Fat is an essential part of a healthy diet. Fats help you absorb certain vitamins and minerals from the foods that you eat, produce hormones, give you energy, and help to support the strength of your cells. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 20-35% of total calories from fat daily.
- Moderate amounts of saturated fat in your diet is okay, but high levels could increase “bad” cholesterol levels (LDL) and increase risk of heart disease. Saturated fat is primarily found in animal products like fatty red meat, chicken with skin, pork, lard, cream, butter, and dairy products made from whole milk. The American Heart Association recommends staying below 13 grams of saturated fat per day.
- Trans fat is a type of fat that you want to stay away from at all costs. Trans fats are found in highly-processed food products like fried fast food, microwave popcorn, some margarines, shortening, and packaged snack cakes. Trans fats increase the level of “bad” cholesterol in your body, called LDL, and reduce the amount of “good” cholesterol, which is called HDL. This increases your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
- Polyunsaturated fats can help to lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and decrease risk of heart disease. They provide essential fatty acids that your body needs from food and can’t produce on its own, which are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fats usually contain more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3’s. A high ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids can actually be inflammatory, so it’s important to prioritize monounsaturated fats in your diet as they are higher in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Corn, sunflower, and soybean oil are all good sources of polyunsaturated fats.
- The majority of fats in your diet should be monounsaturated fats. These fats help to reduce “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and raise “good” cholesterol (HDL). Monounsaturated fats provide essential fatty acids that your body needs from food and can’t produce on its own, which are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Olive oil, avocado oil, almonds, walnuts, salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are all great sources of monounsaturated fats. Choose these foods wherever possible