When we start a diet or when we come out with the idea of having a greater control over our diet, the first thing that we look at is the amount of fats that we eat daily. Fats at meals have been vilified in recent decades from the United States, where foods low in fat or fat-free became the norm a few years ago. They made us believe that thanks to this type of diet we would get the body we wanted and this is one of the great nutritional lies that we have been told for years.
We usually don’t consider that not all the fats we eat are bad for our body. There is a lot of fats that are beneficial for our bodies and for our health. Today we are clear that not all fats are created in the same way, and above all, we know that our bodies need some fats. Or more specifically, our bodies need healthy fats.
What fats are healthy?
An adult person should get from 20% to 35% of their calories from fats of their diet. If these fats are healthy, they are beneficial for our heart. But many times we substitute them for refined carbohydrates like white bread and white rice. However, these carbohydrates can increase our triglyceride levels, and contribute to the onset of cardiovascular disease.
Let’s see some types of healthy fats:
Healthy unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, while trans fats and saturated fats, which are harmful to our health, are solid due to their industrial production through the hydrogenation process. Don’t confuse these types of fats.
To increase unsaturated fats in your diet, substitute solids such as margarine with olive oil and vegetable oils. Change the red meat for seafood or nuts without salt. Shellfish and nuts also contain saturated fats, but generally less than red meat.
The two main types of unsaturated fats are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats increase good cholesterol or HDL, and lower bad cholesterol or LDL. Olive oil, peanut oil, nuts, seeds and avocados are good sources of this type of fat.
In order to get the benefits of these monounsaturated fats, you can consume hummus, which is rich in olive oil, or guacamole. The nuts without salt are also rich in monounsaturated fats, but they are rich in calories, so it’s not advisable to consume them in excess.
You can find polyunsaturated fats in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils such as corn and safflower oil, and in fatty fish. This category includes the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are known as essential because the human body doesn’t produce them naturally and therefore we have to obtain them through our diet. Polyunsaturated fats can help to reduce the total cholesterol level.
Omega 3 fatty acids
In the world of healthy fats, Omega 3 fatty acids are the most appreciated. Among its benefits, we find that they combat inflammation, help control blood clotting and reduce blood pressure and triglycerides. There are many foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids so it’s difficult to discuss only one of them.
Nuts, chia or flax seeds or green leafy vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach and watercress are very rich in Omega 3.
Fatty fish such as albacore tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines are also good sources of Omega 3, although some people are reluctant to consume them because of the existing debate about the levels of mercury and other toxins from the ocean that the fish can bring to our markets.
Richer foods in healthy fats
The benefits of avocados are so numerous that they are possibly one of the healthiest fruits you can consume. They are rich in monounsaturated fats, as we said before and they also contain vitamin E, which helps prevent free radical damage, increases immunity and acts as an anti-aging nutrient for your skin.
We are familiar with substances that look like butter like margarine, but real butter, raw and coming from organic sources, is a food rich in healthy fats.
In butter we find Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids that promote the proper function of our brain and also improve the health of our skin. These two fatty acids are considered essential, which means that our body needs them but can produce them by itself. Butter is also rich in fat-soluble vitamins and minerals such as selenium, which is a powerful antioxidant.
The benefits of coconut oil are many. It’s rich in medium chain fatty acids, which are easy to digest for the body, they are not easily stored in the form of fat and are small in size, allowing them to infuse energy to the cells almost immediately.
These fatty acids also improve brain function and memory. Because of its large amount of natural saturated fats, coconut oil increases good cholesterol and improves heart health, while the antioxidants found in coconut oil make it an effective anti-inflammatory food that helps reduce arthritis.
Extra virgin olive oil
We all know how important it is to add extra virgin olive oil to our daily diet. It’s recommended for the health of our heart because, according to numerous studies, it is proven that extra virgin olive oil, and the Mediterranean diet in general, reduces the incidence of heart attack or dying from heart disease.
This may be because it has high levels of monounsaturated fats. Its high levels of antioxidants help protect cells from possible damage. It also helps improve memory and cognitive function, and also works as an anti-inflammatory.