Not all fats are bad for you, nor will all fats cause weight gain. In fact, there are good fats that your body requires to function and even to lose weight. Fats are comprised of basic molecules called fatty acids, which can be saturated or unsaturated. Good fats usually come from plant oils and seeds and occur naturally. These good fats are unsaturated. The good fats that you should remember are monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.
1. Monounsaturated Fats
Monounsaturated fats have one single carbon bond, which differentiates them from polyunsaturated fats which contain multiple double carbon bonds. Monounsaturated fats have been demonstrated to reduce "bad" cholesterol in your blood. Monounsaturated fat is helpful for weight loss because it promotes the feeling of satiety, making it easier to adhere to your diet plan. Monounsaturated fat also reduces the risk of many types of cancers. Good dietary sources of monounsaturated fat include avocados, olive oil, grapeseed oil, almond butter, olives and most nuts.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish like salmon and other seafoods like crab and lobster. Omega-3 fatty acids are also abundant in flaxseed oil, soybean oil, walnuts and pine nuts. They contain anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce pain from chronic conditions like arthritis, and they can also reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and blood clotting disorders. Omega-3 fatty acids have a positive effect on mood disorders and can help decrease feelings of depression and anxiety.
Omega-6 fatty acids are also a type of polyunsaturated fat which your body cannot produce naturally, so they must be obtained through dietary sources. While omega-6 fatty acids are important for brain growth and development, it is important that you don't over-consume them (which most Americans do because they are found in many fried foods and snack foods). Omega-6 fatty acids can cause inflammation in your body, but consuming omega-3 fatty acids can reduce this effect. This is why you should balance your intake of omega-6 fatty acids with omega-3 fatty acids. The most common sources of omega-6 fatty acids are canola oil, safflower oil and soybean oil.
Remember that there can be "too much of a good thing," and good fats are no exception. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 35 percent of your total calories each day coming from fats. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, your total fat intake should be closer to 25 percent. Most of your fat intake should come from monounsaturated fats, like olive oil and nuts. The rest of your fat intake should be a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Limit the saturated fat intake as much as possible by limiting processed snack foods and fried foods.