Fats and oils have a bad reputation—and for a great reason.
In a nation where more than 36% of the country is obese, eating fats and oils to improve health seems about as helpful as skipping exercise. While we don’t recommend you stop going to the gym or exercising regularly, we know fats and oils are far better for you then you may have initially expected.
Not all fats are created equal, and fats in hamburgers and steaks are not the same fats you’ll find in fish and avocado. The discrepancy between saturated fats, unsaturated fats, and trans fats are about as significant as the difference between a salad and a steak.
We’ll be going over which fats to look for and five fats and oils you need to gain and maintain a healthy body.
Whether you cook with it or use it to finish a great meal, olive oil is used and cited as one of the best oils to keep in the kitchen.
According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), olive oil is loaded with monounsaturated fats—or in other words, fats that flow as a liquid at room temperature, remain simple on a cellular level, and lower the risk of heart disease over time.
Olive oil is also a crucial piece of the Mediterranean diet—which focuses on healthy oils, fats, nuts, and fish, making it easy to implement alongside other dietary changes.
Swap out standard cooking oil with olive oil to lower the amount of saturated fats in your meals, or try drizzling a small amount onto salads to bring out the flavors and add dimension to your meal.
Avocados are popular with young people and nascent diets for a reason—as they benefit those people looking for a healthier fruits and those who want healthier fats in their diet.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), we know that avocados are filled with monounsaturated fats and essential nutrients. The NIH also draws strong associations between those who regularly eat avocados and those with lower BMI scores, lower waist circumference, and lower risk of metabolic syndrome.
Not bad for a fruit filled with fat.
Avocados make great substitutes for salsa or cheese dipping sauces with chips or with other Mexican-inspired dishes. Homemade guacamole will also allow you to get your daily avocado needs while adding in other fruits and veggies.
Avocado can also be found on sandwiches, in chili, and served alongside white meats like chicken. There’s very little avocado won’t pair with—so start experimenting with avocado in any way possible.
3. Omega-3 Foods
While typically referred to as “omega-3s,” we know that food high with omega-3 fatty acids are essential to a Mediterranean or balanced diet.
The NIH tells us that foods with omega-3 like fish and flaxseed can improve cardiovascular function, improve your immune system, fortify your vision, and develop brain cells. Omega-3 also includes alpha-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid that your body cannot make on its own.
As previously mentioned, the Mediterranean diet will keep you focused on omega-3 foods as well as cooking with olive oil and eating plenty of avocados. Likewise, replacing steak and beef with fish or shrimp when eating everyday meals will make it easy (and delicious) to focus on omega-3.
Kale is a great source of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), the omega-3 fatty acid that’s essential for brain health. It’s also a great source of plant based protein.
Butter is unlike many of our previous list entries—as it does include some saturated fats previously thought to be bad for the body. However, new research shows that—given sufficient moderation—butter may not be so bad.
The NIH tells us in a new study that there is no concrete link between butter consumption and the development of obesity and diabetes. Likewise, the fats in butter and other dairy fat may be saturated, but have been shown to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease positively.
It is important to note that while butter may not be as bad as we initially feared, we do know that overindulgence in dairy fat will bring about weight gain and other health risks. Therefore, we do not recommend attempting to increase butter intake—but at the same time, don’t condone keeping a healthy amount of butter in your diet to improve flavor and add to a meal’s flavor.
Finally, chocolate is perhaps the most surprising entry on our list—and finds itself more comparable to olive oil than candies and other sweets.
The NIH describes new research undertaken by researchers in South Carolina that found cocoa contains the same types of monounsaturated fats that olive oil contains. Similarly, darker chocolates with more cocoa can help decrease hypertension symptoms in adults.
It is equally as important to note that while research is conclusive here, it is also relatively new. Likewise, going out and eating tons of chocolate in the name of nutrition will likely reap the same result when doing the same with butter and other fats. When choosing a snack or small concession of candy, however, going for chocolate may help more than it’ll hurt.
Keeping up with oils and fats is especially important for warding off cardiovascular disease and obesity. Those with hypertension will similarly find themselves in need of healthy fats to keep their symptoms in check.
Alongside healthy fat dietary options, consider talking to your doctor about prescription medication to decrease blood pressure, and use services like Medly to keep you away from the temptation of pharmacy shelves when picking up medication.
Excess is bad in healthy foods as well as unhealthy foods, so switching to healthier fats and oils is no carte blanche for a runaway diet. Choosing fats wisely and exercising restraint, can result in not only a better tasting meal—but a fitter, happier, and more productive body.
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