In my last blog, Saturated Fat Vs. Trans Fat, I talked about the unhealthy fats in our diet. As I stated before, you need fat in your diet! Fat is necessary for brain development, insulation, cushion of organs, and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, E, D, K).
The two main healthy fats are monounsaturated (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAS). MUFAs and PUFAs are found in a variety of foods and oils and are typically liquid at room temperature. Studies have shown that eating foods rich in MUFAs and PUFAs improve blood cholesterol levels, decrease your risk of heart disease, and benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control (helpful for Type 2 Diabetes).
Polyunsaturated fats are further broken down into two categories: omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 and omega-3 are essential fats because our bodies need them but cannot make them. Omega-6 and omega-3 EFAs are important for brain function and normal growth and development.
Humans evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) of 1 to 1. In the typically Western diet, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 EFAs is about 15 to 1. This excessive consumption of omega-6 EFAs has lead to the promotion of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory diseases. Studies have shown that an increase of omega-3 EFAs will suppress these negative effects. Omega-3s have also been found to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease, lower blood pressure, decrease triglyceride levels, reduce blood clotting, reduce symptoms of depression, protect against memory loss, ease arthritis, and boost immunity.
Food Sources of Monounsaturated Fats
-Olive, canola, peanut, sesame, and sunflower oils
-Nuts and seeds
Food Sources of Polyunsaturated Fats
-Corn, safflower, soy, nut, and cottonseed oils
-Nuts and seeds
-Fatty fish (trout, herring, salmon, tuna) (Omega-3s)
The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least 2 times per week. If you are unable to consume enough omega-3 EFAs from your diet, you should consider a fish-oil supplement. In general, aim for a supplement between 500 and 3,000mg of EPA/DHA. For maximum absorption, take your supplement with food.
Recipes and Cooking Ideas
-Sauté onions with eggs and avocado.
-Substitue flax seed oil for another cooking oil.
-Try a slice of avocado on a sandwich or make guacamole.
-Substitute ground nuts in place of breadcrumbs.
-See my peanut butter ball recipe for a way to incorporate flax seed in your diet!