Despite the sea of products labeled “fat-free” at the grocery store, we have news for you: Fat isn’t only beneficial for you, you need it for a healthy diet.
There are three different kinds of fats:
- Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. The viscosity of saturated fats makes them difficult for your body to digest; therefore, they’re strongly linked to raised LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, heart disease, and other illnesses.
- Unsaturated fats are known as “healthy fats.” Ideally, these fats should make up 20% to 35% of your diet.
- Trans fats are found in many processed foods. These fats can not only increase LDL cholesterol levels but reduce “good” cholesterol levels, or HDL. Trans fats are also associated with heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.
By strategically choosing foods with unsaturated fat, you can earn a high return for your health. Let’s look deeper into the benefits of unsaturated fats to help determine how you can incorporate them into your diet.
Why you Need Fats in your Diet
Your body needs fat to survive. It’s essential for insulation and protection. Fats surround your cell walls to protect them and help them absorb vitamins.
By incorporating more unsaturated fats into your diet, you can lower your risk of premature death and cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, by incorporating some unsaturated fats into your diet, you’ll stay fuller for longer since the body digests fats more slowly. A little goes a long way, though, so make sure you don’t overdo it on these macronutrients.
Types of Unsaturated Fats
There are two types of unsaturated fats:
Monounsaturated fats are plant-based fats found in sources including:
- Olive oil
- Other plant-based oils
Chemically speaking, monounsaturated fats are fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond. Many of these substances are liquid at room temperature but will solidify when chilled.
Monosaturated fats benefit your health in many ways. They reduce harmful cholesterol levels, lowering your risk for a heart attack or stroke. The nutrients found in monounsaturated fats also contribute to cell growth and repair.
Monounsaturated fat oils also contain Vitamin E, which many Americans are deficient in.
There are two types of polyunsaturated fats:
- Omega-6 fatty acids: Omega-6 is relatively easy to source in most American diets and can be found in seeds, nuts, and different oils, such as canola and soybean oil. However, Omega-6s are also added to many processed foods, so it’s critical you obtain them from healthy, natural food sources. Having enough Omega-6 can support your heart health by increasing your HDL cholesterol and lowering your LDL cholesterol levels. It can also help reduce inflammation in the body.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3s, on the other hand, are more difficult to source if you aren’t purposeful about including them in your diet. Certain types of fish (salmon, tuna), fish oil, flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts are all good sources of Omega-3. This nutrient has many health benefits, as it reduces your risk of heart disease and your risk of death if you do have heart disease. Omega-3s can also lower the risk of blood clots and decrease inflammation.
At the molecular level, polyunsaturated fats are similar to monounsaturated fats but are slightly different. They’re liquid at room temperature but contain more than one double bond in their molecular structure.
Polyunsaturated fats can also help lower your triglyceride levels.
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. High levels of triglycerides have been linked to heart disease. Omega-3s have been shown to reduce the danger of triglycerides by slowing the rate they form in your liver.
The Bottom Line
Although many of us have been conditioned to think of “fat” as unhealthy, unsaturated fats are an essential component of a healthy diet.
So, the next time you see a product at the grocery store labeled “low fat” or “fat-free,” remember these types of foods aren’t necessarily beneficial to your health. In the meantime, actively look for ways to incorporate healthy fats into your diet because you need them to survive and thrive.
Want to create healthier habits? An Arootah Coach can support you in making positive changes by identifying your challenges and helping you address them through self-accountability.
What are your favorite healthy fat sources? How do you make sure you get enough fat in your diet? Tell us in the comments.