- 12 healthy high-fat foods
- 1. Avocado
- 2. Chia seeds
- 3. Dark chocolate
- 4. Eggs
- 5. Fatty fish
- 6. Flaxseeds
- 7. Nuts
- 8. Nut and seed butter
- 9. Olives
- 10. Olive oil
- 11. Tofu
- 12. Yogurt
- Trans fats
- Heart-Healthy Fats — It’s the Type—Not the Amount—That Matters
- Saturated fat
- Trans fat
- Monounsaturated fat
- Polyunsaturated fat
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- What Are the Heart-Healthy Benefits of Monounsaturated Fats?
- What the Latest Evidence Tells Us About Fat and Cardiovascular Health
- Monounsaturated Fatty Acids and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
- MUFAs in the US Diet
- MUFA Versus PUFA: Effects on Lipids, Lipoproteins, and LDL Oxidative Susceptibility
12 healthy high-fat foods
Read on to discover the best sources of these fats and learn the difference between healthful and unhealthful fats.
Share on PinterestThe body requires some healthful fats to function.
One 201 gram (g) avocado contains approximately 29 grams (g) of fat and 322 calories. It is high in a monounsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid, which is believed to provide several health benefits.
Research suggests that oleic acid acts as an anti-inflammatory and may play a role in cancer prevention. Studies on animals indicate that avocado oil protects against heart disease and diabetes.
Avocados are high in fiber, with one fruit providing 13.5 g of the recommended 25 grams for females and 38 grams for males per day. Avocados also contain a substance called lutein, which may be necessary for eye health and are a rich source of potassium.
How can I add avocado to my diet?
- Use avocado in salads or to replace less healthful saturated fats, such as mayonnaise and butter.
2. Chia seeds
Although they are small in size, chia seeds are rich in several nutrients. One ounce (oz) of the seeds contains 8.71 g of fat, much of which is made up of omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are, in fact, one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3.
Omega-3 can relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and reduce triglycerides in the blood, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
A 2014 study suggests that chia seed flour can lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.
Chia seeds also provide antioxidants, fiber, protein, iron, and calcium.
How can I add chia seeds to my diet?
- Use chia seeds in smoothies, soak them overnight for a ready-made breakfast, or mix them with water to make a vegan egg-replacement in cooking.
3. Dark chocolate
Eating just 1 oz of dark chocolate can be enough to stave off sweet cravings, while providing a good amount (9 g) of healthful fat, as well as other nutrients, such as potassium and calcium. Dark chocolate also contains 41 milligrams (mg) of magnesium, which is approximately 13 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adult females.
Dark chocolate is also very rich in flavonoid antioxidants, with one test reporting that cocoa powder contains even more antioxidants than blueberry powder.
Some research suggests that eating dark chocolate lowers the risk of heart disease in people in the United States. Participants who ate chocolate 5 or more times a week had the lowest risk of all those studied of developing cardiovascular disease.
According to a 2012 study carried out on older people with mild cognitive difficulties, eating dark chocolate may also improve brain function.
How can I add dark chocolate to my diet?
- Select good-quality dark chocolate — at least 70 percent cocoa — to ensure a high level of flavonoids.
Eggs are a popular source of protein, especially for vegetarians. Traditionally, people believed that egg whites were the more healthful part, but the egg yolk actually contains several important nutrients. Each 50 g hard-boiled egg boasts 5.3 g of fat, 1.6 of which are saturated, and just 78 calories.
The yolk also contains vitamin D and choline, a B vitamin that supports the function of the liver, brain, nerves, and muscles. The yolk also contains other phytonutrients, including lutein.
While older studies have suggested that eggs increase cholesterol, newer research disputes this. A 2018 study carried out on Chinese adults, for example, reported that up to 1 egg a day might lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
How can I add eggs to my diet?
- Start the day off with a vegetable-packed omelet, or top a pasta dish with a poached egg to add some protein and healthful fats to an otherwise carbohydrate-heavy dinner.
