With the holidays upon us, you may be worried about the typical seasonal weight gain. But fat isn’t always an enemy. To the contrary, our bodies need fat for proper immune function, nervous system maintenance, hormone production, and vitamin absorption. That being said, it’s best to limit saturated fats, which are semisolid at room temperature. These types of fat—found in meats, butter, cheese, milk, and full-fat yogurts—have been linked to heart disease, cancer, and inflammatory disorders.
Luckily, nature provides fats that work in our favor. Healthful unsaturated fats come in two varieties—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. These fats are liquid at room temperature and help lower total cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids, one type of polyunsaturated fat, may not only decrease the risk of coronary artery disease but may also help combat high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.
Consuming healthful fats is a great way to add flavor and variety to your meals, and reap the associated benefits.
Check out these friendly fats!
Rich in oleic acid, an omega-9 monounsaturated fat, olive oil may help fight against the development of Type 2 diabetes. Try it in dressings and marinades, or in place of butter when sauteing.
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds, especially almonds and walnuts, contain unsaturated fats and essential fatty acids, making them the perfect heart-healthy snack. Don’t limit yourself to just one kind—try Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, and pistachios as well as sesame and sunflower seeds. Even coconut contains monounsaturated fats!
Second only to olives in monounsaturated fat content, avocados are useful in reducing bad cholesterol levels while increasing good cholesterol. Try slices of avocado instead of cheese on a sandwich.
Providing protection against heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and many forms of cancer, oil from cold-water fish contains high levels of monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Aim for a serving of salmon, mackerel, or herring two times per week or consider taking fish oil supplements.
One study of obese, postmenopausal women with Type 2 diabetes found that supplementation with safflower oil increased lean muscle mass and improved blood sugar levels. The women consumed just under two teaspoons of safflower oil per day, an amount easily obtained in salad dressings or by using safflower oil as a substitute for butter when sauteing.