Instead of attempting to cut fat out of your diet altogether, a healthy way to enhance your diet is by increasing your intake of unsaturated fats and lowering your consumption of saturated and trans fats.
What are Unsaturated Fats?
While saturated fats are considered “bad” fats and have negative effects on your health, unsaturated fats are “good” fats and can help lower your cholesterol and prevent heart disease if eaten in moderation.
Unsaturated fats are characterized as fatty acids with one or more double bonds in the fatty acid chain and, like all fats, have 9 of calories per gram.
Fat is essential to your diet, it helps supply energy, and tastes great too. Additionally, essential fatty acids are necessary for healthy skin, growth, and metabolism and help in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Different Kinds of Unsaturated Fats
Unsaturated fats are divided into two categories – monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Both are derived from plants, fish and vegetables, and both have specific health benefits.
Monounsaturated fats have been proven to lower overall cholesterol levels, lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increase HDL or “good cholesterol.” Sources of monounsaturated fats include:
- plant oils like canola, peanut and olive oils
- nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, almonds)
- seeds (pumpkin, sesame)
Polyunsaturated fats have also been proven to reduce overall cholesterol and lower LDL or “bad cholesterol.” Main sources of polyunsaturated fats include:
- fatty fish such as salmon, trout and sardines
- sunflower seed oils
- soybean oils
Enhancing Your Diet with Unsaturated Fats
You can easily enhance your diet with unsaturated fats by using olive oil and other nut-based oils as salad dressing, swapping some meat meals for fatty fish, and using products derived from soybeans instead of regular dairy products.
Starting small by changing a few dinners weekly can help you lower your saturated fat intake and start you on a path to healthier eating. As with any change in diet, it takes time to become accustomed to new eating patterns. Do some planning in advance so that your pantry is stocked with healthy options.
Even though unsaturated fats are considered “healthy fats,” they should be taken in moderation, and should not make up more than 25% to 35% of your daily caloric intake.