Healthy Fats Guide: Best and Worst Fats for Your Diet

Healthy Fats Guide: Best and Worst Fats for Your Diet

Discover two of the best healthy fats to eat, and learn why this one type of fat should be avoided completely.

Apr 4, 2024

Two Best Healthy Fats to Eat More of, and One to Avoid

In the world of health and wellness, fats have often been villainized. However, not all fats are created equal. Understanding the difference between healthy fats and those that can harm your health is crucial for maintaining a balanced diet, controlling blood sugar, and preventing chronic conditions such as diabetes. Let’s delve into the science behind the fats we eat, and discover why some types are essential to good health. We’ll also discuss places to find these fats, one type of fat to avoid, and how to make choices that are right for you.

A Heart-Healthy Choice: Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats are a type of dietary fat found in various foods and oils. They’re known for their health benefits, particularly in heart health and blood sugar control. Examples of foods rich in monounsaturated fats include:

  • Avocados

  • Nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans)

  • Seeds (such as sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower)

  • Olive oil

Why They're Great:

Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood, lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke. They also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells. Eating these fats may also improve insulin sensitivity, making it easier to manage your blood sugar. Olive oil, a staple in the Mediterranean diet, has been extensively studied and shown to improve heart health. According to the American Heart Association, incorporating monounsaturated fats into your diet can improve blood lipid levels, easing inflammation, and stabilizing heart rhythms.

Essential Fatty Acids: Polyunsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats are a group of fat types that include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These two types are what we call essential fats because your body cannot make them, so we can only get them from the foods we eat. They play a crucial role in brain function and the normal growth and development of your body. Sources of these polyunsaturated fats include:

  • Fish (such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines)

  • Seeds (such as flax, chia, and sunflower)

  • Walnuts

  • Soybeans (like edamame and tempeh)

Why They're Great:

Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, have been shown to be beneficial for heart health. They help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering triglyceride levels and blood pressure. Studies have shown that omega-3s can also improve mental health, decrease liver fat, and reduce inflammation. Some studies suggest that omega-3 fats may improve insulin sensitivity, which can be helpful for people with diabetes or those at risk of it. Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids also helps reduce inflammation and can lower the risk of heart disease by improving cholesterol levels.

The Fats to Avoid: Trans Fats

Trans fats that are produced during food processing are the one type of fat that health experts agree should be avoided. They’re created through an industrial process called hydrogenation, which turns liquid vegetable oils into solid fats. These modified fats started making their way into our food system in the early 1900’s, and although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) effectively banned trans fats from being used in 2018, the FDA says trans fats may still be present in small amounts in some packaged foods. Some examples include:

  • Crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies, and other baked goods

  • Microwave popcorn

  • Frozen pizzas

  • Vegetable shortenings 

  • Stick margarines

  • Coffee creamer

  • Refrigerated dough products (such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls)

  • Ready-to-use frostings

Always check the ingredient list to see if it mentions partially hydrogenated oils, because although the nutrition label might show 0 grams of trans fat per serving, it may still contain trans fats since foods with less than 0.5 grams per serving are able to round down to zero.

Why They're Not So Great:

Trans fats increase the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes by raising bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lowering good cholesterol levels (HDL). The American Heart Association recommends cutting trans fats from your diet as much as possible.

Making Healthier Fat Choices

To incorporate more healthy fats into your diet while avoiding trans fats, consider these tips:

  • Include a source of healthy fat at meals using the Brook Healthy Plate model

  • Choose plant-based oils like olive and avocado oil for cooking.

  • Eat more fish, especially fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Read food labels to avoid products with partially hydrogenated oils, a source of trans fats.

  • Snack on nuts and seeds instead of processed snacks.

The Bottom Line

Understanding the types of fats and making conscious choices to consume more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may help prevent diseases like diabetes and heart disease. 

Remember, a well-rounded, balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods is key to promoting good health, but no single food is ever off-limits. The key is moderation and sustainable healthy habits over time. 

By making informed choices about the fats you consume, you're taking control of your health and paving the way for a healthier, happier future.

Note: Always talk to your doctor before making changes to your diet or routine.

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PMB 30466
Seattle, Washington 98104

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Brook Inc

113 Cherry St
PMB 30466
Seattle, Washington 98104

Connect with Brook