Stop treating it like the dirty F-word.
Here’s why you need fat to lose weight, improve your mood, and boost your immune system.
The Skinny on Fat
You’ve shied away from eating it and worked on the treadmill to burn it off.
But fat, it turns out, can be your friend. “Your body needs it in order to function,”.”Fats help you absorb vitamins A, D, and E, and they are vital for your nervous system.”
Not only that, women who ate a Mediterranean diet filled with healthy monounsaturated fat lowered their risk of heart disease by 29 percent, according to a new study in Circulation.
Of your total daily calories, 25 to 30 percent should come from fat.
The keys: Pick good-for-you fats, and limit the bad kinds.
Don’t know a saturated from a poly? Here’s the skinny on which fats to eat and which to avoid.
The Good: Unsaturated Fats Monounsaturated Fats
What they do: These fats, known as MUFAs, raise good HDL cholesterol, lower bad LDL cholesterol, and protect against the buildup of plaque in your arteries. They also help prevent belly fat, according to research.
Where you’ll find them: In olive oil and olives, canola oil, almonds, cashews, peanuts, peanut butter, sesame seeds, and avocados.
How much you need: Most of the fat you eat should be unsaturated, like MUFAs. “Just two to three tablespoons of olive oil a day can raise HDL levels and protect against heart disease,” says Dr. Roberts.
What they do: In addition to lowering your LDL, these fats contain essential omega-3 fatty acids — which boost brain function and may help strengthen your immune system and improve your mood — and omega-6 fatty acids, which in small amounts can keep skin and eyes healthy.
Where you’ll find them: Omega-3s are primarily in fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring, as well as canola oil, flaxseed, walnuts, and tofu. Omega-6s are in corn and safflower oil, corn-fed chicken and beef, and farmed fish.
How much you need: Most of the polys you eat should be omega-3s. Too much omega-6 can lead to inflammation, which is linked to heart disease. Trade vegetable oil for olive and canola oils, and eat grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish.
The Bad: Saturated Fats
What they do: They raise cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease.
Where you’ll find them: In meat and poultry, in dairy products like cream, butter, and whole and 2 percent milk, and in some plant foods like coconut and palm oil.
How much you need: Limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your total daily calories. One easy way to cut back: “Remove any hard fat you can see, such as the skin on chicken,”.
The Ugly: Trans Fats
What they do: Made from unsaturated fat that’s been chemically altered to prolong the shelf life of packaged foods, trans fats raise bad LDL and lower good HDL, increasing inflammation throughout the body. “They 100 percent promote heart disease,”.
Where you’ll find them: In shortening, margarine, doughnuts, french fries, and processed foods such as crackers, cookies, chips, and cakes.
How much you need: Zero. But know this: The FDA allows food manufacturers to claim that a product contains “zero trans fats” if one serving of it has 0.5 grams of trans fats or less. “That means if you eat more than one serving, you could be getting a gram or more,”. Before buying foods, check the ingredient labels for “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” — trans fats’ sneaky pseudonym.
Here are some fatty foods:
Half of an avocado contains nearly 15 grams of fat total. Almost 10 of those are monounsaturated (2 grams are polyunsaturated). Try it in place of mayo on your next sandwich.
Almonds (And Other Nuts)
Just about any nut can make for a healthy fat-filled snack, but almonds happen to be the lowest in calories.
One ounce — about 23 whole almonds — contains just over 14 grams of fat, including nearly 9 grams monounsaturated and about 3.5 polyunsaturated.
Salmon (And Other Fatty Fish)
Salmon may be one of the most well-known fatty fish, but tuna, mackerel and sardines also offer a heart-healthy dose of fats.
If you’re going to stick with the familiar, look for wild-caught salmon.
A three-ounce serving of chinook (often the most expensive option, according to Eating Well), contains nearly 9 grams of fat, including nearly 4 grams monounsaturated and about 2.5 polyunsaturated.
The milder coho salmon and the oilier sockeyeboth contain less, at around 5 total grams of fat, with nearly 2 grams each of mono- and polyunsaturated fat.
Olives (And Olive Oil)
Mixing 10 large olives into your next salad will add about 5 grams of fat, 3.5 of which are monounsaturated and .4 of which are polyunsaturated.
Not an olive fan? The oil is an even more concentrated source of healthy fats — just don’t be too heavy-handed on your pour: A single tablespoon contains over 13 grams of fat, nearly 10 of which are monounsaturated and about 1.5 are polyunsaturated.
Flax (And Other Seeds)
One tablespoon of whole flaxseed — which you can toss into salads, soups, smoothies, yogurt and more — contains just over 4 grams of fat, including nearly 1 gram monounsaturated and almost 3 grams polyunsaturated.
Flax seeds also contain anywhere from 75 to 800 times more lignans, a component of plants that act as antioxidants, than other plant foods, WebMD reported.
A tablespoon of sesame seeds contains about 1.5 grams of monounsaturated fat and 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat. And an ounce of pumpkin seeds pack about 2 grams of monounsaturated fat and 2.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat.
One large, whole egg has almost 5 grams of fat, including roughly 2 grams monounsaturated and about 1 polyunsaturated.