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Embracing Healthy Fats and Oils

Examining how we consume fats, our dietary needs, cooking, and digesting are key to recognizing healthy fats and oils.

Not all dietary fats are created equal, but fat is one of the body’s basic nutrients providing energy by furnishing calories.

Fat nutrients’ main roles are to provide storage fuel for the body, but they are also involved in the absorption of some vitamins, help to control inflammation, and also in blood clotting.

You do not have to be afraid of “FATS,” it can be a superfood when used properly.

It is the quality of the fat which matters.

When shopping, can you pick out the healthy fats and oils?

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Types of Fats

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Let’s travel back to high school chemistry class…

All forms of fat are made up of a combination of fatty acids, which are the building blocks of fats much as amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.

Fats can be saturated or unsaturated, the latter classification is broken down into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

To explain this…picture a fat molecule as a train of passenger cars.

When every seat on the train is filled by “passengers (hydrogen atoms),” then this is a SATURATED FAT molecule.

If there is one seat open in each car where a hydrogen-atom “passenger” could sit, the molecule is MONOUNSATURATED.

If there are several seats available, it is POLYUNSATURATED.

The good news…unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats are GOOD. They are derived primarily from plants and are liquid (in the form of oil) at room temperature.

Monounsaturated fats such as Omega-3 fatty acids, actually help prevent disease.

Omega-3 relieves inflammation, which is the basic cause of atherosclerosis and cancers.

They are also known for reducing the levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) in your body.


Three widely used oils that are high in monounsaturates are OLIVE OIL, CANOLA OIL, and PEANUT OIL.

blue circle easy ways to get omega 3'sPolyunsaturated fats are also considered relatively healthy and include the following:


Most Omega-6 fatty acids come from vegetable oils in the form of linoleic acid.

These fats actually have the opposite effect of Omega-3s by increasing blood pressure and inflammatory responses.

Although we need both, eat more Omega-3 fatty acids.

Oils, such as palm, soybean, canola, sunflower, as well as processed foods, and fried foods contain high levels of Omega-6.

Despite being “good oils,” too much of a good thing can be a problem.


The bad news…saturated fats

Saturated fats come from animal sources and are solid enough to hold their shape at room temperature.

Exceptions include coconut and palm oil.

Associated with some forms of cancer and increased cholesterol levels, these fats should be consumed in moderation.

Eliminate trans fats from your diet completely.

Researchers found a correlation between diets high in saturated fat and trans fats and the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Twice the risk!

thanksgiving dinner tips Total fat did not matter, but eating more fats from vegetable sources appeared to protect those in the study from developing Alzheimer’s.

Manufactured and processed foods contain trans fats. 

In the 1940s, food producers began saturating vegetable oils in a process called hydrogenation.

A byproduct of the process is trans fats, which offer better baking properties and shelf life.

There is an even stronger risk of heart disease than does a naturally saturated fat such as butter contain.

Most manufactures have abandoned the production of trans fats; except in many processed baked goods such as cookies, cakes, and pies.

Make sure to check the food label.

Don't be fooled by food labels hot dog label pictured

Some research has shown the consumption of trans fats can lead to infertility in women.

Fats and calories

Fats have more calories than carbs or protein, nevertheless, reducing the amount of fat you consume can make a difference in the number of calories you eat – but do not obsess about that.

Unsaturated fats best found in nuts and seeds (and their oils).

Did you know...
Research of 2 groups were given either, as much extra virgin olive oil or nuts as they wished to eat. Cooking with these high fats, high caloric ingredients as much as they wanted was encouraged. There was NO WEIGHT gain with the users of nuts and olive oil, even though they were consuming more calories, proving again, eating healthy is all about the quality of the calories you consume.

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Go “fat-free?”

The “low-fat” fad of the 1990s was not completely correct.

If you go “fat-free” this could be a mistake in the long-run.

Experts recommend 10% of your calories come from saturated fat. 17 grams for a 1500 calorie diet.

If that seems too vague, consider working leaner meats and fewer fried foods into your meal plans.


Meats – the leaner the meat, the better.

If buying beef or pork, buy top round, “extra lean,” tenderloin, or flank cuts

4 ozs. of beef that is 80/20 (being the fat percentage) contains 9 grams of saturated fat or 284 calories

4 ozs of beef that is 95/5 has only 2.5 grams of saturated fat and 154 calories

Butter – real butter – NOT margarine or a spread) contains the most saturated fat.

1 teaspoon contains 2.5 grams of saturated fat

Eat it sparingly and buy a good quality

Dairy – low-fat dairy means less saturated fat.

1 cup whole milk = 4.5 grams of saturated fat

1 cup of 1% milk = 1.5 grams of saturated fat

Also true for other dairy products, yogurt, cream cheese, and cottage cheese

Which healthy fats and oils to choose?

Choosing the best quality oils and fats can have a major impact on both your health and taste buds.

Because heart disease begins with inflammatory responses in the body, adding olive oil to your diet can have significant positive effects on heart disease, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure.

These results can come from other seed oils.


Extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, tahini (sesame seed butter), peanut butter, avocados


Butter, coconut milk, coconut oil, mayonnaise, spreads such as Smart Balance or Promise


Lard, stick margarine, vegetable shortening (Crisco), hydrogenated oils, palm oil

Consider your recipe before deciding which oil to use.

Olive and grapeseed oils have a fruitier flavor and are perfect when you want the flavor of the oil to come through.

Use a less-expensive oil for sauteeing, cooking, and oiling your grill.

Cooking with healthy oils and fats

Use sesame oil in Asian foods.

A teaspoon of vegetable oils & butter = about 45 calories and 5 grams of fat.

two olive oils brands for healthy fats and oilsStock your pantry with the following:

BUTTER – use unsalted butter; seal in a plastic container. Butter can be frozen

OLIVE OIL – cold pressed means that the oil-refining process uses only pressure to extract the oil from the olives. After pressing, olive oils receive a grade based on the acidity of the oil.

Use an oil sprayer to coat your pans without using a lot of oil.

Buy a good quality oil for dressings, sauces and etc.

Use a cheaper version for cooking.

VEGETABLE OILS – Canola oil is pressed from the rapeseed and high in monounsaturated fat.

Flavorless and good for baking.

Great for recipes you do not want to add the fruitiness of olive or grapeseed oil.

GRAPESEED OIL – high in polyunsaturated fat, it is the middle ground between olive and canola oils.

JoAnn’s Food Bites Bruchetta and Homemade croutons recipes require a good quality olive oil.

Check out the recipes here:

Simple Bruschetta recipe using healthy fats and oilsMake croutons at home using healthy fats and oils

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