Dietary Fats: The Basics
There are a lot of misconceptions about fats. Are they healthy? Are they unhealthy? They can be both depending on the source of fat you are eating. It’s important to note that all fats aren’t the same. Let’s dive a bit deeper into the various types of fats found in our food.
I’d like to begin with healthy fats; these are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They are good for your heart, help lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad/lousy” cholesterol), and increase HDL cholesterol (the “good/healthy” cholesterol). Monounsaturated fats are found in foods such as olive oil, avocados, olives, and nuts while polyunsaturated fats are found in sunflower and pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, fish such as salmon and tuna, soybean and safflower oil, and tofu.
Fats that should be limited in the diet are saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fats may raise LDL cholesterol if consumed in excess, which is why it is recommended to limit saturated fats to 10% of your daily caloric intake. Saturated fats are found primarily in animal products such as red meat, whole-fat dairy products, butter, and lard but are also in coconut and palm oil. Trans fats raise LDL cholesterol but also lower HDL cholesterol meaning they are the least healthy fats. They are found naturally in meat and dairy products but are also artificially added to processed food including fast food and store-bought baked goods. This is not to say that saturated and trans fats should be avoided at all costs. It is perfectly fine to treat yourself every so often. It is just important to limit your consumption of them and be aware of portion sizes of these food items to make sure you are not eating them in excess.
It can be difficult to know where to start when incorporating healthy fats into your diet. Here are a few tips and tricks on ways to incorporate healthy fats and limit unhealthy fats in your diet.
- Add fats such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp hearts, and walnuts to your breakfasts to start off your morning strong. I love to add these healthy fats to yogurt, oatmeal, or an English muffin topped with nut butter.
- Use olive oil or avocado oil when cooking. Both olive and avocado oil can be used as dressings or in cold dishes, but avocado oil is superior when cooking since it has a higher smoke point than olive oil.
- Aim to eat at least two servings of fatty fish each week. There is a grilled salmon recipe at the bottom of this post to help you get started!
- Make your own nut butter in a food processor at home or buy some at the store to add to toast with sliced bananas, as a snack with celery, or to smoothies for some extra protein. Try and buy nut butters with as few ingredients as possible. Brands love to sneak in sugar and extra oils to your favorite nut butters.
- Incorporate healthy fats into your snacks throughout the day. Have a handful of nuts, apple slices with peanut butter, a few olives, or some whole-grain chips with guacamole. These are all easy snacks that you can take in your lunches or on the go.
- Limit saturated and trans fat consumption. Instead of buying baked goods from the bakery section at your grocery store, pick up ingredients to make your own baked goods at home. Don’t forget to add walnuts to your favorite brownie recipe to get some extra healthy fats into your diet!
Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa Recipe
Created by: Becky Hardin—The Cookie Rookie
- 2 lbs. salmon cut into 4 portions
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp paprika powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp ancho chili powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
Avocado Salsa Ingredients
- 1 avocado, cubed
- ½ red onion, diced
- 1 TBSP fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 limes, juiced
- Mix salt, cumin, paprika, onion powder, ancho chili powder, and black pepper together in a bowl. Rub salmon fillets with olive oil and this seasoning mix.
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Chop the avocado, onion, and cilantro and add lime juice. Combine and chill until serving time.
- Preheat the grill.
- Grill the salmon to desired doneness (about 5 minutes).
- Top with avocado salsa and enjoy!