Fat is Your Friend

With so many non-fat products on grocery store shelves, you may think fat is a diet villain. But a healthy diet includes fat — good fat. Find out which delicious ingredients are good-fat all-stars.

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Not long ago, nutritionists were seemingly advising us to eliminate as much fat from our diets as possible. But recent research and studies have shown that fat isn’t just good for you; a moderate amount is actually essential for optimal health.

But here’s the catch: It has to be the right kind of fat. Good fats, such as mono- and polyunsaturated and omega-3s, help reduce harmful blood cholesterol levels. Plus, when eaten in combination with certain foods, these fats actually help your body better absorb the fat-soluble vitamins they contain. Even better? Consuming these good fats can help your body guard against heart disease, obesity, cancer, and more.

Bad fats are the ones you want to avoid, as they raise blood cholesterol levels and contribute to heart disease and diabetes, among other health issues. They’re the saturated kind, which occur naturally in red meats and high-fat dairy, such as whole milk and many cheeses. Saturated fats are easily identified as those that are solid at room temperature. Trans fats—those found in fried and baked foods and partially hydrogenated oils—also fall in the bad fat category. Consume these sparingly.

So where do you find good fats? Fortunately, it’s easy: They occur naturally in some delicious foods that are likely already in your diet. But remember, no matter how good it is for you, fat is high in calories and needs to be eaten in moderation. Limit all fat in your diet to 20 to 35 percent of your daily calorie intake.

Avocados – Adding this nutritious fruit to your salad can help your body absorb the iron present in the greens and keep you feeling fuller longer. Just one 1-ounce serving (about 1/5 of a medium avocado) contains 8% of your recommended daily allowance of dietary fiber, plus 20 essential nutrients, eight essential vitamins, potassium, and magnesium.

Salmon and Other Fatty Fish – Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, and lake trout, are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which boast numerous other health benefits, such as lowering inflammation (helping with asthma and arthritis) and elevated triglyceride levels. This nutrient also contributes to important brain development in babies, so it is recommended for pregnant women. You can get your omega-3s from a fish-oil supplement, but your body absorbs it much better when obtained through foods. Aim to consume at least two 3-ounce servings per week.

Almonds and Walnuts – These nuts are an excellent source of healthy fats and dietary fiber. One serving of walnuts is chock full of omega-3s, manganese, and copper, while almonds are high in vitamins E and B2. They’re both considered an essential part of a heart-healthy diet.

Pumpkin, Sunflower, Flax, and Sesame Seeds – Like nuts, seeds are a reliable and healthful source of beneficial fatty acids and nutrients, such as omega-3s, which can help lower high blood cholesterol levels. They also provide anti-inflammatory benefits and may help lower blood pressure. (Flax seeds should be consumed ground for the most benefit.)

Olives and Olive Oil – It’s no wonder the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in olives and olive oil, is touted as one of the healthiest. Olives and their oil contain monounsaturated fat, which can help lower cholesterol and may control insulin and blood sugar levels.

Provided by Dr. Oz The Good Life Magazine