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While low-carb diets are all the rage for slimming down for the summer (or any) season, a common mistake people make is failing to have enough healthy fats in their diet. Fat definitely gets a bad rap in the diet and nutrition world, but did you know that healthy fats convert to essential fatty acids that your body can’t live without? Here are 10 facts about healthy fats and how you can add them to your diet.
1. Not all fats are bad
First and foremost, many of us need to rewire our thoughts to understand that not all fats are unhealthy. On the contrary, unsaturated fats are actually healthy as they promote heart health and lower cholesterol in our blood. Healthy fats may even help lower our chances of heart disease.
2. Seafood offers Omega 3 fatty acids
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Arguably the best of the good-for-you fats, seafood such as wild salmon is rich in omega 3 fatty acids called DHA and EPA. These unsaturated fats are essential to eyesight, heart health and the reduction of inflammation in the body. Grill up a wild salmon steak and pair it with a fresh spinach, arugula and dill salad to get the fatty acids your body needs. Not into fish? Mix some ground flax seed into your smoothie or mix up your fav stir-fry recipe by adding tofu.
3. Fat promotes healthy skin and brain development
Not only are these fats essential for a healthy and supple skin, they are also essential for our brains: "Fat is also necessary for maintaining healthy skin, and it plays a central role in promoting proper eyesight and brain development in babies and children," says Wahida Karmally DrPH, RD, professor of nutrition at Columbia University.
4. Grass-fed meats are better
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When shopping for tonight’s dinner, pick up grass-fed meats for the healthiest fats. Often, conventional beef cattle eat a grain diet, compared to grass-fed cattle who have only eaten grass and foraged foods throughout their lives. The difference in their diets changes the nutrients and fats that you get from the beef. Grass-fed beef generally contains less total (unsaturated) fat, more omega-3 fatty acids (good for the heart) and vitamin E.
5. Eat some chocolate!
You’ll be pleased to hear that dark chocolate also contains healthy fats! Containing plant-based fats, dark chocolate is full of monounsaturated fats like oleic acid, which aids in brain and immune system functions. Look for the highest cocoa content (70-90%) for the most antioxidants and healthy fats. Treat yo'self!
6. Cook with coconut and olive oil
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You can also add healthy fats into your diet as you cook up a storm in the kitchen. Use coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) while stir-frying your favorite dish. For high-heat cooking, switch to grapeseed oil.
Tip: For an evening snack with a boost of fatty acids, pop some popcorn over the stove and instead of using butter, drizzle coconut oil and a crack of salt on top. Delicious—and feels like you are using butter!
7. Eggs, nuts, and avocados galore
Introduce eggs, nuts and avocados into your regular diet for some amped-up sources of healthy fats. For breakfast, consider poached eggs on toast with sliced avocado for a dose of protein and fatty acids to start the day strong.
8. You can find healthy fats in the tiniest places!
Although they are not generally perceived as a “fatty” food, 1 ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds contains 9 grams of fat. This fat consists of the heart-healthy essential omega-3 fatty acid, ALA. ALA is “essential” because it's needed for human development and growth. We knew chia seeds (more famously known for growing hair on little pets) were delicious in smoothies, but who knew they could aid in warding off cancer and high blood pressure!
So there you have it. Not all fats are bad—in fact, some fats are essential to being strong and fit, but more importantly, healthy. Now's the time to nosh on some nuts, prep a quick salmon steak and ensure you're getting your daily dose of healthy fats.