Fat has been welcomed back as a good thing in the American diet. The American Heart Association states fat is crucial to our health.
Healthy fats provide our cells with energy, supports cell growth, protect organs, keep us warm, regulate hormone production, and are necessary for absorbing certain key nutrients.
You may have heard that plant-based fats are a healthier option compared to saturated fats from meat, dairy, and other animal products. Understanding the different types of plant-based fats can help you make the best food choices for your health.
• Omega-9 comes from olives, olive oil, avocado, avocado oil, sesame oil and nuts such as almonds, peanuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts. Studies show omega-9 fatty acids can help lower inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity in diabetics, and help lower LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol.
• Omega-3 can be found in walnuts, flaxseed, chia seed, pumpkin seeds, leafy greens, kidney beans, edamame, and certain fish such as salmon. Omega-3 is a heart healthy, anti-inflammatory fat. Eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and lower incidence of type 2 diabetes.
• Omega-6 can be found in most vegetable and seed oils including safflower, sunflower, soybean, corn, canola mayonnaise, and cottonseed oil. Even though omega-6 is a plant-based fat and are an important source of energy for our body, research shows that eating too much of these oils is linked to increased inflammation, raising the risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and arthritis. In fact, a study published by the National Institutes of Health identified the overconsumption of omega-6 as indicative of the Western diet and believed that it is the cause of a number of chronic diseases.
• Our bodies prefer a 4:1 ratio or less of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids to help reduce bodily inflammation. Certain therapeutic diets for certain conditions recommend a 2:1 omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.
While omega -3, -6 and -9 fats are all essential for your health, it is important to get the right balance of all three. Choose foods high in omega-3s and omega 9s as healthy sources of fat while limiting omega-6 oils and saturated fats in your diet. Getting enough healthy fats and watching out for the bad can help support a healthy metabolism, immunity, heart health, as well as brain and joint health. For tailored nutrition advice contact a licensed nutritionist or dietitian.