5. Fatty fish
Fatty fish are packed with unsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids that play an important role in heart and brain health. The American Heart Association recommend that people eat 2 servings of fatty fish each week. Options include:
- fresh (not canned) tuna
For example, 1 oz of mackerel contains approximately 15 g of fat and 20 g protein.
Avoid high-mercury fish, such as shark, swordfish, King mackerel, and tilefish. To avoid overexposure, stick to 12 ounces (2 average meals) of fish and shellfish weekly.
How can I add fatty fish to my diet?
- Serve baked fish with rice and vegetables, enjoy tuna in sushi rolls, or flake warm salmon over a salad.
Flaxseeds provide omega-3 fatty acids and a healthful dose of fiber at the same time. Each 2-tablespoon serving contains almost 9 g of fat, which is almost entirely unsaturated, and 5.6 g fiber.
The fiber content can increase the feeling of fullness and may reduce cholesterol. Flaxseeds are also very rich in lignans, a type of plant compound that has estrogen and antioxidant effects.
Research suggests that high intakes of dietary lignans may decrease cardiovascular disease risk in some people, but more research is needed to confirm it.
How can I add flaxseeds to my diet?
- Blend flaxseeds into a smoothie, sprinkle them on yogurt or oatmeal or use them in baked goods for a nutty flavor.
Nuts have many benefits, according to several studies. They are rich in healthful fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytosterols that may help prevent cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
A 5-year study of more than 373,000 people, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, reported that people who eat nuts regularly are less ly to gain weight or become overweight or obese in the longer term.
There is approximately 14 g of fat in 1 oz of almonds, 19 g in Brazil nuts, and 18.5 g in walnuts. It is best to eat a variety of unsalted nuts to reap the benefits, as each type of nut has a slightly different nutrient profile.
How can I add nuts to my diet?
- Enjoy nuts as a snack or toss them in salads for a flavorful crunch.
8. Nut and seed butter
Enjoy the benefits of nuts and seeds in a spreadable form by using nut butter. Each serving provides a healthful amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
These delicious spreads can be high in calories, however, so try not to eat more than 2 tablespoons per serving.
How can I add nut butters to my diet?
- Choose a nut butter that is free from added sugar, salt, and oil, and spread it on rice cakes, bread, or sliced apple.
A staple of the Mediterranean diet, black olives provide 6.67 g of fat per 100 g, mainly monounsaturated, along with 13.3 g of fiber.
Recent research reports that a compound in olives called oleuropein may help prevent diabetes. Researchers found that Oleuropein helped the body secrete more insulin, while also purifying a molecule called amylin that contributes to diabetes development.
Olives can be high in sodium, though, so 5 large or 10 small olives are considered a standard portion.
How can I add olives to my diet?
- Olives are extremely versatile — people can eat them as a snack, make them into a tapenade, or toss them into whole grain and pasta dishes.
10. Olive oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is full of monounsaturated fats that are good for heart health. It also contains vitamin E, vitamin K, and potent antioxidants. Extra-virgin olive oil has associations with a lower risk of heart disease and death in those with a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
How can I add olive oil to my diet?
- Use olive oil regularly, but sparingly, in cooking and dressings — a single tablespoon contains 14 g of fat and 120 calories.
Tofu is a complete plant protein and a good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. A 100 g serving of firm tofu provides just over 4 g of fat. This amount of tofu also provides one-quarter of a person’s daily calcium intake, along with 11 g of protein.
How can I add tofu to my diet?
- Replace red meat with tofu in many meals to reduce saturated fat intake. Also, use tofu to increase the protein content of vegetarian stir-fries and curries.
Full-fat natural yogurt contains good probiotic bacteria to support gut function. Regularly eating yogurt may reduce weight gain and obesity and improve heart health, according to observational studies.
Research published in 2016 found that consuming yogurt five or more times a week may reduce high blood pressure in women by 20 percent.
Choose full-fat natural or Greek yogurt and avoid those that have added sugar.
How can I add yogurt to my diet?
