How (and Why) to Add ‘Good’ Fats to Your Diet

Nutrition Wellness
By 

We all face challenges when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle, and making changes to our daily patterns can be a challenge in itself. One of the best ways to make an impactful change is to start with small, daily steps that can eventually develop into a habit. One excellent habit to work toward is adding more unsaturated fats into your diet.

Why Unsaturated Fats?

The current 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of total daily calories. These types of fats are often found in meat, lard, nondairy creamers, palm oil and hydrogenated margarine and shortening.  Unsaturated fat, sometimes called “good fat,” can actually reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Some of the health benefits of unsaturated fats include:

  • Improving cholesterol numbers (lowering LDL and raising HDL)
  • Reducing inflammation in the body
  • Reducing feelings of hunger
  • Increasing fiber intake (some sources)
  • Increasing intake of essential fatty acids and some vitamins and minerals
  • Improving the health and appearance of skin and hair

Sources of Unsaturated Fats

Below are some excellent sources of unsaturated fats. (The appropriate serving size has also been included for reference.)

  • Avocado ~ 1/3 of a medium avocado
  • Olive Oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Pumpkin Seeds ~ ¼ cup
  • Walnuts – 1 ounce
  • Almonds – 1 ounce
  • Flax Seeds – 1 tablespoon
  • Seafood – 6 ounces (cooked)

Simple Adjustments

This week, choose one of the unsaturated fat options above to add to your diet each day. To challenge yourself further, try replacing one source of saturated fat in your diet with one of the unsaturated fat options above each day. You may be surprised at how delicious and satisfying healthy fats can be!

Below are some simple ways to incorporate unsaturated fats into your diet. Do be aware of serving sizes to ensure you don’t consume more than the recommended amounts. When eating nuts or seeds as a snack, for example, it helps to pre-portion your servings to avoid the temptation of eating more than you should.

  • Avocado – Add avocado to your smoothie, or add it to your deli sandwich or wrap in place of mayonnaise.
  • Olive Oil – Add olive oil to your salad as a dressing, or use it when cooking eggs for breakfast or roasting vegetables for dinner.
  • Walnuts or Almonds – Use walnuts or almonds as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack and pair them with a piece of whole fruit.
  • Seafood – Include at least one serving of fish each week. Grilled salmon or tuna can easily be added to a salad.
  • Flax Seed – Add ground flax seed to your smoothie or oatmeal for a healthy start to your day. You’ll barely notice a difference in taste, but you’ll get a boost of nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber.

Lifestyle Changes

By continuing to make these simple adjustments to your diet, you can develop lifelong habits that will positively affect your overall health. You may be surprised with the changes to your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels after only a few weeks. If you want to take your dietary changes a step further, try consuming these healthy fats as part of an overall healthy diet plan, such as the Mediterranean diet or DASH diet, both of which are recommended by the American Heart Association.

References:

www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/choose-healthy-fats

www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/