BIG Nutrition: Healthy Fats


BIG Nutrition: Healthy Fats

Twenty years ago, the concept of ‘healthy’ fats would have been considered an oxymoron. No more. Healthy fats are touted everywhere and there is a good reason. A few are that healthy fats are satiating, help with absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), and may be beneficial for blood sugar control.

While most of the news around food, including fat, is typically either good or bad, this article from Harvard Health Publishing offers a more nuanced look at fats—“….the good, the bad, and the in-between.”

The 3 types of fat

Bad: Trans fats. Creating inflammation and insulin resistance, trans fats are definitely bad fats. Mostly used in fast food and baked goods, trans fats are quickly being replaced by other options (typically saturated fat because of their stability in foods, so be aware).

In-between: Saturated fats. These are fats that are solid at room temperature—fat in animal products, whole fat dairy products, and coconut oil as examples. Diets lower in these fats and higher in healthy or ‘good’ fats are associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease when eaten as part of a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and low in refined carbohydrate foods.

Good: Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats, one of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet, is a healthful fat associated with lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. However, don’t forget, the Mediterranean diet is not comprised of just fats and oils. The diet is rich in plant foods and fish too. To get monounsaturated fats, choose:

  • Extra virgin olive oil is ideal, but other high monounsaturated fat oils (canola and peanut oil) can be included as well
  • Avocado
  • Nuts (eg, almonds, walnuts, pistachios)—1 ounce per day is recommended

Polyunsaturated fats are also needed and these include omega-3-fatty acid rich foods, like fatty fish (eg, salmon, tuna, lake trout, sardines and others) and nuts and seeds (eg, walnuts and pumpkin, ground flax, and chia seeds).

Can you have too much of a good thing?

Apples are healthy, but a diet only of apples is not. This is also true of fats. Because they are energy dense, a moderate amount of healthy fats, especially if weight maintenance or loss is a goal, is recommended. If you have questions about what moderate means for you, let me know, and I can help!

Happy and healthful eating,

Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN


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