- Enjoy yogurt with nuts, seeds, and fresh fruit as a healthful breakfast, snack, or dessert.
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are healthful fats that might:
- benefit the heart
- lower LDL cholesterol
- improve insulin levels
- improve blood glucose levels
MUFAs and PUFAs also fight inflammation.
The two most well-known PUFAs are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are essential fats that people must get from the food they eat because the body is unable to make them. Studies have linked omega-3 fats to many health benefits, especially the prevention of heart disease and stroke.
As a general rule of thumb, healthful fats — such as olive oil — are liquid at room temperature.
Saturated fats and trans fats, on the other hand, are considered unhealthful fats. Foods rich in these substances, such and butter and lard, are often solid at room temperature.
Older research reported that saturated fat had a negative impact on cholesterol levels and heart health, but newer studies suggest it is not as bad as once thought. However, most health organizations still recommend limiting saturated fat in the diet and replacing them with MUFAs and PUFAs.
Always avoid trans fats. Artificial trans fats, listed on labels as partially hydrogenated oils, are extremely unhealthful. They trigger inflammation that may increase the risk of:
- heart disease
- many other health conditions.
Even just 2 percent of calories from trans fats daily can increase the risk of heart disease by 23 percent.
The following foods contain trans fats:
- fried foods
- frozen foods, such as pizzas and pies
- baked goods
Fat is one of the three essential macronutrients the body needs, along with carbohydrates and protein. A balanced diet should include healthful monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Some of the best sources of these fatty acids include avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. People should also be sure to limit the amount of saturated fat in the diet and avoid even small intakes of trans fats.
Heart-Healthy Fats — It’s the Type—Not the Amount—That Matters
September 2013 Issue
Heart-Healthy Fats — It’s the Type—Not the Amount—That Matters
By Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDE
Vol. 15 No. 9 P. 14
Do your clients and patients remember when fat was considered bad in the 1980s? Fortunately, the once-common recommendation to eat nothing but low-fat foods and fat-free snacks has fallen away. Today, nutrition professionals are telling their clients to eat more foods with heart-healthy fats, such as nuts and olives.
When Carol Plotkin, MS, RD, CDN, ACSM, a health and fitness specialist who owns On Nutrition in Rochester, New York, works with clients who want to steer clear of fat, she shows them the benefits of eating fats in moderation. “They’re happy to learn that fats help us absorb some nutrients and that they increase satiety. They’re almost surprised and relieved that some fats are protective of the heart,” she says.
In recent years, scientists and health care professionals have developed a clearer understanding that the types of fat, rather than the amount consumed, can positively affect cardiovascular disease risk.
1 High saturated fat intake is associated with higher levels of both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, both of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Research also links trans fats to an increased risk of CVD.
2 On the other hand, unsaturated fats, both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, have cardioprotective effects.
Replacing One Type of Fat With Another
On average, saturated fat contributes 11% of total calories to the diet, which is higher than the 7% to 10% that’s recommended.2 “The current recommendations are to replace saturated fatty acids with unsaturated fat,” says Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, a distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn State University.
Monounsaturated fatty acids, also known as omega-9 fatty acids, do a great deal to protect the heart, says Leah Gillingham, PhD, of the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals at the University of Manitoba in Canada. A 2011 review published in Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism shows that monounsaturated fatty acids are associated with a slight yet significant effect on both systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared with a diet low in monounsaturated fatty acids.3 They also appear to improve insulin sensitivity when they replace either saturated fatty acids or carbohydrate in the diets of both healthy and insulin-resistant individuals, Gillingham says. The effects of monounsaturated fatty acids on lipids vary (see table below).
When monounsaturated fatty acids replace saturated fatty acids, LDL and total cholesterol drop by 6% to 10%. There’s no effect on HDL cholesterol, although monounsaturated fatty acids favorably reduce the total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol ratio. Both HDL and triglyceride levels improve, however, when monounsaturated fatty acids replace carbohydrate.
