Why do I need to include fat in my diet?
Fats are one of the three macronutrients in addition to carbohydrates and protein and eating foods with fat is part of a nutritious diet. Dietary fats are essential for:
- Brain functioning and mood.
- Absorption of fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K. Without fat, the body can’t properly absorb these vitamins.
- Energy. Fat is an excellent energy source.
- Hormone and gene regulation. Fats regulate the production of reproductive and steroid hormones, as well as genes involved in growth and metabolism.
- Organ protection and cell growth.
- Flavor and fullness. Adding fat to foods makes them tastier and more filling.
What are healthy fats?
There are four types of fats — monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated and trans — and they have different chemical structures and physical properties. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered beneficial or healthy because they can improve blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk for heart disease.
Fortunately, many delicious foods can provide the fat you need. While most foods contain a mixture of different fats, some are especially high in certain types. Below are examples of foods rich in different types of healthy fats.
Monounsaturated fats are found in high concentrations in:
- Olive, peanut and canola oils
- Nuts such as almonds and pecans
- Seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds
Polyunsaturated fats are found in high concentrations in:
- Sunflower, corn, soybean and flaxseed oils
- Flax seeds
Omega-3 fats are an important type of polyunsaturated fat. The body can’t make these, so we must add them to our diet through the food we eat. You can add more omega-3 fats to your diet by eating fattier fish like salmon, trout and sardines, flax seeds, chia seeds, canola oil, soybean oil, and walnuts.
How much fat should I eat?
According to the dietary reference intake (DRI) for fat, 20% to 35% of total calories an adult consumes should come from fat. That is about 44 grams to 77 grams of fat per day if you eat 2,000 calories a day. Keep in mind that everyone is different and needs vary, but this is a general estimate. Most importantly, try to get a balance of different types of healthy fats every day.
How can I add more healthy fats to my diet?
If you’d like to add more healthy fats to your diet, try:
- Choosing toppings for your your salad like oil & vinegar dressing, nuts, seeds, olives, or avocado. It’s beneficial to have healthy fats in salads, because it helps your body absorb the vitamins and minerals from the vegetables.
- Trying hummus, guacamole, or yogurt dips for your crackers, chips or vegetables. Hummus and guacamole is also delicious as a spread on sandwiches.
- Snacking on nuts and seeds mixed with dried fruit for a satisfying snack.
- Eating fish at least twice a week.
- Drizzling peanut or almond butter on a baked sweet potato with sliced bananas.
- Adding seeds to yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, etc.