Joy Daniel, RDN, LD
Fats have important health benefits1. They provide essential fatty acids our body can’t produce, assist in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), and are good sources of vitamin E, a beneficial antioxidant. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a healthy eating pattern that limits saturated and trans fats in order to decrease risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, and obesity.1 The American Heart Association, as well as the Dietary Guidelines recommends replacing saturated and trans fats with good for you fats: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.1,2
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and risk for heart disease and stroke.2 Omega-3 fatty acids, which are also polyunsaturated fats come from both fish and plant sources. Consuming omega-3 fatty acids found in fish lowers triglycerides, slows plaque buildup in arteries, and decreases risk for abnormal heart rate (arrhythmias) and sudden death.3,4 The eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DHA) in these omega-3s also reduce inflammation and may decrease rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.4 Plant sources of omega-3s contain fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which may potentially benefit heart health and bone metabolism.4
There are many ways to incorporate good for you fats in to your diet. Olive oil and vinegar make a healthy alternative to creamy salad dressings. Substitute a handful of almonds or mixed nuts for those afternoon chips, cookies, and candy. Use avocado as a spread for toast or sandwiches in place of butter, margarine, or mayonnaise.5 Ground flax seeds may be added to oatmeal, smoothies, or baked in muffins.6 Use peanut or sesame oils for stir-fry dishes. All natural peanut butter is an excellent protein source as a sandwich filling or as a topping for whole grain crackers, celery, or apple slices.
Sources of Good for You Fats
Sunflower Oil, Soybean Oil, Nuts and Seeds, Corn Oil
Olive Oil, Safflower Oil, Seeds, Canola Oil, Sesame Oil, Avocado, Peanut Oil, Almonds/Other Nuts, Peanut Butter
Salmon, Flaxseed/Flaxseed Oil, Trout, Chia Seeds, Walnuts
- S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
- American Heart Association. (2015, August). The American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/The-American-Heart-Associations-Diet-and-Lifestyle-Recommendations_UCM_305855_Article.jsp#.VpvnJDbfPdk
- American Heart Association: Fish and Omega-3 fatty acids. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Fish-and-Omega-3-Fatty-Acids_UCM_303248_Article.jsp#.VpxgVjbfPdl
- Vannice G, Rasmussen, H. Position paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Dietary fatty acids for healthy adults. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014;114:136-153.
- Haas Avocado Board. (2015). Simple Avocado Uses: How to eat Hass avocados. Available at: https://www.avocadocentral.com/how-to/how-to-use-avocados
- Magee, E. (2011, July 20). The benefits of flaxseed. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/diet/benefits-of-flaxseed?page=1