Emerging research also suggests that monounsaturated fatty acids can cause a notable reduction in abdominal fat.
In a study presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 2013 Scientific Sessions in New Orleans, subjects who consumed a daily smoothie high in monounsaturated fat (from high oleic canola oil as well as traditional canola oil) for four weeks as part of a weight maintenance heart-healthy diet found their abdominal fat decreased by 1.6%. Abdominal fat was unchanged in those consuming a smoothie low in monounsaturated fats.4
Polyunsaturated fatty acids include both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. “Polyunsaturated fats decrease LDL and total cholesterol 8% to 12% when compared with saturated fatty acids,” Gillingham says. Consuming EPA and DHA, the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish, can improve blood triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels, she says. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the short-chain omega-3 fatty acid found in some plants, as well as the two long-chain omega-3 fatty acids have beneficial effects on blood pressure and insulin sensitivity, she says.
The AHA recommends eating oily fish at least twice per week to obtain EPA and DHA and to regularly consume oils, walnuts, and other foods rich in ALA.
5 Unfortunately, Americans consume, on average, one fish meal every 10 days, and it includes fish sticks and fried fish, which typically are low in omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fatty acids comprise only about 10% of total polyunsaturated fat intake.
The majority of omega-3 intake comes from plant-sourced ALA, but Americans need more from EPA and DHA, Gillingham says.
Research shows that omega-6 fatty acids also may be cardioprotective.
Some consumers and health professionals have expressed concern about consuming too much omega-6 fatty acids for fear of disrupting the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, but many experts now say not to worry.
Though it was once believed that omega-6 fatty acids increased arachidonic acid, the precursor to inflammatory compounds, researchers have found this isn’t true, Kris-Etherton says.
In 2009, the AHA published a science advisory about omega-6 fatty acids and the risk of CVD.6 It stated that although increasing omega-3 fats reduces the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), it doesn’t follow that decreasing omega-6 fats will do the same.
Researchers concluded that consuming 5% to 10% of calories from omega-6 fatty acids reduces CHD risk. Currently, Americans consume, on average, 7% of calories from omega-6 fatty acids.7 To recommend Americans lower their intake further would more ly increase rather than decrease CHD risk.
Reinforcing this position is the report of the 2008 joint meeting of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) on fats and fatty acids on human health.
The report concluded there’s no rationale for a specific ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids and that an appropriate intake of omega-6 fats is 2.5% to 9% of energy.8
Omega-6 fatty acids slightly lower HDL cholesterol, Gillingham says. However, the substantial improvement in total and LDL cholesterol more than offsets this effect, resulting in a favorable reduction in the total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol ratio compared with saturated fatty acids, Gillingham says.
Regardless of the statements made by the AHA, the FAO, and WHO, many people still question these findings and believe that omega-6 fatty acids should be reduced because they compete with omega-3 fatty acids for the same enzymes, leading to the development of either proinflammatory or anti-inflammatory compounds. “A recent reanalysis of the Sydney Diet Heart Study revealed that intakes of omega-6 fatty acids at 15% of energy resulted in an increase in the rates of death from all causes, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease among men with a recent coronary event,” Gillingham explains.
Since current American intakes of omega-6 fatty acids are 7% of calories and within dietary guidelines, the focus should be on increasing omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, which would inevitably result in a decrease in the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, she adds.
According to the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC) 2013 Food and Health Survey,9 78% of Americans said they’re interested in learning about what to eat rather than what not to eat. Only 16% of respondents disagreed. Moreover, according to the IFIC, appropriate messages are actionable, positive, and empowering, and they encourage consumers to make their own choices. The following are some examples:
• Eat fatty fish at least twice weekly.
• Snack on a handful of nuts instead of sweets.
• Add texture and creaminess to a sandwich with avocado.
• When baking, replace 1/4 cup of butter with 3 T of olive or canola oil.
• Substitute all or one-half of the butter in your recipe with canola oil.
• Check ingredient lists for canola, sunflower, soybean, or olive oils. Choose these over partially hydrogenated oils.
