contribute to great sources of healthy fats, Fore acknowledges that everything you eat should still be balanced. “Some foods have a mixture of saturated ‘bad’ fats and unsaturated ‘good’ fats,” she tells CircleAround. “Foods with saturated fats have been shown to increase heart disease and stroke and should be eaten in moderation.”
Got dairy-free milk? Fore recommends reducing pure dairy consumption, which provides calcium and other nutrients, but can also be high in calories if indulged in too often. Switch to dairy alternatives like almond milk, cashew milk, or oat milk.
Yes, we know, this one is hard to hear, but cheese is notorious for being high in fat, sodium, and calories. However, there is evidence to the health benefits of cheese, especially when eaten in moderation. So just cut down on the cheese cubes and extra queso in your burrito, and you’ll be alright.
Although nuts are on the “good fats” list, Fore states it’s important to be mindful of portion sizes since they can also be high in calories. “Keep the nut portion to no more than 1/4 cup per day, especially if you are watching your weight,” she tells CircleAround.
The Bottom Line
The health benefits of unsaturated fats are important enough to keep those particular foods as part of your meal planning. Like anything however, incorporating them as part of a balanced diet, in moderation, is still key. When in doubt, make sure to avoid saturated fats and you’ll be on your way to a healthy diet in no time.