For the past few decades, we’ve heard all about the virtues of a low-fat diet and the dangers of dietary fat and cholesterol. But with the number of overweight and obese people climbing every day and statin drugs for lowering cholesterol the most commonly prescribed medications in the world, researchers have recently reviewed the low fat trend. Emerging research has shown that there is such a thing as healthy fats which can increase your good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol-think H for healthy) and decrease your bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol-think L for lousy).
But with so many so-called healthy oils and butter substitutes on the market, how do decide what’s best to buy? Here are 20 tips for choosing healthy fats in your diet:
- Choose plant-based oils such as olive oil, or peanut oil if you are not allergic to nuts. Plant based oils will not contain cholesterol as compared with animal-based oils such as butter.
- Choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Mono means 1 and poly means more than 1. The body uses these fats easily for a range of important functions and are healthier for you than saturated fats. These will help you feel full and make it less likely that you will eat saturated fats from animal products, such as butter and lard.
- Go Mediterranean. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to be heart healthy due to the proportion of olive oil used as dressing and cooking oil. Olive oil is actually higher in calories than butter but contains no cholesterol.
- Choose natural oils, not ‘lite’ or ‘light’ ones. Some people find the taste of olive oil a bit overwhelming, such as that of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or EVOO. There are different grades of olive oil you can try until you find one that suits your palate. However, avoid oils labeled lite or light, because those words do not usually refer to the color of the oil, but the fact that is has been blended with another type of oil, one potentially less healthy for you.
- Eat olives. These tasty little foods are the origins of olive oil, so you can get all the benefits of the oil plus a tasty snack for only a few calories per portion. Rinse off the salt water they are usually packed in and enjoy!
- Substitute olive oil for butter in a range of recipes. Use it as a spread on bread and for cooking and frying. If you miss buttercream frosting on your cake, try a simple glaze of water and powdered sugar instead, with a dash of olive oil for body and texture.
- Eat avocados. These tasty fruits contain a range of heart-healthy fats 75% monounsaturated and 25% polyunsaturated. They are versatile and can be used in sandwiches, salads, Mexican and Tex-Mex meals, and more.
- Use guacamole instead of mayo in your sandwiches. Make your own guacamole by mashing fresh avocado with some fresh tomatoes and a squirt of lemon or lime juice. Use your guacamole as you would mayonnaise, on turkey sandwiches, with your tuna salad, and more. Be careful of commercially prepared guacamole, as it can often contain unhealthy fats. In fact, some actually contain very little avocado. Be sure to read the label to make sure avocado is listed as the first ingredient.
- Eat nuts in moderation if you are not allergic. Studies show that individuals eating 1 ounce of nuts each day have an easier time losing weight and keeping it off. Nuts are not only rich in healthy fats and certain vitamins and enzymes, their fiber makes you feel fuller and aids in digestion.
- Try walnuts in your oatmeal each morning. Studies have shown that 8 walnuts a day can help lower you cholesterol naturally. A bowl of oatmeal made with quick oats, water and a dash of cinnamon can help lower it even more.