Plotkin frequently describes healthful eating by showing her patients the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, which includes healthful fats in the form of olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish.
Emphasizing that portion sizes are important, she shows her patients prepackaged nuts to demonstrate a proper amount.
Moreover, she encourages them to sauté their food in small amounts of cooking oil and add additional moisture, if necessary, with broth.
— Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDE, is a freelance writer and a nutrition and diabetes consultant to the food industry, including Omega-9 Oils and Good Fats 101. She has a private practice in Newport News, Virginia, and is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss — Week by Week.
American Heart Association Fats 101 has a simple Q & A section that includes responses to questions such as “Can fats be part of a healthy diet?” The site makes it easy to learn more about the Fats Family, the various types of fats depicted as Bad Fats Brothers and the Better Fats Sisters. Visit www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/FatsAndOils/Fats101/Fats-101_UCM_304494_Article.jsp.
Good Fats 101 (www.goodfats101.com) is an unbranded website powered by Dow AgroSciences Omega-9 Oils. It features recipes and various tools, including a shopping list, label-reading guide, fact sheets, and a chart identifying the sources and properties of omega-3, -6, and -9 fatty acids.
Oldways (http://oldwayspt.org) is a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization. You’ll find downloadable handouts, including the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, “12 Great Ways to Use Avocados,” “12 Great Ways to Use Peanuts and Peanut Butter,” and more. In addition, the site provides heart-healthy Mediterranean-style recipes.
Commodity boards such as the following offer various handouts, recipes, and other information about healthy fats:
• Almond Board of California (www.almondboard.com)
• California Avocados (www.californiaavocado.com)
• California Ripe Olives (www.calolive.org)
• California Walnut Board (www.walnuts.org)
• Hass Avocado Board (www.avocadocentral.com)
• National Peanut Board (www.nationalpeanutboard.org)
1. US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th ed. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office; 2010:24.
2. US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th ed. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office; 2010:25.
3. Schwingshackl L, Strasser B, Hoffmann G. Effects of monounsaturated fatty acids on cardiovascular risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Nutr Metab. 2011;59(2-4):176-186.
4. Liu X. Effects of canola oil and high oleic canola oil-rich diets on abdominal fat mass in individuals at risk for metabolic syndrome. Paper presented at: American Heart Association’s EPI/NPAM 2013 Scientific Sessions; March 21, 2013; New Orleans, LA.
5. Kris-Etherton PM, Harris WS, Appel LJ. Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease. Circulation. 2002;106(21):2747-2757.
6. Harris WS, Mozaffarian D, Rimm E. Omega-6 fatty acids and risk for cardiovascular disease: a science advisory from the American Heart Association nutrition subcommittee of the Council of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism; Council on Cardiovascular Nursing; and Council on Epidemiology and Prevention. Circulation. 2009;119:902-907.
7. Moshfegh A, Goldman J, Cleveland L. What We Eat in America: NHANES 2001–2002: Usual Nutrient Intakes From Food Compared to Dietary Reference Intakes. Beltsville, MD: US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service; 2005.
8. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Fats and Fatty Acids in Human Nutrition: Report of an Expert Consultation: 2010. Geneva, France: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; 2010.
9. International Food Information Council Foundation. 2013 Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes Toward Food Safety, Nutrition & Health. Washington, DC: International Food Information Council Foundation; 2013.
Effects of Monounsaturated (MUFAs) and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs)
|When MUFAs replace saturated fatty acids…||When MUFAs replace carbohydrate…||When PUFAs replace saturated fatty acids…|
|Total cholesterol||Decreases by 6% to 10%||No change||Decreases by 8% to 12%|
|LDL cholesterol||Decreases by 6% to 10%||Decreases||Decreases by 8% to 12%|
|HDL cholesterol||No change||Increases||Increases with omega-3 PUFAs; decreases with omega-6 PUFAs|
|Total:HDL ratio||Decreases||Decreases||Decreases (even with a decrease in HDL from omega-6s)|
|Triglycerides||No change||Decrease||Decrease with omega-3 PUFAs|
— Source: Information all references and interviews in the article
No doubt about it, carbohydrate gets all of the attention in diabetes management. More important than total fat is the type of fat you eat. There are “healthy fats” and “unhealthy fats.”
