When we see high-fat foods, we get scared and walk away. We would rather eat a bowl of dry lettuce. We think they’ll ultimately lead us to obesity, heart disease, and other severe health problems. Well, as it turns out, not all fats are bad (cough, trans fats and saturated fats, cough). Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are the good guys—and essential nutrients that are known for protecting our hearts and supporting our overall health. So just like we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we shouldn’t judge a fat simply because it’s a fat. Right?
Imagine you’re sitting at a table in an Italian restaurant with the spread of olive oil and bread before you. Not that we’ve ever found a reason to withhold, but we may have been unaware of the beneficial fatty acids we consume that actually do wonders for our bodies. It’s the monounsaturated fats found in olive oil. Beyond reducing belly fat and decreasing pain for sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis, studies have suggested that residents of the Mediterranean region experience lower cholesterol levels and lower risks of heart disease or stroke due to their style of eating, or the “Mediterranean diet,” that involves lots of olive oil. Other foods that contain monounsaturated fats are avocados, peanut oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, and sesame oil, and a variety of nuts, including almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, and pistachios.
You know the omega-3 fatty acids that we’re so familiar with? Well, they’re a part of polyunsaturated fats, the second healthy kind of fat. They’re essential for brain function as well as cell growth and development, and since our bodies can’t create them on our own, we have to consume them through food—food that we probably already eat on a daily basis. For instance, fatty fish are high in omega-3s, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and trout. Other sources of these essential fatty acids are corn and soybean oils, sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds, walnuts, algae, krill, and flaxseed. If you’d like to step your polyunsaturated fat game up, try eating walnuts for a snack, replacing more red meat with fish, adding sunflower seeds to your salads, or sprinkling flaxseed on your meals.
See! Fat is good. And like Health magazine says, “Eating fat can be heart-healthy if you pick the right kind.” If you’ve experienced the benefits of adding more monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats to your diet, we’d love to hear about it in the comment section below! Here’s to living a holistic lifestyle!