Fats sound like something that should be avoided by those who don’t know much about nutrition, but that’s not always the case. There are two kinds of fats: saturated and unsaturated. Though the difference might be hard to remember, it’s crucial to understand to make the best diet decisions.
What’s the Difference Between Unsaturated Fats Versus Saturated?
Unsaturated fats help lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease that’s why they’re considered “healthy” fats. They are usually found in plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils.
Saturated fats, on the other hand, are generally considered “unhealthy” fats because they increase bad cholesterol levels and raise the risk of heart disease. They are commonly found in animal-based foods like meat and dairy products.
How to Limit Saturated Fats
To have a healthy diet, it’s essential to recognize the key foods that contain a high amount of saturated fats.
- Fatty cuts of meat, such as beef, lamb, and pork
- Processed meats, such as sausage, bacon, and hot dogs
- Full-fat dairy products, such as cheese, butter, and cream
- Fried foods, including fast food items like french fries and fried chicken
- Baked goods, such as cakes, cookies, and pastries made with butter or lard
- Tropical oils, such as coconut and palm oil
While these foods are high in saturated fats, it’s okay to consume them in moderation as part of a balanced diet. However, it’s recommended to choose leaner cuts of meat and opt for low-fat dairy products. Also, use healthier oils like olive oil and canola oil for cooking whenever possible.
Most processed and fried foods contain saturated fats and small steps towards substituting these items in your diet can go a long way toward a healthy lifestyle.
How to Add Unsaturated Fats
Adding unsaturated fats to your diet can improve your overall nutrition. Simple ways to incorporate “good” fats:
- Swap out unhealthy fats like butter or lard for healthier options like olive oil, canola oil, or avocado oil when cooking or preparing meals.
- Snack on almonds, walnuts, or cashews, and sprinkle chia seeds, flax seeds, or pumpkin seeds on salads or yogurt.
- Add avocado to salads, sandwiches, or smoothies for a creamy texture and a great source of healthy fats
- Incorporate more fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, or tuna into your meals. These fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health.
- Spread peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter on toast or fruit for a healthy and satisfying snack.
- Plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, and tofu are a great source of healthy unsaturated fats.
These foods are a great source of “good” fats; however, these foods are still high in calories and should be consumed in moderation.
How to Balance Fats in Your Diet
Now that the difference is clear between healthy and unhealthy fats, you know which foods to avoid and what to stock your pantry with. However, it’s essential to pay attention to portion sizes: intake of too much of any fats can lead to weight gain.
Reading nutrition labels is important in becoming fully aware of what’s in the foods you love. Nutrition labels will tell you clearly what type and amount of fat they contain, and from there you can make an informed decision to buy, limit or avoid that food.