Which Fats are Healthy Fats?

Healthy Fats are Here

It’s undeniable: fat has undergone a public image makeover in recent years. After years of demonizing the nutrient for its high calorie content, fat is beginning to take its rightful place on our plates and in our hearts. We are all exploring love affairs with previously forbidden foods like avocados and peanut butter, and even finding some new favorites like flax seeds. The driving force in this change of mindset has been a new understanding of the structures and functions of various types of fats, as well as research into the exceptional value of “healthy fats.”

That’s right, not all fats have gotten the green light. Fats fall under three basic categories based on their chemical structure: unsaturated fats, saturated fats, and trans fats.

  • Trans fats are strictly off limits due to their role in increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

  • Saturated fats, though not as dangerous to health as trans fats, are usually found in animal products and should still be limited in a healthy diet.

  • Unsaturated fats are what health professionals refer to as “healthy fats,” since they help improve cholesterol and serve many protective functions within the body.

Unsaturated fats, which are liquid at room temperature, further break down into monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA). Monounsaturated fats are great for helping to regulate blood pressure and cholesterol as well as lower risk for cardiovascular disease, but polyunsaturated fats are the real powerhouses. Polyunsaturated fats include the illustrious omega-3 fats, which your body cannot synthesize on its own, so you must obtain from your diet. Your body uses omega-3 fatty acids in membranes all throughout the body where they help insulate and facilitate cell receptors as well as in hormones that enable basic bodily functions. These fats help regulate heart rate, lower blood pressure and may even reduce inflammation. With most people not eating the recommended 8-10 percent of daily calories from polyunsaturated fats, it is no wonder you hear about healthy fats everywhere. Here are some great sources of healthy fats to incorporate into your diet today!

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