To lower you risk of heart disease, try to eat less saturated and trans fat—the unhealthy fats. At the same time, you can protect your heart by eating more mono and polyunsaturated fats including omega-3s—the healthy fats.
It is true that all fat is high in calories so it is important to watch portion sizes as well but you can keep your calories the same by cutting back on the sources of saturated and trans fats, while substituting the healthy fats in their place. Instead of 1 cheese stick for an afternoon snack, have 12 almonds. The calories are about the same, but you will have improved your heart health with that single change!
Why should you eat less saturated fat? Because saturated fat raises blood cholesterol levels. High blood cholesterolis a risk factor for heart disease. People with diabetes are at high risk for heart disease and limiting your saturated fat can help lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Foods containing saturated fat include:
- Fatback and salt pork
- High-fat meats regular ground beef, bologna, hot dogs, sausage, bacon and spareribs
- High-fat dairy products such as full-fat cheese, cream, ice cream, whole milk, 2% milk and sour cream.
- Cream sauces
- Gravy made with meat drippings
- Palm oil and palm kernel oil
- Coconut and coconut oil
- Poultry (chicken and turkey) skin
The goal for people with and without diabetes is to eat less than 10% of calories from saturated fat. For most people, eating this is about 20 grams of saturated fat per day. That is not much when you consider just one ounce of cheese can have 8 grams of saturated fat.
Many adults, especially women or sedentary men, may need less. To find out a specific goal for you, talk with your dietitian or health care provider.
Saturated fat grams are listed on the Nutrition Facts food label under total fat. As a general rule, compare foods with less saturated fat. Foods with 1 gram or less saturated fat per serving are considered low in saturated fat.
saturated fat, trans fat increases blood cholesterol levels. It is actually worse for you than saturated fat and for a heart-healthy diet, you want to eat as little trans fat as possible by avoiding all foods that contain it.
Trans fats are produced when liquid oil is made into a solid fat. This process is called hydrogenation. Trans fats act saturated fats and can raise your cholesterol level.
Trans fats are listed on the label, making it easier to identify these foods. However, if there is not at least 0.5 grams or more of trans fat in a food, the label can claim 0 grams.
If you want to avoid as much trans fat as possible, you must read the ingredient list on food labels. Look for words hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil.
Select foods that either do not contain hydrogenated oil or where a liquid oil is listed first in the ingredient list.
Sources of trans fat include:
- Processed foods snacks (crackers and chips) and baked goods (muffins, cookies and cakes) with hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil
- Stick margarines
- Some fast food items such as french fries
Your body makes some of the cholesterol in your blood. The rest comes from foods you eat. Foods from animals are sources of dietary cholesterol.
Cholesterol from the food you eat may increase your blood cholesterol, so it's a good idea to eat less than 300 mg per day. Cholesterol is required on the label if the food contains it.
Sources of cholesterol include:
- High-fat dairy products (whole or 2% milk, cream, ice cream, full-fat cheese)
- Egg yolks
- Liver and other organ meats
- High-fat meat and poultry skin
Monounsaturated fats are called “good or healthy” fats because they can lower your bad (LDL) cholesterol. Sources of monounsaturated fat include:
- Canola oil
- Nuts almonds, cashews, pecans, and peanuts
- Olive oil and olives
- Peanut butter and peanut oil
- Sesame seeds
The Association recommends eating more monounsaturated fats than saturated or trans fats in your diet.
To include more monounsaturated fats, try to substitute olive or canola oil instead of butter, margarine or shortening when cooking. Sprinkling a few nuts or sunflower seeds on a salad, yogurt, or cereal is an easy way to eat more monounsaturated fats.
