What are nutritionists referring to when they use the term healthy fats? And what exactly makes fat healthy? Usually, a person who does not understand the properties of substances such as fats avoids any food that contains them. What they ignore in most cases is that fats are an essential part of a healthy diet because they provide proteins and carbohydrates.
Fat is a type of nutrient, a source of energy that helps the body absorb vitamins and stay healthy. When hearing the word “fat” people quickly associate it with foods that should not be in their diet. However, the truth is that while several fats have negative effects on health, others offer protective benefits. Research published by the Journal of the American Heart Association reveals that consuming healthy fats helps reduce the risk of heart problems and other ailments.
Americans consume less than the recommended amounts of healthy fats, much less than what they should consume from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products and oils. And about 90 per cent of Americans consume more trans fats and sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet.
Fritters, butter, fatty cheeses and some meats are high in saturated fats that can increase cholesterol. Good fats have an opposite effect on the body. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats help to control cholesterol levels and, additionally, offer anti-inflammatory benefits, and many other health advantages. Among healthy fats, omega-3 stands out because it allows for better synthesis of proteins, which promotes increased muscle mass.
What are Healthy Fats?
Fats are divided into two broad groups; saturated fats of animal origin and unsaturated fats present in vegetables, fish and other foods. These fats are vital for the proper functioning of the body, although the amount consumed should be moderate, especially saturated fats as excessive consumption can damage the body.
Unsaturated fats are pure and when they enter the body are available to be processed in different ways to make the most of them. Healthy fats are present in foods of vegetable origin such as extra virgin olive oil and in fish in the form of omega-3.
Regular consumption of healthy fats helps to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, reduces the risk of suffering a heart attack, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides levels, helps to control blood pressure and helps to prevent disorders such as obesity.
Eating Healthy Fats for Weight Loss
Recent reports predict that by 2030 half of all adults (115 million adults) in the United States will be obese. For a long time, it has been thought that in order to lose weight it is necessary to follow strict low-fat diets. However, by choosing the right types of fats you can control your weight. Some foods from which you can get healthy fats are:
- Extra virgin olive oil.
- Blue fish.
- Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy).
- Whole eggs.
- Beans and pulses.
Healthy Fats in your Diet
Just as saturated fats in excess are not good for the body, healthy fats are always welcome. The main healthy fats you should include are:
These are less stable than saturated fats but more so than polyunsaturated fats. Benefits include:
- They decrease the risk of breast cancer.
- They reduce cholesterol levels.
- They assist in weight loss.
- They mitigate pain in patients with arthritis.
- They help with abdominal fat reduction.
- They lower the risk of a heart attack.
Monounsaturated fats, even when consumption is low, promote weight reduction over time. Some of the foods that contain these fats are nuts (walnuts, almonds and peanuts), olives, avocado, peanut butter and vegetable oils (such as olive or canola).
They provide energy for the muscles, heart and other organs, contribute to the formation of the cell membrane and can reduce accumulation of saturated fats throughout the body. These essential fatty acids are omega-3 and omega-6. Foods that may contain them are nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and salmon.
Here are 10 high-fat foods that are nutritious and offer healthy fats. So try to add to your diet.
- Dark chocolate.
- Whole eggs.
- Fatty fish.
- Chia seeds.
- Extra virgin olive oil.
- Coconuts and coconut oil.
- Full-fat yogurt.
Healthy Fats and Carbs
As with healthy and unhealthy fats, there are good and bad carbohydrates. Almost all foods are combinations of various fats, carbohydrates and proteins. So:
- Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods; fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. These are “good carbohydrates”.
- Limit intake of sugary foods and refined grain products, such as white bread. These are “bad carbohydrates”.
Healthy fats and proteins
Proteins are present in different foods and are the main nutrient that stimulates growth, especially in children. They also help repair tissues, accelerate metabolism, raise defenses and help us burn fat. Additionally, they are the foods that help us feel fuller. The best sources of protein and good fats are:
- Egg whites.
- Dry fruits.
- Beef, buffalo, rabbit, bison and deer.
Avocado is rich in good fats and antioxidants and it is a very beneficial fruit for the heart.
- 100 grams (g) of avocado contains 15 grams of healthy fat, which is its main macronutrient.
- Good fats contained in avocado reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.
Key to receiving the benefits, as usual, is in consumption balance. It is not about eating two or three avocados a day, but a half or two pieces a week. In this way, you will take care of your heart and your weight.
Avocado is also rich in vitamin A, E and C. One hundred grams contains 18 per cent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C and 16 per cent of vitamin E. These vitamins enable the body to combat free radicals which cause diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
One hundred grams of avocado provide 27 per cent of the recommended daily amount of folic acid, so it is excellent for pregnant women, and 522 milligrams of potassium, more than banana.
Healthy Fats and Diabetes
Healthy fats have a negligible effect on blood sugar levels. Despite its bad reputation, fats are essential for the absorption of nutrients, regulate inflammation and even balance blood sugar and promote weight loss. So, keep in mind:
- Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for people with diabetes. These good fats not only provide powerful anti-inflammatory action but can improve blood sugar control, reduce triglycerides and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Monounsaturated fats are healthy fats that help balance blood sugar, reduce belly fat and protect against heart disease.
Healthy Fats to Live Longer
Why are they so important for your life? The primary reason is that good fats are the main source of energy for your body and allow maintaining an active mind. Additionally, consumption of healthy fats helps raise levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and helps lower bad cholesterol (LDL), and are necessary for the absorption of vitamins such as A, D, E and K. Healthy fats also promote the growth and development of all organs and tissues.