People often assume eating fat makes them fat. In reality, it's an excess of calories consumed—from fat or not—that results in weight gain.
Avoiding foods that contain any type of fat is depriving your body of essential nutrients that provide very rich benefits. In recent years, certain fats have been increasingly promoted for the health benefits they provide. However, not all fats are equal.
Under the umbrella of fats are "healthy" and "unhealthy" fats. As a rule of thumb, unhealthy fats are usually solid at room temperature and derived from animals, such as butter and cheese.
Healthy fats are typically liquid at room temperature and derived from plant sources. Good fats include plant oils such as olive oil and soybean oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and more. Contrary to popular belief, consuming these healthy fats in moderate portions can actually benefit you.
1. Lowered Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Unsaturated fats are an example of heart-healthy fats—more specifically, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats can be found in many types of nuts including almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts.
Not only are nuts a good source of protein, but they also contain polyphenols, a class of phytochemicals that are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Avocados and olives are also great sources of monounsaturated fats.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in walnuts, flaxseed, and salmon, are polyunsaturated fats and have also been shown to play a role in heart health.
2. Improved Cholesterol Levels
While one may associate fat with high cholesterol, many healthy fats are actually proven to reduce levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol (Low Density Lipoprotein) and raise levels of the "good" HDL cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein).
For example, monounsaturated oils such as olive and peanut oils as well as polyunsaturated oils including corn oil and soybean oil help to reduce levels of the harmful LDL cholesterol. Monounsaturated oils may also benefit insulin levels and improve blood sugar control.