For years, experts have been telling us to eat less fat. Now, the focus has switched. Today we know that not all fat is created equal. The types of fat you eat are more important than the overall amount. To stay healthy and even lose weight, educate yourself and eat more healthy fats.
Understanding Healthy Fats
- Distinguish between good and bad fats. There are four major types of fats. Eat more of the good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The two bad ones to cut down on are saturated fats and trans fats.
- Recognize the benefits of good fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease. They’re found in foods like vegetable oils, nuts, and soy products.
- Appreciate the special powers of omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that reduce your risk for cancer and other serious conditions. They also play an important role in your cognitive functions and emotional well-being. Good sources include fatty fish such as salmon, and flaxseed or flax oil.
- Guard against the impact of bad fats. A diet high in saturated fats and trans fats makes you prone to heart disease and weight gain. Saturated fat comes from animal products like red meat. Commercial baked goods often contain trans fats.
- Get familiar with how fats affect cholesterol. Cholesterol levels depend more on the types of fats you eat than on dietary cholesterol. Enjoy an egg for breakfast while you’re focusing on eating more good fats.
- Learn about refined carbohydrates. Products like fat-free cookies are often high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. They raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes just as much as the saturated fats they’re replacing.
Eating More Healthy Fats
- Follow USDA recommendations. Limit your total fat intake to 20 to 35 percent of the calories in your diet. Try to keep saturated fats under ten percent of the calories in your diet, and trans fats under one percent.
- Watch portion sizes. All fats contain about nine calories per gram while proteins and carbohydrates are only about four calories. Eat even good fats in moderation.
- Check labels for trans fats. Many restaurants and food manufacturers have stopped using trans fats but check for yourself. Read all the ingredients on the label to see if they contain any partially hydrogenated oils. This is a dead giveaway for the presence of trans fats.
- Eat more whole foods. Fill up your plate with natural foods including vegetables and whole grains. It’s the simplest way to avoid the unhealthy fats in fast food and processed snacks.
- A whole food is something your grandparents would recognize as a single food item. For example, a potato is a whole food. Potato chips, have multiple ingredients and aren’t recognizable as potatoes are not.
- Opt for liquid oils. Healthy fats tend to be liquid at room temperature, so reach for oils instead of butter or margarine. Dip your bread in olive oil and cook with canola oil at home.
- Find substitutes. Look for alternatives to red meat and whole-fat dairy products. Dine on three bean chili instead of hamburger. Drink skim milk or low-fat milk instead of the whole-fat variety. Pizza and cheese are the biggest sources of saturated fat in the typical American diet, so satisfy your cravings for Italian food with pasta in marinara sauce.
- Serve seafood twice a week. Many experts recommend eating fish at least twice a week as a way to cut back on saturated fat. Fatty fish like salmon, albacore tuna, and mackerel will have the highest omega-3 content.
Lose weight and improve your overall health by cutting down on saturated fats, eliminating trans fats, and eating more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. That translates into less red meat and cheese and more beans, fish, flaxseed, vegetable oils, and low-fat dairy products. You’ll love how you feel!