Types of Dietary Fat: Which Fats are Best for Your Health?

Madeline: Posted 09/06/2015

Low fat, fat free, and whole fat… these are all labels that you will see on products at the grocery store. In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about the types of fat in the Standard American Diet. How do these fats impact our overall health and wellness?

For a long time, people believed that they needed to avoid fat consumption in order to lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight. But, people found that they actually started gaining weight when they reduced dietary fats, probably because their consumption of carbohydrates increased as a result of the fat reduction. Many processed foods market that they are “fat free,” but sugar is added instead to maintain good flavor.

Types of Dietary Fat

If you don’t know a lot about dietary fat, then you need to start with the basics. These are the common types of fat that can be found within our food:

Trans Fat: A harmful fat that is found in oils, which usually occurs when certain foods are processed using a method known as partial hydrogenation. You can often find “partially hydrogenated” oils on ingredients labels. These oils are popular to cook with, because they are easy to use and they have a longer shelf life. But, they have harmful effects on cholesterol levels and it has also been suggested that trans fats increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

Saturated Fat: Found mainly in animal products, such as dairy, poultry, and red meat. It is considered a harmful type of fat which consumed in larger quantities, because it can raise total blood cholesterol levels. Some doctors have suggested a link between saturated fat and the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Polyunsaturated Fat: Found mostly in plant-based oils and ingredients, this unsaturated fat can be beneficial for your health. Known as PUFAs, these plant fats may help to manage cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Monounsaturated Fat: Found in a variety of oils and foods, this type of fat is beneficial for your health. Consuming monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) helps by improving cholesterol levels, lowering the risk of heart disease, and balancing blood sugar levels.

The first 2 types of fat on the list are saturated fats, which are harmful for your health. The last 2 are unsaturated fats, which can be beneficial for your health when they are used in moderation. If you want to boost your overall health, then it is best to focus on unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat, and monounsaturated fat is the best type to choose.

Dietary Sources of Monounsaturated Fat

These fats are known as “good fats,” and they can offer a number of health benefits for your body. MUFAs are in liquid form when they are at room temperature, and then they change to a solid form when they are chilled.

If you want to improve your health, then you need to include more of these fats in your diet. Common sources of MUFAs include:

° Nuts: Pecans, Cashews, Almonds, and Pumpkin Seeds

° Macadamia Nuts

° Avocadoes

° Olive Oil

Polyunsaturated Fats – Another Healthy Option

Even though monounsaturated fats are the preferred source of dietary fat, there are also health benefits that can be gained from polyunsaturated fats as well. Both of them are great for your health, and you might consider getting a balance of these types of fats in your diet.

Here are some healthy dietary sources of polyunsaturated fat:

° Fatty fish, including salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, and herring

° Nuts and seeds

° Whole grains

° Flaxseed oil

° Coconut oil

No matter which type of polyunsaturated fats that you choose, it is important that you select an organic source to get optimal health benefits. Fish should be wild-caught instead of factory farmed, and make sure that the nuts, seeds, and oils are specifically labeled as organic.

Coconut oil is my preferred source of polyunsaturated fats, because it offers many health benefits. In fact, I often use coconut oil when I’m cooking as a substitute for olive oil. Here are some of the reasons why I love coconut oil as a health source of polyunsaturated fat:

° Antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties

° Fat-burner, because the fatty acids go straight from the digestive tract to the liver, where they are turned into a source of energy

° Reducing hunger, because the metabolic functions balances your appetite

° Blood cholesterol levels can be improved with regular coconut oil consumption, reducing the risk of heart disease

Grass fed butter is another great option to consider, because it has a good balance of both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Grass fed butter is 2/3 saturated fat, 1/3 monounsaturated fat, and the rest is polyunsaturated fat.

Additionally, it’s high in Vitamin K2 which offers many other health benefits. Make sure that the butter comes from a grass-fed source, because the nutritional profile of butter from factory-farmed cows is very different than the grass-fed varieties.

Health Benefits of Monounsaturated Fat

Doctors have uncovered a number of health benefits that are available from consuming foods with MUFAs. Some of those health benefits include:

° Decreased risk of breast cancer

° Balanced cholesterol levels

° Reduction of pain and stiffness related to rheumatoid arthritis

° Weight loss and weight management

° Lower risk of stroke and heart disease

Many people make the switch to MUFAs because they want to lose weight, and they experience many positive health benefits as a result of this change. By avoiding trans fats and saturated fats that are so prevalent in the Standard American Diet and choosing MUFAs instead, you can drastically change your health. Even though it might seem like a simple change, it can have a big impact on your weight loss goals as well as your overall health and wellness.

Adding MUFAs into Your Diet

With a few substitutions in the kitchen, it is easy to incorporate these foods into your daily habits. Many times, you can substitute the healthier ingredient for the unhealthy ingredients are used in your favorite recipes.

Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

° Get rid of the vegetable oil and use olive oil instead. When you are cooking vegetables, a little bit of olive oil in the pan helps to sauté the veggies and prevent them from sticking to the pan.

° Add avocadoes to your salad or sandwich at lunchtime. They add a nice flavor and help you feel more satisfied after the meal.

° Pour 1 tablespoon of macadamia nut oil into your green smoothie every morning

° Dip organic apple slices, celery sticks and carrot sticks into raw almond butter for a mid-afternoon snack.


The 6 Benefits of Monounsaturated Fats (MUFAs)


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