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What are Healthy Fats and How Can You Include Them in Your Diet?

A plate of grilled salmon and veggies.

Fats went from a normal part of one’s diet to being demonized by the media just to be brought back by the ketogenic movement and its proponents. Science has its two cents about each and every aspect of this important macronutrient, but figuring out how to filter out the noise and marketing schemes might be difficult without proper guidance.

Every food naturally has macro and micronutrient components, and processed foods change the structure of some of these ratios, add other ingredients, and through processing, strip some of the existing ones. That’s not to say all processed foods are bad, but in most cases, when it comes to fat, it either makes the product low-fat, fat-free, or full of harmful trans fats. Here’s what you need to know.

Table of Contents

What are Fats?
Types of Fat
    Unsaturated Fats
    Saturated Fats
    Trans Fats
How to Include More Healthy Fats in Your Diet?

What are Fats?

A variety of different healthy fats on a wooden table.

In addition to protein and carbohydrates, fats are one of the three main macronutrients our food is made of. They’re responsible for a variety of different processes in the human body, from balancing out your hormones and supporting your immune system to protecting your heart and fueling your brain.

They also give you energy and support cell function, making them an essential part of your daily diet. Fats are more energy dense than the other two macronutrients, but they take longer to digest, don’t spike up your blood sugar levels, and improve nutrient absorption in your body. As a matter of fact, some important vitamins like vitamin D and vitamin A are fat soluble, meaning they metabolize when fat is present.

Types of Fat

Different types of fat on a wooden table.

There are three main types of fat, and this differentiation is what’s actually important. Not all fats are good for you, but some are greatly beneficial to your overall health, and that’s why they’re called healthy fats.

Unsaturated Fats

Considered to be healthy fats, these molecules are liquid are room temperature and are known to improve your cholesterol levels, lower inflammation, support heart health, boost your immune system, and play a variety of other important roles in your health.

They are further divided into:

  • Monounsaturated fats – found in olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds
  • Polyunsaturated fats – found in fish, walnuts, flaxseed

Omega-3 fatty acids are the most important polyunsaturated fat and they are essential for the health and functioning of your entire organism. They are the main part of all cell membranes, a starting point for many hormones, and have an integral role in reducing inflammation and promoting heart health.

Unsaturated fats are the healthy fats you need, want, and must have in your diet. They are the “eat your salmon and douse it with olive oil” recommendations. They are the reason you shouldn’t fall under the low-fat fads and know better when creating your weekly meal plan.

The problem is that the majority of people don’t eat enough unsaturated fats. The American Heart Association recommends having at least 10 percent of your daily calories come from polyunsaturated fats and significantly lower your heart disease risk.

Saturated Fats

A bottle of coconut oil next to a coconut on a wooden table.

On the other hand, we have saturated fats. Often criticized and labeled as “bad,” recent studies have shown how there’s no association with higher risks for stroke and coronary heart disease, and how eating them in moderation really brings no harm.

Saturated fats are naturally present in some foods such as coconut oil, palm oil, and most animal sources, but it’s their addition to many processed foods that are causing the overall concern.

The biggest issue with cutting back on saturated fats comes from the dieting perspective where those who do it often reach for more refined carbohydrates and therefore increase inflammation and potentially make the situation even worse. The right recommendation and approach should be to cut back on saturated fats and increase your consumption of polyunsaturated fats.

Trans Fats

A buffet of fast foods on a wooden table.

The actual “bad fats” you should definitely limit or, if possible, avoid in your diet are trans fats. They are made by hydrogenation or heating liquid vegetable oils with hydrogen as an agent and catalyst. Studies show they significantly increase bad LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides, increase inflammation throughout the body, weaken your immune system, and have negative effects on your insulin levels.

They are naturally present in some animal foods, but they’re mostly used in ultra-processed foods as they make the perfect environment for frying, increasing shelf-life and stability, as well as preventing foods from going bad.

They are the reason “reading labels” is always the most important thing before you choose to make your purchase, as limiting their intake to a bare minimum is the best nutrition advice you can implement into your diet.

How to Include More Healthy Fats in Your Diet?

Woman eating a plate of grilled salmon on a bed of vegetables.

The best way to start eating more healthy fats is by taking a screenshot of your current eating habits and analyzing the types of foods you’re predominantly having throughout the day. Healthy fats exist in a variety of foods, but here are some of the best tips for ensuring you reap the benefits they provide:

  • Eat more wild fish and seafood
  • Snack on nuts and seeds
  • Increase your consumption of olive oil and flaxseed oil
  • Increase your intake of green leafy vegetables
  • Limit your consumption of meat and other land animal products
  • Avoid or limit trans fats in your diet
  • Add an omega-3 supplement

Healthy fats are important for optimal health and longevity, and following low-fat and no-fat diets can only cause you harm long term. If you’re interested in learning more about fad diets and trends you are better off without, check out why most detox diets are not the best dietary choice.

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