Reviewed by Sarah Klemm, RD, CD
Fat is an essential nutrient for your health. While various fats in foods effect health differently, many sources of fat offer health-protective benefits. Consider including foods with these fats, in moderation, to your meals.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that may help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
What to Eat
Fatty Fish: Current dietary guidelines recommend including seafood twice per week. Fish high in omega-3 fats include salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel and lake trout.
Walnuts: Walnuts are an excellent plant-based source of omega-3. Add walnuts to cereal, salads or muffins. Try walnut oil in salad dressings or drizzled over cooked pasta.
Oils: Replace solid fats such as butter or margarine with oils such as canola and soybean when cooking or baking. They also work well for sautéing and stir-frying.
Flaxseed: Add ground flaxseed to breakfast cereal, yogurt, baked goods including breads and muffins or mixed dishes and casseroles. Or, drizzle flaxseed oil over cooked grains or use it for salad dressing. (Your body cannot break down whole flaxseeds, so it must be ground first in order to access the omega-3 fatty acids.)
Eggs: Some chickens are given feed that is high in omega-3s so their eggs will contain more as well. When buying eggs, check the package label.
Monounsaturated fats may improve blood cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of heart disease.
What to Eat
Nuts: In addition to heart-healthy fats, nuts are a good source of protein, dietary fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Just keep portion control in mind. One portion of nuts is equal to 1 ounce or 2 ounce-equivalents in the MyPlate protein foods group and provides approximately 160 to 180 calories.
Oils: Use oils such as olive and avocado oil in place of saturated fat, such as butter. Use it in salad dressing or to sauté vegetables, seafood, poultry and meat.
Avocado: Avocados not only contain monounsaturated fat, but they are also packed with folate, vitamins E, C and B6, potassium and dietary fiber. Try adding avocado to salad, pizza, soup, salsa, eggs and sandwiches.
Peanut Butter: Nearly half the fat in peanut butter is monounsaturated fat. Resist the urge to pour off the heart-healthy oil that’s separated out of natural peanut butter, and mix it in.
A nutritious eating plan doesn’t mean cutting out all fat, just focusing on healthier varieties. Start out with small swaps if you’re having trouble getting started.
“Choose Healthy Fats.” Edited by Sarah Klemm, Eat Right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics., 6 Feb. 2019, www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/choose-healthy-fats.