But be careful! Nuts and oils are high in calories, all fats. If you are trying to lose or maintain your weight, you want to eat small portions of these foods. For example, 6 almonds or 4 pecan halves have the same number of calories as 1 teaspoon of oil or butter.
Work with your dietitian to include healthy fats into your meal plan without increasing your total calories.
Monounsaturated fats are not required on the label, but many foods that are a good source do list them.
Polyunsaturated fats are also “healthy” fats. The Association recommends that you include these in your diet as well as monounsaturated fats.
the other healthy fats, you want to replace the sources of saturated fat in your diet with polyunsaturated fats.
Sources of polyunsaturated fats are:
- Corn oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Safflower oil
- Soybean oil
- Sunflower oil
- Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
- Soft (tub) margarine
- Salad dressings
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent clogging of the arteries. Some types of fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids. The Association recommends eating non-fried fish 2 or 3 times a week.
- Albacore tuna
- Rainbow trout
Some plant foods are also sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Sources include:
- Tofu and other soybean products
- Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
- Canola oil
What Are the Heart-Healthy Benefits of Monounsaturated Fats?
Image Source / Getty Images
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) have gained a reputation as being one of the “good fats”—that is, fats that are beneficial to health. While the scientific evidence is largely circumstantial, the idea that MUFA are important to good health—to general health as well as to cardiovascular health—now has strong support among many experts.
MUFA are one of the two types of unsaturated fatty acids. Unsaturated fatty acids have at least one double bond in the fatty acid carbon chain (as opposed to saturated fatty acids, which have no double bonds). The two types of unsaturated fatty acids are MUFA, which have one double bond in the chain; and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which have two or more double bonds.
Both types of unsaturated fatty acids are thought to confer significant health benefits, though the scientific evidence is stronger for PUFA.
The evidence in favor of including MUFA in a heart-healthy diet is largely circumstantial. For instance, there are no randomized clinical studies showing that MUFA reduce the incidence of coronary artery disease (CAD).
Still, the circumstantial evidence is substantial.
MUFA have beneficial effects on blood lipids. They reduce LDL cholesterol levels (“bad” cholesterol) and increase HDL cholesterol levels (“good” cholesterol). They also decrease blood levels of triglycerides. So eating MUFA tends to produce a general improvement in the overall pattern of blood lipids that ought to be quite friendly to the cardiovascular system.
In addition, there is evidence that MUFA can help prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol particles. Oxidized LDL appears to play an important role in the formation of atherosclerotic plaques.
MUFA may be particularly helpful in people with type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome. In these patients, reducing PUFA in the diet and replacing them with MUFA has been shown to reduce insulin resistance, and improve the function of the blood vessels.
In a few studies, switching from PUFA to MUFA has also resulted in improved weight loss and reduced belly fat.
Because all this evidence is circumstantial, however, and has not been reproduced in large randomized clinical trials, dietary experts have not reached a consensus opinion on how much MUFA to recommend in our diets.
Perhaps the major reason MUFA have been “pushed” in recent years is due to the success of the Mediterranean diet. MUFA (in the form of olive oil) comprise an important part of the Mediterranean diet and are the chief source of fat in this diet.
In numerous clinical studies, a Mediterranean diet is strongly associated with a reduction in overall mortality, and also in mortality due to cardiovascular disease and to cancer (especially colon cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer). Heart attacks and strokes also appear to be diminished with the Mediterranean diet. Finally, this diet seems to correlate with a reduced incidence of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
The Mediterranean diet is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes— and lots of olive oil. Moderate amounts of poultry, fish, cheese, and red wine are also included.
The one thing that particularly stands out with the Mediterranean diet, however, is the high consumption of olive oil, that is, of MUFA.
In the opinion of most dietary experts, the fact that it includes a high intake of MUFA is one of the main reasons a Mediterranean diet appears to be so healthy.
Olive oil is the main dietary source of MUFA. Olive oil is liquid at room temperature but quickly turns solid when placed in a refrigerator. It can be used as a cooking oil if the heat is kept to moderate temperatures. Olive oil is often as a dipping oil, and can often be substituted for butter, gravies or sauces.
