I don’t know how many times to say it: not low-fat, but healthy fat. Long gone is the low-fat diet recommendation. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 30% of total calories from fat, while acceptable fat consumption up to 35% of total calories is fine too. What this means in the form of calories and grams of total fat is someone who can consume a 2,000 calorie diet can consume 600 – 700 calories or 67 – 78 grams of total fat.
Since the recommendation for saturated fat is less than 10% of total calories and the trans-fat recommendation is “as low as possible”, none is better, what type of fat should you consume? Unsaturated fats, specifically mono- and poly-unsaturated fat, should make up that other 20 – 25%.
Monounsaturated fat is found primarily in plants, but also in animal foods. It is liquid at room temperature but will become more solid in the refrigerator.
Monounsaturated fat helps lower LDL-cholesterol and raise HDL-cholesterol, both of which are positive. Safflower oil is 77% monounsaturated fat (8% saturated); olive oil is 75% monounsaturated fat (15% saturated); and Canola oil is 61% monounsaturated fat (7% saturated). While Safflower and olive oil are higher in monounsaturated fat, Canola oils is the healthier oil because it is has less saturated fat. I often recommend both/either Canola oil or olive oil depending on what you are cooking.
Monounsaturated fat is also found in nuts, seeds, and avocados. Even though these foods are high in fat, they are mostly monounsaturated fat, so good sources of fat. They are also good sources of calories, so be aware of how much you are consuming.
Polyunsaturated fat helps lower LDL-cholesterol, but does not affect on HDL-cholesterol. These are also found in both plant and animal foods such as nuts and seeds and cold water fish.
Omega-3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat, and are primarily found in cold water fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines. Omega-3 fats are also found abundantly in flax seeds and flax-seed oil, chia seeds and walnuts.
Omega-3 fats benefit our cholesterol, but also help with healthy brain function, reduce inflammation in the body which can also help with arthritis, may help reduce cancer, and help with many other conditions.
Overall recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 has no specific recommendation for unsaturated fats, but does recommend: “Replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories and/or are sources of oils.”