FAT is the three-letter-word that we tend to avoid like the plague. Contrary to past dietary advice and commercial promoting low-fat diets, newer research shows that some fats are necessary and beneficial for optimal health. Yes, some fats and oils pose a health risk, but they are not all bad for you. There are several fats that you can and should enjoy to improve your health and overall quality of life. Let’s explore!
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are critical components of a healthy diet. At Cederquist, we like to refer to these as “healthy fats”. Both unsaturated fats are easy to spot. They are generally liquid at room temperature. Foods like salmon, leafy greens and trout are filled with polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). You can find monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) in plant foods, such as nuts, avocados and vegetable oils (e.g., peanut, olive and canola oils). Both fats, also known as lipids, contain nine calories per gram. Many forms help combat depression and anxiety, improve eye health and drastically reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke. These nutrients can also protect older adults from mental decline. A study from 2017 looked into omega 3 supplementation among older adults at risk for dementia. It found that adults over 70 with low circulating omega 3 levels maintained cognitive function after taking omega 3 supplements. In other studies, populations have seen improvements in memory and aptitude. As similar as they are, healthy fats also have some differences.
PUFAs are the most beneficial type of fat. They are essential, meaning we must obtain certain types through our diets. That’s because the human body cannot make PUFAs like Omega 3 and Omega 6. Dietary sources help us maintain normal cell function and help with infant development.
MUFA’s are critical for building and maintaining cell function. Foods that contain MUFAs are necessary for lowering cholesterol. The result of which is a reduction in heart disease and stroke risk. Now that we understand the functionality of unsaturated fats, we must address sources.
The foods we eat can serve as an excellent source of healthy fats. The chart below features a few dietary sources that you can easily add to your diet.
|Polyunsaturated Fats||Monounsaturated Fats|
|SalmonFlaxseedWalnutsNavy BeansKidney BeansPecansLeafy greensSquash||AvocadosOlivesOlive OilCanola OilPeanut OilCashewsAlmondsPeanuts|
Incorporating Healthy Fats
It’s easy to add healthy fats to your diet! Here are five tips for ensuring you get your fair share of delicious, flavor-enhancing fats.
1. Cook with healthy fat: Don’t hold out on healthy oils, such as olive oil. Cooking foods like vegetables in healthy fats can greatly increase their nutrient content.
2. Try fish: Swap red meat and chicken for fish. Salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are all excellent alternatives.
3. Add a garnish: Add a little flavor to your food. For instance, you can top a salad with creamy avocados or finish a fish fillet with a drizzle of sesame oil.
4. Make room: Get rid of your low-fat and nonfat food items. Instead, incorporate wholesome, natural oils. Again, you can find them in foods like nuts and plant oils.
5. Go nuts: Add nuts to a salad, eat peanut butter, or grab a handful of pistachios. Just be mindful of portion sizes and stick to a 1-ounce serving. At Cederquist Medical, we counsel our patients to have 2-3 servings (¼ cup or small handful) per week for weight loss.
Understanding Unhealthy Fats
We encourage patients to pick healthy fats over less healthy alternatives. There are two types of “unhealthy fats”— saturated and trans. Saturated fat is common in the American diet. Most saturated fats come from red, fatty cuts of meat and high-fat dairy foods. If you’ve ever seen cooled bacon grease, it contains saturated. A good indicator is the solid consistency. Most saturated fats are solid at room temperature unlike healthy fats. Eating too much saturated fat can increase blood cholesterol levels and heart disease risk. You can still enjoy that prime cut of steak, but monitor the amount of saturated fat you’re consuming. Here at Cederquist Medical, we recommend that our patients limit red meat and high fat dairy foods to 1-2 times per week.
Another unhealthy fat is trans fat. These oils should be avoided at all costs. In fact, artificial trans fats were banned by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2015. Still, some trans fat appears in foods that contain hydrogenated vegetable oils. You can find them in various fried foods, processed foods, sweets and pastries. Doctors have linked trans fats to an increased risk for inflammation in the body. This inflammation can cause harmful health effects that may include heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
Don’t stress! The next time you consider buying a low-fat food product, think again! Remember that fat is not always bad. You can incorporate fat into your diet in a beneficial way, using the tips above.Here at Cederquist Medical Wellness Center, we can analyze your body chemistry to determine if you would benefit from adding healthy fats to your diet. Our team of providers works with you to develop a personalized program tailored to your needs. We can help you maintain a healthy, filling diet while losing weight. If you are interested in improving your nutrition status, give us a call. Contact (239) 494-6159 to schedule an appointment.