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If you're trying to lose weight, you might think that cutting fat from your diet will help. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Depriving your body of all fats can drag you down quickly. You will have less energy, and your weight loss progress may come to a screeching halt. Healthy fats don't just make your food taste better; your body needs healthy fats to keep your metabolism going.
But this doesn't mean you shouldn't care about how much fat you are consuming. You need to be mindful of which type of fats you are consuming. After all – not all fats are created equal.
Let's take a look at how some fats are part of a healthy diet, what foods you should opt for, and what foods you should avoid at all costs.
What are the Benefits of Healthy Fats?
Did you know that there are different types of fats? That's right. While some fats may derail your weight loss journey, your body needs good fats to function smoothly and efficiently.
So what are some benefits of healthy fats?
Believe it or not, healthy fats are an essential part of a balanced diet. In fact, scientific studies show that consuming appropriate amounts of healthy fats can help you lose weight. The key is to make sure that you are consuming fewer calories than you burn.
Healthy fats can also help reduce your risk of heart disease. While foods rich in bad fats, like french fries and processed foods, can increase your risk of heart disease, good fats do the opposite. It may seem counterintuitive, but consuming healthy amounts of good fat helps to reduce cholesterol.
Diets rich in healthy fats can also help moderate symptoms for those who struggle with diabetes. Healthy fats can help improve insulin sensitivity. Not only can they help with weight loss, but healthy fats also play an essential role in helping to regulate your blood sugar.
Examples of Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are part of a balanced diet. However, many foods are rich in bad fats and can negatively affect your health.
Bad fats include animal-based saturated fats as well as trans fats. Unfortunately, many of the processed, tasty convenience foods are packed full of trans fats. One of the most common examples of trans fats is partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. You can find this unhealthy fat in foods like pastries, cookies, and snack foods. To spot these bad fats, take a look at the nutrition label. You should avoid foods that are high in trans fats.
So what kinds of fat are healthy for you? The good news is that there is an easy way to pick out the good from the bad fats.
There are two different categories of healthy fats: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These fats are essential to a balanced diet.
Examples of monounsaturated fats include nuts (including peanut butter), avocados, and vegetable oils. Healthy, monounsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature.
Examples of polyunsaturated fat include many plant-based foods and fish. Foods like salmon and trout are excellent sources of this healthy fat. If you've heard about Omega-3 fatty acids, then you already know that this type of healthy, polyunsaturated fat is a perfect fit in a healthy diet.
What to Eat to Get Healthy Fats in Food
Many foods are rich in healthy fats. If you're looking for your daily dose of healthy fat, there are a range of healthy, unprocessed foods to choose from.
For example, if you're looking for a good dose of Omega-3 fatty acids, opt for a fatty fish. Fatty fish include a range of species including salmon, herring, and lake trout. Or, if you prefer, you can incorporate sardines and mackerel into your diet.
Switching out butter and margarine for healthy oils is also a great way to increase the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.
Walnuts are also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts are an extremely versatile food. There are a wide variety of ways to incorporate them into your diet. Try putting walnuts on your salad or your cereal in the morning.
Besides walnuts, many other nuts are full of healthy, monounsaturated fats. They are also a good source of protein, fiber, and a handful of vitamins and minerals. You can try almonds, cashews, or sunflower seeds.
Avocado is also a great source of monounsaturated fats. Avocado can be used to make guacamole or salad dressings. Try putting avocado on your salad or sandwich for lunch. You can also use a pitted avocado as a container for meats, like chicken or tuna salad.
What are High-Fat Foods to Avoid?
However, other high-fat foods are filled with the kinds of bad fats that can quickly reverse any hard-earned weight loss.
Maybe it goes without saying, but you should avoid consuming high-fat, highly processed fast foods. A single Burger King Whopper with cheese provides over 100% of your daily fat intake.
Dairy foods can also be packed full of bad fat. If you need to satisfy your sweet tooth after a healthy meal, opt for non-dairy sweets made of whole, unprocessed ingredients. You should avoid high-fat dairy foods like whipped cream, egg nog, and even ice cream. A single cup of whipped cream contains more than 50% of your daily recommended fat need.
While you might think that you are doing yourself a favor by eating a granola bar instead of a bag of chips, you could be wrong. Fatty snacks are another high-fat food group that you should avoid. This includes potato chips, corn chips, and even crackers and granola bars. A single cup of corn chips has almost 50% of your daily recommended fat intake.
Processed meats (like sausage) can also be unsuspectingly high in fat. Foods like pepperoni, bologna, bacon, and breakfast sausage are usually packed full of fat. A single, 25 gram serving of sausage can pack a whopping 38% of your fat intake for the day.
Finally, there is one food group that you might never expect to be high-fat: salad dressings. Sure – salad can be a healthy alternative to a burger and fries. Just watch what you put on top of your salad. If you are drenching your salad in a high-fat dressing (think Ranch or Ceasar), you may not be doing yourself any favors. A 2-ounce serving of Ceasar dressing has almost 30% of your daily fat intake.
Healthy Fats in Nuts
Many nuts are rich in healthy fats. Up to 80% of a nut can be healthy fat. These little powerhouses may be high in calories, but they are full of healthy fats and nutrients.
Nuts are a great source of monounsaturated fats. Studies show that incorporating nuts into your diet can be an effective way to boost weight loss. Even though nuts are high-fat and calorie dense, they are usually high in fiber. This high fiber content prevents your body from absorbing all of the fat content in nuts. Instead, your body will get just what it needs to help boost weight loss.
Nuts are also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids promote a healthy heart. When exercise is part of your healthy routine, keeping your heart healthy is essential to getting the most out of your workouts.
So what kind of nuts should you opt for?
Almonds are a great addition to a healthy diet. For a small handful, they contain 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein, and 3.5 grams of fiber.
Not only can they help reduce your cholesterol, but nuts can also help moderate the rise in blood sugar after a meal. They can also boost your gut health. Almonds promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria, keeping your digestive system balanced.
Pistachios are another great high-fat nut. A one-ounce serving contains 12.5 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber.
Pistachios can also help reduce your cholesterol. Like almonds, studies show that pistachios can regulate blood sugar post-meal. They also balance out free radicals and prevent oxidative stress and inflammation.
Walnuts are an excellent source of the Omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). For a one-ounce serving, walnuts provide 18 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein, and 2 grams of fiber. A diet rich in ALA can promote a healthy heart and significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.
Walnuts can also help regulate blood pressure and inflammation. Preliminary scientific studies show that walnuts may also be good for your brain. Good news, college students! Consuming walnuts may boost your inferential reasoning skills.
So what does all of this mean? You don't need to be afraid of all fats. In fact, your body needs healthy fats to survive. So if you are at the grocery store and you are tempted to opt for the “low-fat” option, you may want to reconsider. While processed foods and dressings might boast that they are low-fat, they may also be packed full of other unhealthy goodies (like sugar).