Healthy are an essential part of a balanced diet. They provide a range of health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, promoting satiety, and aiding in weight management. Good fats, also known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, should be incorporated into a person’s diet. These fats can be found in oils such as olive, canola, peanut, sesame, and fish oil, along with avocados, nuts, and fatty fish like salmon and tuna. These fats can lower LDL cholesterol levels, increase HDL cholesterol levels, and prevent atherosclerosis, among other things.
Artificial trans fats, the worst type of fat, should be avoided as these raise bad LDL cholesterol and lower good HDL cholesterol, increase inflammation, and contribute to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing Diabetes. The FDA has effectively outlawed their use in commercially-prepared foods in the US and the WHO has called for them to be eliminated globally by 2023. Saturated fats should be consumed in moderation and limited to 10% of daily calories. These can be found in whole-fat dairy products and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil.
While fats were once believed to be unhealthy and contribute to weight gain and heart disease, recent studies have shown that not all fats are created equal, and good fats should be included in a healthy diet. People should aim to replace bad fats with good fats in their diet to receive the maximum benefits. Careful reading of labels can help avoid consuming hidden artificial trans fats.
Common sources of healthy fats
|Food||Healthy Fat Content|
(per 3.5 oz)
Let’s take a closer look at the most abundant and affordable sources of healthy fats for us:
- Fatty Fish: Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, and sardines, are packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, high quality proteins, and various vitamins and minerals. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish per week to maintain good health.
- Avocado: Avocados are fruits loaded with healthy fats, with roughly 80% of their calories coming from fat. They are high in potassium, antioxidants, and fiber, making them great for supporting heart health, digestion, and weight management. One study even found that eating one avocado daily for five weeks had positive effects on participants’ cholesterol profiles.
- Nuts: Nuts like almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, and cashews are rich in healthy unsaturated fats, protein, and fiber, and are great for regulating hunger, boosting brain function and heart health. Studies have found that regular nut consumption may lower the risk of obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
- Olive Oil: Olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet and is rich in monounsaturated fats, which are great for heart health. Olive oil is also loaded with antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that replacing butter, margarine, mayonnaise, and dairy fat with olive oil is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and overall cardiovascular disease.
- Dark Chocolate: High-quality dark chocolate, with a cocoa content of over 70%, is rich in healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants. It contains a fatty acid called oleic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties and is great for maintaining heart health. Additionally, dark chocolate has been shown to improve cognitive function and support physical performance.
- Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are a versatile and nutrient-dense food, rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, and minerals. They are great for regulating blood sugar levels, suppressing appetite, and supporting heart health. Some studies have even found that chia seeds may reduce inflammation and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Flax Seeds: Flax seeds are a good plant-based source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and lignans, which have antioxidant effects and may reduce the risk of heart disease. They are also a great source of selenium, magnesium, and potassium.
- Tofu: Tofu is a complete plant protein that is a good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It is also high in calcium and provides around 11 grams of protein per serving. Eating tofu is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and also provides nutritional support for maintaining healthy bones.
- Natural Yogurt: Full-fat, natural yogurt contains good probiotic bacteria that support gut function and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. While there is some debate about the benefits of full-fat yogurt versus low-fat options, studies show that full-fat dairy products can play an important role in a healthy diet.
Consuming healthy fats is essential for maintaining a balanced diet. But how much is enough? Here’s a helpful guide on how much healthy fat you should consume with food each day, based on your age and sex.
Men between the ages of 18 and 64 should consume between 21 and 28 grams of healthy fat each day. This equates to 2 to 3 ounces. Increasing your fat intake to 34 grams (3.5 ounces) per day is acceptable for men who are physically active or have higher calorie requirements.
Women between the ages of 18 and 64 should consume between 16 and 23 grams of healthy fat each day. This amounts to 1.5 to 2.5 ounces. Women who are physically active or have higher calorie requirements may consume up to 28 grams (3 ounces) of healthy fat per day.
Children between the ages of 4 and 18 should consume a daily amount of healthy fat that depends on their age and sex. Boys aged between 4 and 8 require between 25 and 41 grams (2.5 to 4 ounces), while girls of the same age require between 24 and 38 grams (2 to 3.5 ounces). Boys aged between 9 and 13 require between 30 and 47 grams (3 to 4.5 ounces), while girls of the same age require between 28 and 44 grams (2.5 to 4 ounces).
For elderly people:
As we age, our dietary requirements change. Older people require fewer calories, but the same amount of nutrients, including healthy fats. For elderly men and women, the recommended amount of healthy fat each day is between 20 and 27 grams (2 to 2.5 ounces).
It is crucial to remember that the type of fat you consume is just as important as the quantity. Healthy fats are found in foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and olive oil. These fats help to regulate blood cholesterol levels, maintain healthy hormones, and promote good brain function.
What happens if you don’t consume healthy fats for a long time?
Not consuming healthy fats for a long period of time can have harmful effects on overall health.
Healthy fats, such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, are important for reducing bad cholesterol in the bloodstream and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. A deficiency in healthy fats can increase the risk of diabetes and heart attack, as the body requires lipids to function properly.
Without enough healthy fats, the body is unable to provide essential nutrients for organ maintenance and natural sugars to regulate blood sugar levels. This can lead to an increased risk of developing Type-2 Diabetes and feelings of sluggishness or fatigue due to a lack of energy from fat calories.
Consuming an insufficient amount of healthy fats also affects hunger levels and can increase the likelihood of snacking on unhealthy foods. In addition, a lack of healthy fats can lead to joint pain and inflammation, making the body more susceptible to illness. The brain and skin also require healthy fats to function properly.
Deficiencies in specific fat-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin E and Vitamin K, can lead to a weakened immune system, muscle and nerve damage, and bone density issues.