Saturated fat, found in fatty animal foods like meats and dairy products, raises blood levels of cholesterol and is not healthy, but olive oil is beneficial for cardiovascular health and body weight. Olive oil, like canola, avocado and nut oils, is monounsaturated, and while it has as many calories as meat and dairy fat, it does not raise blood cholesterol or cause fat-clogging deposits in blood vessels. Human bodies do require intake of some fat. Not only does fat provide energy, it aids in nutrient absorption, provides essential fatty acids needed for various structures and molecules throughout the body, and contributes to satisfaction and fullness with food.
Low or Fat free
Food manufacturers have long produced reduced-fat and fat-free versions of many foods that were traditionally high in fat. Now it is simple to purchase items like cheeses, baked goods, crackers, ice creams, and salad dressings, among others, with less fat than the original product contains. Here is the catch: food manufacturers know that their reduced- and fat-free foods must still taste good in order to make sales. This often results in the addition of other ingredients in excess of what would normally be included, such as sugar or salt.
Fat intake is linked to blood cholesterol. Eating unsaturated fats can decrease levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol, and possibly help to increase high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Eating saturated and trans fats will increase LDL cholesterol, high LDL levels are often harmful. Trans fats, which are used in some commercial bakery products and fried foods, are unhealthy and should be avoided.
So, which foods should be eaten in their full-fat forms?
- Yogurt: Plain yogurt or one without a lot of added sugar is best.
- Frozen yogurt and ice cream: Lower fat, frozen desserts are likely higher in sugar, and may not be as satisfying as the full-fat version.
- Granola: Much of the fat in granola comes from healthy oils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Always check the label to be sure, and watch out for large amounts of added sugar.
- Salad dressing: Full-fat salad dressing helps the body absorb several of the vitamins in the salad. Plus, lower fat salad dressings often include more sugar and starches as thickeners. Salad dressings made with olive or canola oil are the most heart-healthy.
- Butter: Butter is a saturated fat, but it may be a healthier choice than many margarines, or coconut oil. Use it in moderation, and wherever possible, substitute olive oil.
- Peanut or other nut butter: Most of the fats in nut butters are unsaturated fats, and have been shown to have health benefits. Check the label to make sure there is no hydrogenated fat added, and no to minimal added sugar.
- Avocados and olives: The fat in both of these foods is largely monounsaturated, and should be included as part of a healthy diet. Caution: both are high in calories, so eat them in moderation.