“Healthy fats” has become quite the buzzword in the health and fitness world, and they can actually be good for you. But don’t go reaching for that chocolate bar just yet—there’s a big difference between healthy fats, like the ones you find in fish and avocados, and unhealthy fats, like the ones in processed foods such as chocolate bars and chips.
Good Fats Versus Bad Fats
There are two groups of fats—saturated and unsaturated—and within these groups are several subtypes. Saturated fats (including artificial trans fats) are the bad guys; they’re the fats that can clog arteries, raise cholesterol levels, increase your risk of heart disease and cause you to gain weight. Saturated fats can be found in animal proteins and in some vegetable fats while trans fats are used extensively in frying, baked goods and packaged snack foods.
The good guys of the fat world are unsaturated fats, which include polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are found mostly in seeds and fatty fish, while monounsaturated fats are often found in nuts and plant-based oils.
Why Good Fats are So Important
Good fats are vital to a healthy diet. Monounsaturated fats have a host of great health benefits, including a lowered risk for breast cancer and heart disease, reduced cholesterol levels and an improvement in blood vessel functioning. Polyunsaturated fats help lower both blood cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels. The most well-known of the polyunsaturated fats, Omega-3, is especially effective at decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Omega-3’s lesser-known counterpart, Omega-6 fatty acids contribute important benefits to human development. Concern over Omega-6s has arisen due to their presence in processed foods; when ingested alone, Omega-6s can increase your risk of inflammation. However, when balanced with Omega-3s, these fatty acids can help to reduce high blood pressure, breast cancer, ADHD, rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual pain and osteoporosis.
Not only do good fats give your body a boost, but they benefit your brain as well! Since brain tissue is made up of 60% fat, your mind needs good fats to help it function properly. Essential vitamins for brain health such as Vitamins A, D, E and K are not water soluble and need fat to get transported through the body so they can be absorbed. Furthermore, Omega-3s can be effective at treating mild depression and help your brain sharpen its cognitive functioning.
The Best Fat Foods For You
There are so many delicious ways to add good fats to your diet. The American Heart Association recommends getting your Omega-3s by eating two servings of fish every week. Health experts recommend swapping out your vegetable oil for olive oil when cooking to add some monounsaturated fats into your diet. Other sources of good fats include avocados, olives, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, coconut oil, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
Now that you have the skinny on fats, it’s time to get those good fats into your diet. Cook lean protein in some olive oil, snack on some seeds or add some coconut oil to your morning smoothie. There are so many delicious types of good fats that you’ll be wondering why you enjoyed eating saturated fat–filled foods in the first place!