To optimize your health, maintain a healthy body weight or even lose weight, eating more foods with unsaturated fats in them can help. Unsaturated fats, which include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, are healthy fats.
Your body uses fatty acids found in healthy fats to do everything from building cell membranes to performing essential functions of your brain, lungs, eyes, digestion process and immune system. Also, while many dieters have thought of all fats as nothing but fattening, some are surprised to learn that healthy, unsaturated fats actually help with the metabolism process.
How to Add Healthy Fats to Your Meals
There are many way to replace unhealthy, saturated fats and trans fat in your diet with healthier, unsaturated fats. To squeeze more unsaturated fats into your diet, replace foods that are high in saturated fats and lipids--such as butter, red meat, and high-fat dairy products--with foods that are high in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats--such as fish, beans, nuts, legumes, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products. Other good sources of healthy fats are avocados, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
Cooking with healthy oils such as olive oil, canola oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, flaxseed oil and soybean oil is also a healthy way to add more healthy fat and healthy fatty acids into your diet. Healthy omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, fish oils, canola oil, walnuts and flax seeds can be especially beneficial to your health.
Healthy oils should also be used, instead of saturated fats, in dressings and dips. Replace mayonnaise-based salad dressings, dips and sauces with dressings made from healthy oils for better overall health and disease resistance. Also, minimize your use of coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil—which are all high in saturated fats. If you must use them, use them sparingly.
How to Get Healthy Fats On-the-Go
When ordering food from restaurants, choose menu items that are high in healthy fats and low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Instead of ordering fried food and red meat, choose broiled, baked, grilled, steamed, poached or roasted fish, chicken and vegetables. Order salad dressings that are made with healthy oils such as olive oil or canola oil.
Another easy way to get healthy omega-3 fatty acids in your diet is with supplements. One 500-mg capsule per day is recommended, unless otherwise prescribed by your doctor. Be sure to choose supplements that are mercury-free, and contain both DHA and EPA.
Don’t Overdo Healthy Fats
Don’t do too much of a good thing. Even healthy fats should be consumed with moderation. How much fat is healthy for your body depends on your weight, your age, your lifestyle, and your overall health. The USDA recommends that the average person limits the total fat intake to 20-35% of the calories consumed. Saturated fats should be limited to less than 10% of total calories consumed--or even 7% for those who have cardiovascular disease.
Check with your health care provider about how much fat you should be consuming, and use Fitday's online journal to track your daily fat consumption.