When you’re trying to make healthier food choices, there is an abundance of less-than-helpful information to be found, especially when it comes to the different types of fats in foods. Some diets will tell you to cut out the majority of fats from your diet, and others will tell you to eat high amounts of certain fats. Some of the terminology used to describe different types of fats can also be confusing and can make the process of eating healthier much more complicated than it needs to be, so today I want to clarify a few things about fats in foods and give you some tips for how to choose healthier fats.
What is the difference between HDL and LDL cholesterol?
Your body cannot function properly without cholesterol - your liver produces it, and it is found in every cell in your body. What’s important when thinking about health is the type of cholesterol. LDL cholesterol (low density lipoprotein) is considered “unhealthy” cholesterol, and HDL (high density lipoprotein) would be considered “healthy cholesterol”. This is because LDL cholesterol is the main culprit behind artery blockages and an array of heart issues, whereas HDL cholesterol actually combats heart issues by removing excess LDL cholesterol from the arteries.
What is the difference between saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats?
In simple terms, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthiest. Olives, peanuts, avocados, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin/sesame seeds and canola oils are all rich in monounsaturated fats. Walnuts, flax seeds, corn, soybeans, and fish contain high amounts of polyunsaturated fats. Saturated fat is one of the biggest culprits behind high cholesterol - and it’s found in butter, coconut oil, bacon and other fatty cuts of meat, cheese, and the majority of desserts. Being mindful of your saturated fat intake is one of the simplest ways to improve cholesterol, blood pressure, and protect yourself from various other health issues.
What are some dietary edits I can make to increase the amount of healthy fat in my meals?
Use plant-based cooking oils like olive, avocado, vegetable, or soybean oil
Eat lean meats like chicken, fish, seafood, and turkey more often
Steam, bake, poach, or grill food vs. frying/roasting when possible
Measure your cooking oil with a teaspoon to monitor how much you are using
Try to eat fruits or veggies with every meal, or have them as snacks throughout the day
Trim excess fat and skin from meat before cooking
Try dairy alternatives or low-fat dairy products
Get into the habit of reading food labels when shopping to become more aware of how much fat is in each product
For more tips on healthy living, check out our other blog posts, and as always, if you have questions about naturopathic medicine or need advice on a health issue you are facing, don’t hesitate to call or schedule an online appointment! We are here for you.
Balzer, Deb. 2022. Best Cooking Fats for Healthy Cholesterol Levels. Mayo Clinic. https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-minute-best-cooking-fats-for-healthy-cholesterol-levels/
Various authors. 2022. Dietary Fats. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/dietary-fats
Various authors. 2020. How to Eat Less Saturated Fat. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-to-eat-a-balanced-diet/eat-less-saturated-fat/