Do you think you need to eliminate fats in your diet if you’re trying to watch your weight? No way! Moderate intake of healthy fats can actually help you lose or maintain weight and support your health. Let’s take a look at the reasons why.
Fats are an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. They allow your body to absorb certain vitamins, such as A, D, E, and K. Fats can be used by the body as fuel. They’re important for proper functioning of cell membranes and nerves. And, fats tend to make food more satisfying (as you’ve probably discovered!) This increases your enjoyment of the meal and actually decreases the chance that you will overeat.
That being said, foods that are rich in fats tend to be higher in calories, so watching your portion sizes of these foods is important. Don’t go overboard–enjoy them in moderation. For example, if you’re having avocado, eat ¼ of the avocado. If you’re enjoying some nuts or seeds, have a handful. If you’re using olive oil, use 1 tablespoon. Whole food forms of oils are best–for example, extra virgin olive oil. Highly processed oils such as vegetable oil, corn oil or soybean oil can create inflammation in the body.
So, which types of fats should you include in your diet? Healthy fats include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (especially omega-3 fats). Along with all the health benefits described above, monounsaturated fats can also raise your HDL (your “good cholesterol”). And, omega-3 fats tend to be anti-inflammatory and support healthy cognition.
Monounsaturated fats are found in:
- Nuts and natural nut butters (like peanut butter)
- Seeds: sunflower or pumpkin seeds, tahini
- Olives or extra virgin olive oil
Omega-3 fats are found in:
- Cold-water fatty fish: wild salmon, tuna, herring, trout, sardines
- Seafood: mussels, oysters
- Flax or chia seeds
- Canola oil
Saturated fats, such as in red meat, coconut oil, palm oil, and full-fat dairy products, may be less healthy. So you might limit these and choose low-fat milk instead of whole milk. Trans fats (“hydrogenated oil”) in processed foods should be avoided as they have negative effects on heart health.
To sum up, focus on getting most of the fats in your diet from whole foods–from plants, fish and seafood. A moderate intake of these will favor a healthy weight and support your overall health.
By: Lisa Henderson, MS, RDN