We like carbs for energy, and proteins for strength. But when it comes to fats, we are wary; we’ve heard they cause everything from obesity to heart disease. For this reason, skipping fat altogether to lose weight can seem like a good idea. In reality, though, fat is crucial for our health, energy and well-being. Without it, important vitamins from other foods such as fruits and vegetables cannot be absorbed. The key is knowing which fat to eat and which to avoid.
Good Fat vs. Bad Fat
Bad fat raises your blood cholesterol and your risk of heart disease; good fat reverses these effects and even reduces your risk of gum disease. Of the four major types of fat, two are dangerous: trans fat (found in many processed foods) and saturated fat (in red meat, cheese and butter). The good fats are monounsaturated fat, or MUFA (e.g., canola and olive oil) and polyunsaturated fat, or PUFA (e.g., vegetable oils).
Good Fat to Eat Daily: Fish
Fish boasts omega-3 fatty acids, a type of PUFA. It’s widely touted for preventing heart disease, lowering blood pressure and reducing depression, says Evelyn Tribole, registered dietitian and author of The Ultimate Omega-3 Diet. “Every form of fish has some omega-3, but the fatty fish like salmon, halibut, tuna fish and anchovies are best.” If you can’t stand fish, taking fish oil instead can help.
Good Fat to Eat Daily: Avocado
Aside from their heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering MUFAs and PUFAs, avocados are rich in vitamin K, folate and potassium, a mineral that can help lower blood pressure. So look for them beyond Super Bowl season. Toss avocado slices in a salad and eat up to half an avocado a day. (Two to three thin slices of avocado add 50 calories.)
Good Fat to Eat Daily: Olive Oil
Olive oil contains MUFAs. Besides boosting heart health, it may even have a role in suppressing appetite, according to recent research. Use olive oil for all your cooking and salad dressings. When baking, you can also replace butter with olive oil. (Use 3/4 cup olive oil in place of 1 cup butter.) Extra-virgin oils have higher levels of antioxidants, which also promote heart health and fight cancer.
Good Fat to Eat Daily: Nuts
Nuts contain MUFAs and promote heart health and gum health. “You also get a lot of healthy phytochemicals because it’s a plant food,” says Tribole. Fortunately, nuts are the easiest to incorporate into your diet. Keep a bagful at hand and sprinkle them in salads, yogurt and stir-fries, or just grab a handful for a snack. Try eating a variety of nuts, like almonds, walnuts and pistachios.
Good Fat to Eat Daily: Flaxseed
Flaxseed has omega-3 fatty acids, a type of PUFA. It boosts heart health and is a good source of fiber. Just like nuts, flaxseed is easy to use -- just add it to your salads, cereals and even baked goods, and you’ll barely know the difference!
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