All fats are not created equal. On one side of the equation there are trans fats and saturated fats, the kinds of fats that contribute to obesity, diabetes, and early death (among a host of health problems). On the other side, you have mono- and polyunsaturated fats, the kind of healthy fat that your body needs to function properly.
So what, exactly, are the benefits of these healthy fats?
Unsaturated fats have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol. In addition to these well-researched benefits of unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help with a wide range of health issues, including:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- And many more, as the University of Maryland Medical Center writes
Where do these healthy fats come from?
Omega-3 fatty acids come from fatty fish such as wild salmon (not farmed) and herring, and from flaxseed, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and fish and canola oil. Omega-6 fatty acids, which have some of the same heart-healthy benefits as omega-3s, are found in vegetable oils, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, tofu, soy nuts, and soy nut butters. A final category of healthy fats, monounsaturated fats, are found in nut butters such as almond and peanut, avocado, nuts like almonds, cashews, pecans, and pistachios, and in olive, canola, and peanut oil.
The American Heart Association recommends the following guidelines for dietary fat intake:
- Limit total fat intake to less than 25–35% of your total calories each day
- Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7% of total daily calories
- Limit trans fat intake to less than 1% of total daily calories
- The remaining fat should come from sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as unsalted nuts and seeds, fish (especially oily fish, such as salmon, trout, and herring, at least twice per week), and vegetable oils
Remember to consult your doctor before making any dietary changes, especially if you are pregnant or taking other medications.
How will you incorporate these healthy fats into your diet?
Image by Andrea Pokrzywinski via Flickr