Fats are essential for numerous body functions, including cell membrane repair, body warmth, organ protection and energy; some vitamins, appropriately called fat-soluble vitamins, actually need fat to dissolve and be absorbed by your body. What is important to remember about fats is that some are healthier for you than others – and the types of fats you choose to consume will directly impact your health.
A study that evaluated 4,000 60-year-old men and women with high blood pressure levels of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) that come from fish and plants lowered risk of death. They found the risk of dying from heart disease was significantly less.
PUFAs are most commonly found in plant-based foods, also including oils. Research has shown that a diet rich in both MUFAs and PUFAs can improve cholesterol levels, thus decreasing your risk of heart disease, and may also positively affect insulin levels and blood sugar levels, important considerations for those with type 2 diabetes.
These healthy fats can be found in fish such as salmon, trout, herring as well as avocados, olives, walnuts and olive oil.
For both men and women, two fatty acids found in fish - EPA and DHA - were associated with roughly 20 percent lower odds of death.
Tips to include more fats in your diet:
- Focus your food choices towards MUFAs and PUFAs and away from saturated and trans fats. When grocery shopping, be sure to read the nutrition label carefully and only choose foods where 0 trans fat is listed. Also try to avoid “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.”
- Use liquid plant oils when cooking and baking. Olive and canola oils are much healthier to cook and bake with, respectively, than butter.
- Incorporate at least one serving of omega-3 fats every day. Omega-3’s are found in salmon, tuna, walnuts, canola oil, flaxseed oil and spinach.
- Reduce consumption of red meat and dairy. These foods are high in saturated fat, so actively choose leaner cuts and consume them in moderation. Chicken, fish and nuts are good substitutes and provide healthier sources of fats. Instead of adding cheese to your sandwiches or salads, opt for avocado slices instead.