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5 Foods that Contain Unsaturated Fats

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Unsaturated fats have been shown to improve health when used in place of other fats. There are two types of unsaturated fats, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, both of which are liquid at room temperature. Two types of polyunsaturated fat, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, cannot be produced by the human body, but play an essential role in brain development, skin and hair growth, bone health, maintaining a healthy reproductive system and even in regulating our metabolism. Plus, both types promote coronary health by lowering "bad" LDL cholesterol and raising "good" HDL cholesterol.

Dietary fats are an essential part of the human diet. Not only do they help us feel satisfied, they help the body use proteins and carbohydrates more efficiently. Fat also aids in the digestion of vitamins A, D, E and K. But as we know, not all fats are created equal. To increase your intake of unsaturated fats, try replacing other fatty foods with these 5 items:

1. Olive Oil

Olive oil is full of healthy unsaturated fats. 1 Tbsp. of oil has almost 12 grams of unsaturated fat and only 2 grams of the saturated stuff. In addition, olive oil provides a heart-friendly dose of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Mix it with vinegar to create salad dressings and use it to cook meat or veggies. Although olive oil is great for cooking, it does have a low smoke point, meaning that it should not be used for deep frying.

2. Salmon

Salmon and other cold water fish, like mackerel, are fatty fish that are full of heart healthy unsaturated fats and low in the heart clogging saturated types. Furthermore, salmon is an excellent source of protein, and unlike some other fish, has low levels of mercury. Salmon can stand-up to almost every method of cooking: broiling, pan frying, baking and even grilling. Try it with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice for a rich, flavorful meal.

3. Almonds

Almonds are a tasty snack full of beneficial unsaturated fats. Not only are they a source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, they also provide Vitamin E, which is great for our hair, nails and skin. When eating almonds, it's easy to exceed the recommended serving size, 1 ounce or about 8 whole pieces. To make sure you're not over-doing it, count or weigh your portion ahead of time.

4. Natural Peanut Butter

Pick all natural peanut butter, and make sure there is nothing in the ingredient list that includes the word 'hydrogenated.' Peanuts and peanut butter are an excellent source of unsaturated fat, but reading labels is crucial. Avoid any jars with trans-fat on the nutrition label, as these are the most harmful to the body. But, once you've found a type that passes the test, spread 1 to 2 tbsp. on toast for a sweet and satisfying breakfast.

5. Avocados

Avocados are full of unsaturated fats and low in saturated fat. Their smooth creamy texture makes them a great sandwich replacement for mayonnaise or cheese. For parties, mash avocados together with a small amount of onion, garlic, tomato, cilantro and lime juice to make a crowd-pleasing guacamole.

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