What Are Good Fats? These Fatty Foods Are Actually Healthy

By Erica Loop in Healthy Feeling

Not all fats are created equal. So, what are good fats? Get the scoop on the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly when it comes to how you get your daily dietary fat. Beyond that, learn how to boost the health factor in your meal planning and choose foods that contain good fats!

The Good

Before you completely nix fats from your diet or go on a super low-fat meal plan, you need to understand what fats do for your body. Just like carbohydrates and proteins, the human body needs some fats, according to Harvard Medical School. But that does not mean you should load up on the fats in a bucket of greasy fries. Instead, your body needs good fats.

Monounsaturated fats, the healthy kinds of fats, remain liquid at room temperature and include olive, peanut, and canola oils. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends getting your daily fat content from foods containing these, as well as polyunsaturated fats. According to the AHA, monounsaturated fats can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering bad cholesterol.

Polyunsaturated fats include the essential fats your body needs but can't make on its own, as Harvard Medical School explains. These fats help with blood clotting, cell membrane building, muscle movement, and the body's inflammation response. Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 fatty acids, which may also help prevent heart disease. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests getting these fats from foods such as walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds.

olive oil

The Bad

Saturated fats fall into the "bad" category of fats, notes Harvard Medical School. These fats are solid at room temperature and are found in products such as commercially prepared baked goods, animal products, and coconut oil. These fats increase total blood cholesterol and can eventually cause arterial blockages and heart disease. The US Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) recommends getting no more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from saturated fats.

The Ugly

While you can safely consume some saturated fats, Harvard Medical School notes the same isn't true for trans fats. A diet rich in trans fats can raise bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol, and may even lead to stroke, heart disease, or diabetes. There are no known benefits of these fats. The ODPHP notes that they can be found in some packaged snacks, desserts, and frozen foods.

Getting Your Daily Dose of Healthy Fats

Now that you've got the skinny on fats, how should you incorporate them into your diet? Here are some healthy sources of unsaturated fats:

  • Olive, canola, or peanut oil. Use these as your cooking oils.
  • Sesame, pumpkin, or flax seeds. Try sprinkling these on top of meals.
  • Avocados. Your favorite green fruit can turn into a salad topping, delicious guac, or even a body-friendly dessert.
  • Chia seeds. Mix three to four tablespoons of chia seeds with one cup of almond milk. Let this set overnight in your fridge to make a delicious pudding, and top with fruit.
  • Nuts. According to a literature review published in the journal Nutrients, nut consumption may lower the risk of heart disease. Make your own nut milk at home, or concoct a crunchy trail mix to take on your next outdoor adventure.

chia pudding

What are good fats to eat? Stick to anything with an "un" in it—like monounsaturated or polyunsaturated—and eat saturated fats sparingly. When it comes to trans fats, it's best to avoid this group as much as possible. Your body will thank you!

For more healthy recipes, follow the Smart Snacking board by @tomsofmaine on Pinterest!

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Why It's Good

Fats are essential for a healthy body, but you need to know the difference between the good and bad varieties. Understanding the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to fats will help you make healthier choices for yourself and your family.