Understanding Healthy Fats And Which Ones Are Best to Eat

Which Healthy Fats Should I Eat

Understanding Healthy Fats And Which Ones Are Best to Eat

Fats are often a source of controversy with a lot of confusion over whether they should be eaten or avoided. There are so many weight loss groups and also low-fat products in the supermarkets telling us that fat is bad and the main reason for weight gain and bad health but that generalisation just simply isn’t true. However, understanding what we should and shouldn’t be including in our diets isn’t always easy and this is where we’ll look at the facts and truths about fats and debunk some of those common myths that you may have come across or even believe to be true yourself.


Understanding Healthy Fats

Firstly we need to understand the different types of fats that exist, where they come from and what they do to us and our bodies.

Fats are a macronutrient, like protein or carbohydrates, and are essential for our bodies to function properly and for our health. There are certain vitamins that our body simply can’t absorb at all without the presence of fat, and these are vitamins A, D, E and K, they are often called fat soluble vitamins.  Fats are also essential for supporting brain function, the production of hormones and are an integral part of cell membranes.

Fats are often classified and as bad and good and it’s not always that simple but there is a distinct difference between the different types of fat.

Saturated Fats – These are the ones known as the ‘bad’ or unhealthy fats.

Saturated Fats or often found in animal products such as butter, cheese, fatty cuts of meat, as well as foods like cakes, biscuits, chocolate and also items like coconut oil.

There are also types of fats called Trans Fats which are the ones we really want to try and avoid. These fats are artificially produced and are added to foods to make them tastier and get us eating more and you can generally find these in processed and fried foods.

Saturated fats should be cut back as much as possible with these foods being seen as an occasional treat rather than everyday foods while Trans fats should be avoided altogether where possible as they are linked to many health conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol and blood pressure.

Unsaturated Fats – These are the ‘good’ or healthy fats.

When we look at the healthy fats or the unsaturated ones, there are 2 main types:

Monounsaturated fats: These are fats found in foods like avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds and actually are known for their heart protective effects and can actually help reduce levels of harmful cholesterol (LDL) and preserve levels of good cholesterol (HDL).

Polyunsaturated fats: These fats contain omega-3 and onega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are well known for their anti-inflammatory effects as well as supporting brain health and can be found in foods such as walnuts, flaxseeds and oily fish including salmon, mackerel, sardine, and herring.


Benefits of including healthy fats in the diet:

As mentioned above there are many health benefits to including unsaturated (healthy) fats in the diet and the main ones are:

  • Heart Health: Healthy fats help promote good heart health by reducing levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol which then reduces the risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.
  • Brain Function: Brains rely on having healthy fats in the diet and by eating them regularly it can help support brain health and cognition including improved memory and concentration and reducing cognitive decline as we age.
  • Weight management: Not an obvious one as one of the biggest myths with fats is that they all contribute to weight gain but its not true. Having healthy fats in the diet can actually support weight management as they help you feel fuller for longer and stabilise blood sugar levels preventing energy crashes and the need to snack more often which can also lead to bad food choices.
  • Vitamin absorption: Healthy fats are essential for the body to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins play important roles in the body including supporting vision and bone health and maintaining the immune system.
  • Reducing Inflammation: Omega 3 fatty acids found in the healthy unsaturated fats and known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is associated with numerous health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions.

Best Sources of Healthy Fats

  • Oily Fish – Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovy, Sardine, Herring
  • Avocado
  • Olive Oil
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Nut Butters
  • Eggs

You can also get healthy fats found within foods such as coconuts and even dark chocolate (70% or more) but these still need to be eaten in moderation.


So to benefit most from healthy fats in your diet remember to prioritise the unsaturated fats and cut back on saturated fats while trying to avoid trans fats wherever possible.  Healthy fats can still be quite calorie dense, which isn’t really a problem, but just watch the portion sizes, especially when it comes to nuts and oils. Try and get your fats from a variety of sources and not just the same one food all the time and finally look out for hidden fats in foods such as salad dressings and processed snacks so always read your food labels carefully.

If you want help in knowing what to eat to help support a health condition or for weight loss then get in touch with Helen who is a top London Nutritionist and helps many clients every day balance their food to support their best health, including eating healthy fats. If you are struggling to know where to start, then you can get a free 20-minute call to see how nutritional therapy can help you. To arrange a call contact Helen here.

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