In addition to olive oil, MUFA are found in avocados, most nuts, canola and sunflower oils, and peanut butter.
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What the Latest Evidence Tells Us About Fat and Cardiovascular Health
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Monounsaturated Fatty Acids and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
This report summarizes our current understanding of how monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) affect risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD).
This is a topic that has attracted considerable scientific interest,123 in large part because of uncertainty regarding whether MUFA or carbohydrate should be substituted for saturated fatty acids (SFAs) and the desirable quantity of MUFA to include in the diet.
MUFAs in the US Diet
MUFAs are distinguished from the other fatty acid classes on the basis of having only 1 double bond. In contrast, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have 2 or more double bonds, and SFAs have none.
The position of the hydrogen atoms around the double bond determines the geometric configuration of the MUFA and hence whether it is a cis or trans isomer. In a cis MUFA, the hydrogen atoms are present on the same side of the double bond, whereas in the trans configuration, they are on opposite sides.
The American Heart Association Nutrition Committee recently published a scientific statement regarding the relationship of trans MUFA to CVD risk,4 and the present statement, therefore, will be limited to a discussion of dietary cis MUFAs, of which oleic acid (cis C18:1) comprises ≈92% of cis MUFAs.
In the United States, average total MUFA intake is 13% to 14% of total energy intake, an amount that is comparable to (or slightly greater than) SFA intake. In contrast, PUFAs contribute less (ie, 7% of energy).
The major emphasis of current dietary guidelines involves replacing SFAs with complex carbohydrates to achieve a total fat intake of ≤30% of calories. There is evidence suggesting that the substitution of MUFA instead of carbohydrate for SFA calories may favorably affect CVD risk.
567 The American Heart Association dietary guidelines for healthy American adults recommend a diet that provides 30% of energy. Nonetheless, a high-MUFA diet can be an alternative to the presently recommended Step 1 diet (≤30% fat, 8% to 10% SFA, and 14 years showed that intake of MUFA was protective against CHD.
17 The statistical model used demonstrated that compared with equivalent energy from dietary carbohydrate, a 5% increment in energy from MUFA resulted in a relative risk of 0.81 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.65 to 1.00; P=0.05). A greater protective effect of PUFA also was reported (relative risk 0.62; 95% CI 0.46 to 0.85; P=0.
003 for each 5% increment in energy from PUFA). In agreement with the evidence reported by Keys,9 SFA was shown to increase risk of CHD (relative risk 1.17; 95% CI 0.97 to 1.41; P=0.10 for each 5% increment in energy from SFA), as did trans fatty acids (relative risk 1.93; 95% CI 1.43 to 2.61; P70th percentile).
7 Triglycerides increased by 12% and 7% on the Step 1 diet compared with the high-MUFA diet and the AAD, respectively. Interestingly, plasma triglycerides were lower on the high-MUFA diet (by 4%) than on the AAD.
Although HDL cholesterol decreased on both blood cholesterol–lowering diets compared with the AAD, the decrease in HDL cholesterol was less on the high-MUFA diet (4.3%) than on the Step 1 diet (7.2%). Thus, HDL cholesterol levels are higher and triglycerides are lower on a high-MUFA than a low-fat/carbohydrate-rich, blood cholesterol–lowering diet.
MUFA Versus PUFA: Effects on Lipids, Lipoproteins, and LDL Oxidative Susceptibility
Both Keys et al27 and Hegsted et al28 analyzed data from controlled feeding studies and developed similar blood cholesterol predictive equations. MUFA did not affect total cholesterol levels, but SFA raised them. PUFA lowered total cholesterol half as much as SFA raised it.
More recent analyses confirmed these findings, although there is some suggestion that MUFAs elicit a cholesterol-lowering effect that is less than that observed for PUFAs.
2930 In support of these findings, Howard et al31 found greater reductions in total cholesterol levels with PUFAs versus MUFAs (P