How to Get More Good Fats From Your Diet
Avoiding fat to lose or maintain your weight? You’re doing it wrong. With cautions about the fat content in your diet, it’s easy to think the war against fat is raging. However, not all fats are created equal.
Although there are some fats we want to avoid, others are essential to a well-balanced diet and help us to absorb important fat-soluble vitamins to contribute to our overall well-being.
Bad Fats to Avoid
Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada.  According to the Government of Canada’s 2017 report, about 2.4 million Canadian adults — that’s one in 12 — over the age of 20 live with diagnosed heart disease from 2012-2013.  This is important to consider when remembering that one of the risk factors for heart disease is eating foods containing trans fat. 
Trans fats are typically found in baked goods, margarine and even microwave popcorn. In 2018, the Government of Canada took a major step to issue a ban on artificial trans fats in food sold in Canada to help improve the health of Canadians.  However, some products produced before the ban may still be sold and it is important to read the labels when you’re purchasing food products. Consumption of saturated fats, found in many red meats, butter, cheese and other dairy foods, should also be avoided or at the very least limited as much as possible.
Adding More Good Fats in Your Diet
Monounsaturated fats, on the other hand, are considered beneficial, helping to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke while also helping to manage your weight.  Found in foods like olive oil, avocados and nuts like almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans and hazelnuts, adding more of these foods to your diet will provide many health benefits.
Polyunsaturated fats, found in foods like walnuts, flax seeds and fish, are the other good fats you want to consider incorporating into your diet.  Like monounsaturated fats, these fats also help with weight management by controlling blood sugar, while also helping to reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood, which can help to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.  Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fats, which are essential fatty acids required for proper brain function and cell growth. Our bodies can’t produce these, so we need to make sure we’re getting enough from our diet.
The good news is incorporating these types of good fats into your diet isn’t difficult. Here are five ways.
1. Toss it in
Eating a salad a day is a great way to stay in tip-top shape! A big bowl of fresh fruits and vegetables helps to ensure we are not only getting our daily servings of these important foods (which many of us have a hard time doing) but also is packed full of beneficial fibre, vitamins and minerals.
A big bowl of veggies might not leave you satisfied, and that’s often because the fats are missing. Fats help us feel full — topping your salad with nuts, seeds and avocado is a great place to start. You can also make your own salad dressing with olive, flax or avocado oil, plus some vinegar, lemon and herbs. Finally, for a super omega-3 boost, top your salad with grilled wild salmon.
2. Blend it
Did you know chia seeds contain more omega-3s than salmon when compared gram for gram? Fast-track your way to optimal health by tossing chia seeds into your next smoothie. Twenty-eight grams of chia seeds pack a powerful nutritional punch, giving you fibre, protein, omega-3s and 18 per cent of your recommended daily amount of calcium.
3. Get Fishy
The debate over farmed versus wild salmon may have you sitting on the fence when it comes to eating salmon. To ease your conscience, it’s recommended you eat sustainably sourced salmon at least twice a week to benefit from its high levels of omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA.
4. Wrap it
If you lead a go-go-go lifestyle, wraps are a great option. Tuck generous slices of avocado with assorted vegetables into a tortilla wrap to work monounsaturated fatty acids into your day. You’ll feel satiated, too: avocados contain oleic acid, a healthy fat that triggers a message to your brain telling it you’re full.
5. Swap it
You may currently be eating meals filled with trans or saturated fats that you could easily switch out for healthier monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. Here are a few examples:
- When cooking foods that require high heat, use avocado, sesame or grapeseed oil instead of butter, margarine or lard.
- Swap unhealthy snacks, such as cookies and chips, for nuts, seeds or avocado on healthy crackers.
- Swap the Saturday night steak for omega-3-packed fish like salmon, lake trout or mackerel.
If you’re finding it difficult to incorporate these fatty foods into your meals, consider adding a supplement in the form of an oil or capsule to your daily regimen to make sure you’re getting the healthy fats that are good for your body. You can find a variety of options available at your local CHFA Member health food store.
- Statistics Canada. (2017). Table 102-0561 – Leading causes of death, total population, by age group and sex, Canada. CANSIM (death database). Retrieved from http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?lang=eng&id=1020561.
- Public Health Agency of Canada. (2018). Report from the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System: Heart disease in Canada, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/report-heart-disease-Canada-2018.html#fn3
- Clarke R. (2014). Trans fatty acids and coronary heart disease. BMJ. 2006 Jul 29; 333(7561): 214. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1523500/
- Public Health Agency of Canada. (2019). Fats. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/nutrients/fats.html
- Government of Canada. (2019). Canada’s Food Guide: Choose foods with healthy fats. Date modified: 2019-12-23. Retrieved from https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/healthy-eating-recommendations/make-it-a-habit-to-eat-vegetables-fruit-whole-grains-and-protein-foods/choosing-foods-with-healthy-fats/
- Imamura F, Micha R, Wu JHY, de Oliveira Otto MC, Otite FO, Abioye AI, et al. (2016) Effects of Saturated Fat, Polyunsaturated Fat, Monounsaturated Fat, and Carbohydrate on Glucose-Insulin Homeostasis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Feeding Trials. PLoS Med 13(7): e1002087. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002087