Healthy Vs. Non-Healthy Fats: How to Know the Difference
When it comes to incorporating fats into our diets, not all fats are created equal. Some can provide nutritional value, while others can pose a risk to our health. In this blog, we'll explore the differences between healthy and non-healthy fats and offer guidelines for making better dietary choices. By the end, you'll be able to confidently identify and choose healthier fat sources to include in your daily meals!
What are Fats?
Fats are an essential component of our diets and play various roles in the body, such as energy production, temperature regulation, and nutrient absorption. They can be categorized into two main types:
Saturated Fats - These fats are typically solid at room temperature, found mostly in animal products and some plant sources. High intake of saturated fats is linked to increased "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, which can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Unsaturated Fats - These fats are usually liquid at room temperature and primarily come from plant sources. Unsaturated fats can further be divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These types of fats help lower bad LDL cholesterol levels and improve heart health when consumed in moderation.
How to Identify Healthy Fats
Research suggests that focusing on including more unsaturated fats is a better option for heart health. Here are the primary sources of healthy fats:
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews)
- Peanut and almond butter
- Omega-3: Found in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts
- Omega-6: Found in vegetable oils (soybean, corn, sunflower), nuts, and seeds
How to Identify Non-Healthy Fats
Here are the main sources of unhealthy fats to keep an eye on:
- Fatty cuts of meat (beef, pork, lamb)
- Poultry with the skin
- Full-fat dairy products (butter, cream, cheese)
- Lard and tallow
- Palm oil and coconut oil
Reducing saturated fat intake and replacing it with healthier unsaturated fats can decrease the risk of heart disease.
- Industrially-produced partially hydrogenated oils
- Fried foods
- Baked goods (cakes, cookies, pastries)
- Snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn)
Trans fats not only increase bad LDL cholesterol levels, but they also decrease "good" HDL cholesterol levels. This double impact on cholesterol makes trans fats especially harmful to our health. Aim to avoid or limit your consumption of trans fats to protect your heart health.
Tips for Including Healthy Fats in Your Diet
- Use olive or canola oil for cooking and salad dressings instead of butter, lard, or shortening.
- Increase your consumption of fatty fish by incorporating at least two servings per week.
- Snack on nuts, seeds, and avocado instead of processed, high-fat snacks like chips and cookies.
- Choose lean cuts of meat and poultry without the skin to reduce saturated fat intake.
- Read food labels to avoid products high in saturated and trans fats.
Making it a habit to incorporate healthy fats into your diet and minimizing unhealthy fats can lead to better heart health and overall well-being. Don't fear fats; just make smarter choices to find the right balance in your daily meals!