Welcome to the third installment of the macronutrient trilogy – we’re talking ALL about healthy fats!
It wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t talk about dietary fats so let’s get on it.
What are Healthy Fats?
There are three main types of fat in the foods you eat: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
Typically when you hear “healthy fats”, this is referring to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats although research has shown that saturated fats in moderation can have health benefits as well.
- Coconut oil
- Egg yolks
- Red meat
- Other full-fat dairy products
Monounsaturated Fats (MUFAs):
- Olives (olive oil)
- Avocados (avocado oil)
- Cashews (cashew butter)
- Almonds (almond butter)
- Peanuts (peanut butter)
- Macadamia nuts
Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAs):
- Egg yolks
- Peanuts (peanut butter)
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
Polyunsaturated fats can be further broken down into omega-3 fats and omega-6 fats. Omega-3 fats are found in foods like fatty fish, chia/flax seeds and walnuts. Omega-6 fats include soybeans and oil, corn oil, mayo, sunflower seeds, almonds, and cashews.
The one thing basically EVERYONE and their mother agrees on is that trans-fats are a no-go and should be avoided. Transfats are found in fast food, “junk” foods like crackers and chips, baked goods (and frozen baked goods doughs), frozen pizzas, store-bought frosting, some microwave popcorn brands, vegetable shortening and more.
Healthy fats play many important roles in your body like…
- Aiding in the transport and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K!)
- Assisting in nerve and brain function
- Hormone production and balance
- Keeping you feeling full by slowing the digestion of the other foods you eat it with.
- The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA (polyunsaturated fats) support cardiovascular health, joint health, and digestion.
And more. Plus, it tastes delicious and food should taste delicious, right?
How Many Healthy Fats Do You Need?
The exact amount of fat your body needs differs from person to person and as long as you’re getting enough protein a LOT of it can be due to personal preference. That being said here are a few general things to keep in mind:
- Because dietary fat plays such an important role in hormone creation and functioning, typically women noticed negative impacts of too little fat more acutely than men. Why? It’s all about babies;)
- People engaging in higher intensity exercise typically notice that performance and recovery are stronger when a solid chunk of their calories comes from carbohydrates in relation to fats.
- Most people find that a fat intake of around 25-30% of total calories is best but there are times and places when a bit less or MUCH more can help someone achieve their more specific goals.
*Quick note: I know it isn’t shiny or sexy but I’m all about a generally “balanced” intake of macronutrients based on personal preferences and goals. So, in the interest of keepin’ it simpler, I’m not going to dive into very high-fat/ketogenic diets. For more info on ketogenic diets, you can explore one of my favorite resources HERE. Make sure to chat with a doctor before making any dramatic shifts to your diet!
Where Can You Find ‘Em?
I shared some specific places you can find saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats above. But, if you need a bit more inspo, check out this infographic below. You can download it HERE!
Healthy Fat Hacks
The “Standard American Diet” is inherently full of saturated, trans and omega-6 fats and lower in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats like omega-3s.
So, most people can increase their health by focusing on getting MORE MUFA’s and omega-3 PUFA’s.
Try a few simple food swaps or additions like…
- Swap a beef burger for a salmon burger. Costco Salmon Burgers are my favorite way to do this easily (and deliciously).
- Swap out regular mayo for olive oil or avocado-based mayo.
- Swap your favorite take-out or frozen meals for home-made alternatives. Ex: skip the McDonalds and make your own fries in the oven or air fryer with olive or avocado oil.
Dietary fats get a bad rap they don’t deserve.
And, like MUCH in nutrition – and let’s be honest, life! – the key is moderation and variety.
Too much of ANYTHING (including veggies…WHAT?) can cause some kind of health issue. Read: too much fiber from veggies can cause a whole lotta digestive discomfort.
When it comes to healthy fats get in the habit of…
- Reading food ingredient labels so you’re aware of what is in your choices.
- Thinking about your day as a whole. If you ate a very high-fat breakfast, keep fat a bit lower through the rest of your day. If you want to eat a very high-fat dinner, keep breakfast a little bit lower in fat.
- Do you track your food with an app like MyFitnessPal? You can use it to learn where the fat in your diet is coming from. If you think you need a bit more, use the list above to add more healthy fats throughout your day. If you think you may be eating too much fat, try cutting back on serving sizes of your highest fat foods. (You can learn more about macro counting in the Q&A section of THIS POST!)