Which Fats Are Good for You?

Learn which fats and oils are good for your health.

For years, there has been an incredible amount of hype over fat. Fat clogs your arteries, fat increases your cholesterol, fat causes weight gain—fat is the root of all evil. However, some kinds of fat are not just okay to eat—but are actually good for you. To date, the best types of fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, and omega-3s. Monounsaturated fat can be found in olive oils, avocado, and most nuts. The omega-3 fats can be found in flaxseed, canola oil, walnuts, and fatty fish.

Nutri-Speak

The omega-3 fats (also known as linolenic fatty acids) are polyunsaturated— meaning their structural makeup is lacking several hydrogen atoms. Eating foods rich in omega-3 fats has been shown to have beneficial effects, such as lowering triglycerides and cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, helping alleviate arthritic pain, aiding with digestive problems, and possibly reducing the risk of certain cancers (and recurrence of them).

The Fatty Fish

Seafood lovers, rejoice! Epidemiological studies have shown a lower rate of cancer in people who eat a lot of fish. The best advice is to have a few servings of tuna, sardines, bluefish, striped bass, herring, trout, and wild salmon—the fish dishes with a rich concentration of omega-3 fats. In fact, eat them at least three times each week (even more if you can). Just make sure to avoid fish that are too high in mercury, such as swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and shark.

Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseed, the light brown seed from the flax plant, has received a lot of attention for its potential to protect against breast and other hormone-related cancers (in addition to lowering cholesterol and relieving constipation). Rich in omega-3s, antioxidants, lignans-phytoestrogens, and soluble and insoluble fiber, this impressive seed has been growing in popularity.

You can buy whole flaxseeds in most health food stores and then just grind them in a coffee grinder as needed. Mix them into your cereals, salads, yogurts, cookies, muffins, pancakes, omelets, and even casseroles. Flaxseed oil is effortless, quick, and ready to pour on salad, but you'll miss out on the lignans and fiber found in the whole flaxseed. Just be sure to refrigerate ground flaxseeds and flaxseed oil because they can go rancid quickly.

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