The Truth About Fats

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Good Fats

Monounsaturated Fats

When substituted for saturated fats, monounsaturated fats -- which make up a good deal of the Mediterranean diet -- can help lower heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol and raising HDL (or "good") cholesterol. In other words, these are the kinds of fats you need to eat.

Food sources: Olive and canola oils; almonds; avocados; peanuts; almonds; peanut butter; sunflower seeds

Healthy Tips About Monounsaturated Fats

  • Use salad dressings made from olive or canola oil.
  • Eat a handful of nuts every day. Keep one-ounce portions in baggies to limit your intake, says Hark.
  • Though often scorned, mayo is not a bad guy. In fact, "it's a good source of healthy fats like mono- and polyunsaturated fats and it has a much lower saturated fat content than cheese," Hark says. Opt for lower-fat versions, when possible.

Omega-3 Fats

Named because of a chemical bond that falls in the number 3 position on the fatty food chain, these liquid fats help lower bad LDL cholesterol, raise good HDL cholesterol, lower triglycerides (a type of blood fat), and may reduce the risk of blood clots. They are a type of polyunsaturated fat, and they've been shown to help people with arthritis and heart disease.

Food sources: Fatty fish like salmon or mackerel, nuts, mayo, and vegetable oils

Healthy Tip About Omega 3-Fats

  • Substitute fish twice a week for other protein sources that aren't as heart-healthy.

Omega-6 Fats

These polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable oils are not bad, but keep your intake in check. We get too many of these omega-6 fats in our diet and not enough of the omega-3s (like those found in fish oils). A guideline: Aim for getting no more than four times as many omega-6s as you do omega-3s.

Food sources: Corn oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil

Healthy Tips About Omega-6 Fats

  • Make or buy salad dressing with olive oil (bottled salad dressings are often soybean-oil based).
  • Cook or bake with olive or canola oil.

One Last Tip

Whatever you do, watch your fat intake. Too much of any kind of fat is harmful to your waist and wellness.

Originally published on, March 2005.


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