For years, we have heard to eat low-fat or fat-free foods. Are those really the best choices for us? What about those “healthy” fats that we are forgetting about? The topic of dietary fats can be very confusing; what is good for me and what is bad for me? Knowing the difference between saturated, trans, polyunsaturated (omega-3s and omega-6s), and monounsaturated (omega-9s) fats is key to picking a well-balanced diet.
We will start with the “bad”: saturated and trans fats.
Why are these considered bad? These fats can negatively affect your health by increasing “bad” cholesterol (LDL), decreasing “good” cholesterol (HDL) and increasing your risk of developing coronary heart disease. We understand that bad cholesterol clogs arteries and good cholesterol helps to clear arteries, so why even eat saturated or trans fat? With the exception of artificially made trans fats, these fats do not need to be completely cut out, just consumed in moderation. The American Heart Association suggests that Americans eat 1 percent or less of their calories from trans fat and 7 percent or less from saturated fats.
Saturated and trans fat can be found in many foods including animal products, doughnuts, potato chips, margarines and shortenings. Make sure to double check food labels under “total fat” to ensure you are not consuming too much of these fats and watch for the term “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredients list.
Now for the “good”: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
Remember these fats are also called omegas. Why are these considered good? These fats can positively affect your health by improving cholesterol levels; reducing your risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes; aiding in fat-soluble vitamin absorption (vitamins A, D, E and K); helping cell development and healthy nerve activity; and by keeping the immune system healthy. With a list like that, who wouldn’t want to eat these healthy fats? Recommendations for adults 19 years and older state that 20 to 35 percent of your total calories should come from fat. Remember to consume the main portion from the healthy fats.
Omega-3 sources include oils such as canola, flax and soybean; walnuts; fish such as herring, mackerel, salmon and tuna; algae; and Omega-3 eggs.
Omega-6 sources include oils such as canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean and sunflower; nuts such as almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts; eggs and dairy.
Omega-9 sources include oils such as canola, olive, peanut, sunflower, safflower; nuts such as almonds, cashews, macadamias, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts and walnuts; avocados; eggs; dairy; meat and poultry.