Though fat has been cast as a dietary villain, only some fats are actually bad for us. In fact, we need fat for energy, healthy skin and hair, and to absorb and store nutrients like vitamins A, D, E and K.
The trick is to limit or avoid bad fats—like trans fats in processed foods and saturated fats in red meat and dairy products—by replacing them with healthier, unsaturated fats. Monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, omega-3 and omega-6 fats that come from plants and fatty ?sh like salmon can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and prevent heart disease. But don't overindulge. The American Heart Association says to limit good fats to 18–28 percent of daily calories—about 3–5 tablespoons of oil or 2–4 ounces of nuts.
Here are 5 good-for-you sources of dietary fat
- Avocados and avocado oil: Avocados are high in unsaturated fat, low in saturated fat and loaded with ?ber, potassium, folate and vitamins C, K and B6. Half a Hass avocado contains about 160 calories. In addition to using it for guacamole or topping salads, try mashed avocado on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise. Avocado oil also is good for cooking, even at high heat.
- Sesame and rice oils: A recent study in India indicates that cooking with as a 4:1 blend of rice bran oil and unre?ned sesame oil signi?cantly helps lower blood pressure. Both oils are rich in antioxidants and polyunsaturated fats, and they add interesting ?avors to food.
- Olive oil: Good for stir-frying, bread dipping or dressing salads, olive oil contains substances called polyphenols that can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce in?ammation and ?ght cell damage. Extra-virgin oil has the most polyphenols and the strongest olive ?avor. Note that "light" on the label refers to color, not calorie content.
- Nuts and nut oil: Packed with protein, vitamins and minerals, nut and nut oils make excellent sources of omega-3 fats, which we generally don't get enough. Nuts also have lots of calories-for instance, one ounce of cashews (18 pieces) has about 160 calories-so watch your portions. Choose raw or unsalted, dry-roasted nuts for snacks or to sprinkle on yogurt, salads or Asian dish.
- Safflower or sunflower oil: Oils made from plant seeds such as safflower or sunflowers have both omega-3 and omega-6 fats that can help reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Mild-flavored safflower and sunflower oils work well for sautéing and stir-frying at medium to medium-high heat.