Interested in which types of fat you should be putting in your body? Well, you came to the right place. Yes, I said you should put fat into your body! For years fat-free or low-fat diets were the answer to our health problems and although we should limit some fats, other fats are healthy for us.

So why do our bodies need fat?

You should put some fat into your body. Keeping total fat intake to 20-35% of daily calories is recommended for adults 19 years and older. Vitamin A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble vitamins, and we need fat in our diet in order to absorb them. Fat also provides the body with some energy and essential fatty acids. Fat is used to build new cell membranes, clot blood, move and build muscles, and ease inflammation. Fat acts as a shock absorber, protecting our vital organs. Fat also provides a lot of flavor and flavor is always important!

Let’s start with the bad

Trans fats and saturated fats are the bad fats we want to avoid or limit in the diet.

greasy burger yumm yummSmall amounts of trans fat can be naturally occurring in some meats and dairy, but these fats are mostly found in processed foods. In the body, trans fat INCREASES bad cholesterol (LDL) and decreases good cholesterol (HDL). Consuming trans fat increases one’s risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Trans fats are usually created when oils go through a process called partial hydrogenation to make them more solid. This is done by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. These fats are then added to processed foods to give them a longer shelf life and to have a solid form that is important in baked goods. These foods can include cakes, cookies, pies, crackers, chips, microwave popcorn, pizza, fried foods, creamer, margarine, etc. It’s always important to check the ingredients list for trans fats labeled as “partially hydrogenated oils,” because with very trace amounts (0.5 gram/serving), trans fats will not be listed on the nutrition facts panel. It’s best to avoid trans fats all together. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health shows for every 2% of calories from trans fat consumed daily, the risk of heart disease rises by 23%.

Saturated fats are found mostly in animal sources such as red meat and dairy. Although this type of fat is found naturally in our food, we need to limit how much we consume. Saturated fat increases bad cholesterol while decreasing good cholesterol. It also increases total blood cholesterol and aids in atherosclerosis, a term to describe cholesterol build up in the arteries. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke. The American Heart Association recommends aiming for 5% to 6% of daily calories from saturated fat, but recommendations up to 10% of calories are also common.

Now for the Good

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are the “good fats” that we want to emphasize or add in our diet. These fats are good for your overall health by protecting your heart, and lowering your cholesterol levels.

Sources of omega3Monounsaturated fats are the only fats that actually decrease bad cholesterol (LDL) without decreasing good cholesterol (HDL). Monounsaturated fats are found in foods such as olive, peanut, safflower and canola oils, nuts, avocados, and peanut butter, among others.

Polyunsaturated fats are essential fatty acids. This means your body can’t make these. Polyunsaturated fats are needed in the diet to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. Polyunsaturated fats decrease bad cholesterol (LDL) but can also decrease good cholesterol (HDL). This does not mean you should avoid polyunsaturated fats.   Two important types of polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids provide a wide range of health benefits. In the body they promote normal brain function, reduce cholesterol levels including triglycerides, lower the risk of coronary heart disease, decrease blood pressure levels, help treat depression, and ease inflammation. Low consumption of omega-3s can be associated with a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The best way to get omega-3 fatty acids is by consuming fatty fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and herring. It is recommended to consume these types of fish twice a week to get adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. Although omega-3s are found in plant sources, the body can’t convert or use it as well as when it is in fish. Foods high in omega-6 fatty acids include poultry, whole grains, nuts, cereals, and vegetable oil. With the common American diet, omega-6 fatty acids are consumed on a more regular basis than omega-3s. Getting adequate amounts of omega-6 fatty acids is usually not an issue.

Fish Oil Supplements

The body can convert and use omega-3s from fish better than it can from any other form. That being said, it’s better to get your omega-3s from fish, rather than a fish oil supplement. But, this is not always an option. In that case, a fish oil supplement might be recommended by your physician. A supplement might also be recommended in addition to the consumption of fish for various reasons including high triglycerides or high blood pressure. It’s important to know that the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements as it does medications. There can be major concerns regarding quality control and actual content of a supplement. Make sure you educate yourself on the brand of supplements you choose to purchase, and ask your pharmacist for a recommendation if needed.

Focusing on Healthy Fats

If you would like to cut out bad fats and focus on the good fats, the Mediterranean eating plan might be what you are looking for. This diet focuses on unprocessed foods with olive oil (monounsaturated fat) being the oil of choice. Animal foods such as fish, dairy, and lean meats are included in small amounts.

Salmon with Warm Tomato-Olive Salad

Recipe via FoodNetwork


  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 6-ounce salmon fillets (about 1/4 inch thick)
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 medium tomatoes cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 cup sliced celery (inner stalks with leaves)
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh mint


Preheat the broiler. Line the broiler pan with foil and lightly brush with olive oil. Whisk 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon vinegar, the honey, red pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Put the salmon, skin-side down, on the prepared pan and brush the tops and sides with the honey glaze. Broil until golden brown and just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt, then mash into a paste with the flat side of a large knife. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon vinegar, the olives and garlic paste in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until bubbling, about 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the tomatoes, celery and mint. Season with salt and toss to combine. Serve with the salmon.
Salmon Tomato Olive Salad



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