The skinny on healthy – and not-so-healthy – fats

Many of us grew up believing that fat was bad, and that eating it would make us fat. But the truth is that not all fats are created equal. And our bodies actually need certain types of healthy fats to function well.

Healthy fats can help us feel full and satisfied so that we don’t overeat, and they help our bodies better absorb vitamins. They can sharpen our memory and enable us to think more clearly. Healthy fats can even help our hormones work properly, and they can lower cholesterol and the risk for heart disease.

That said, it’s important to know which fats are good for us and which should be avoided. It’s best to stay away from unhealthy fats, like saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats found in foods like fatty cuts of beef and pork are linked to high cholesterol, stroke and heart disease. Trans fats are found in many processed, pre-packaged foods like cakes, cookies, crackers, margarine, microwave popcorn and many fried foods. Trans fat, also known as partially hydrogenated oils, can raise your heart disease risks as well as your odds of developing Type 2 diabetes. In fact, the use of trans fats in restaurants is banned in several states

OK, now for some good news. Here are some healthy fats that are still welcome at your table:


Monounsaturated fats

Olive oil and avocados are good examples of healthy monounsaturated fat. Olive oil is commonly touted for heart health and stroke prevention, but it is also great for the brain. A 2015 study published by the American Medical Association found it may help improve cognitive function in older adults. Besides being delicious, avocados can also help fight inflammation. Adding avocados to your diet is easy. Mashing them into a delicious, crowd-pleasing bowl of guacamole is a no-brainer. But they’re also great in salads, sandwiches or wraps. Or use avocado as a mayo substitute in tuna or chicken salad.


Polyunsaturated fats

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat. They offer a variety of benefits, from lowering heart disease risk to helping those who suffer with rheumatoid arthritis. Some studies have even shown a reduction in colon cancer related to omega-3 fatty acid consumption. Salmon, walnuts and flaxseed oil are great sources.


Trend worth trying: rice bran oil

Rice bran oil is rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Preliminary research suggests that a particular type of vitamin E found in rice bran oil – alpha tocotrienols – may have brain-protective powers. Rice bran comes from the husk of the rice kernel, and oil made from this bran is popular for stir-fries because it doesn’t burn easily.



Don’t fear (healthy) fats

Get recipes featuring healthy fats on our Healthy Recipes Pinterest board.