Healthy fats: the good, the bad, and the best

Ahh, healthy fats. There was once a time where the word ‘fat’ sent dieters running for the hills. Today, nutritional scientists and dieticians tout the good fat as a critical staple in a well-balanced diet.

But with the old moniker ‘fat makes you fat’ long retired and the ketogenic diet seriously trending, are healthy fats really all they’re cracked up to be? What’s the deal with good fat and bad fat anyway? And is it possible to eat too many avocados? (asking for a friend…)

We take a look at the common misconceptions and set the record straight.

What exactly are fats?

Let’s break it down.

Saturated fats — the not-so-harmful cousin in the fat family, saturated fats can be found in foods like red meat, butter, cheese, and ice cream. These guys should be consumed in moderation, and ideally replaced with good fats where possible.

Bad fats — these are your trans fats. Basically, the stuff that makes food taste good and last a long time. Found in things like cakes, icings, margarine, and microwave popcorn, trans fats increase your risk of disease, even when consumed in small quantities.

Good fats — these are your monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These guys pose a lower disease risk and can be found in foods high in good fats, like vegetable oils (canola, olive, sunflower, soy, and corn), nuts, seeds, fish, and of course, avocados.

healthy fats avocado and salmon
Smoked Salmon Sweet Potato Crostini

How much healthy fats should I eat?

First things first. The Cleveland Clinic recommends no more than 20% to 25% of our total calories should come from a source of fat. That’s roughly 44 to 77 grams.

Let’s take a look at what a day of healthy fats might look like:

  • Canned tuna with one tablespoon of mayonnaise (11g)
  • One sliced avocado (29g)
  • One cup non-fat milk (1g)
  • One cup cottage cheese (10g)

It’s still important to be mindful of what else you’re putting into your body throughout the day. Are you making the most of the benefits of healthy fats? We’ll get into those in a sec.

What are the best sources of healthy fats?

Healthy fats can be found in a great deal of plant- and animal-based foods. Of all the foods high in healthy fats, here are a few of our favs.

Avocados. We might be biased here, but avocados aren’t like other fruits—capiche? Avocados are rich in one main fatty acid: oleic acid, a naturally occurring monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid.

Eggs. Who doesn’t love eggs? Not only are they a dietary mainstay, but they’re a nutritional powerhouse to boot. Eggs are high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, with one egg boasting roughly 2g of monounsaturated fats and 1.6g of saturated fat.

Olive oil. Loaded with powerful, biologically active antioxidants, one tablespoon of olive oil contains an impressive 9.9g of monounsaturated fatty acids, 1.4g of polyunsaturated fat and 1.9g of saturated fat.

healthy fats avocados

What are the benefits of healthy fats?

It’s all about that fatty acid-powered mind boost, baby! The science behind fatty acids and their influence on brain development. According to studies, good fats are essential to give you body energy and support new cell growth. They literally help the brain to grow new cells!

And it doesn’t stop there. Good fatty acids can actually help our bodies absorb key nutrients. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble, so for our bodies to really reap the benefits of these vitamins, we need to have a good source of healthy fats in our diets. Healthy fats help to carry these vitamins throughout the body, giving us the most bang for our caloric buck.

Related: Avocado benefits: 6 reasons to love the guac



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