Contrary to popular belief, fats is not a four-letter word. Not all fats are created equally. Saturated fats and trans fats negatively affect the body by increasing bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and subsequently increasing the risk of heart disease. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, on the other hand, decrease bad (LDL) cholesterol levels while increasing good (HDL) cholesterol levels and subsequently decreasing the risk of heart disease.
Plant-based oils such as olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, soybean oil, corn oil, and safflower oil are all healthy fats to include in your diet. Olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil are all high in monounsaturated fat. Soybean oil, corn oil, and safflower oil are all high in polyunsaturated fat. Plant-based oils are excellent alternatives to butter, which is high in saturated fat.
Coconut and Palm Oils
Coconut oil is another oil that is healthier than butter and other animal-based fats. However, although low in cholesterol, coconut oil is high in saturated fat. Palm oil, too, is low in cholesterol but high in saturated fat. Unlike other plant-based fats, coconut and palm oil are solid at room temperature and are actually fats, not oils. Both can be part of a healthy diet but should be consumed less often than other true plant-based oils.
Although sometimes demonized in popular culture for its fat content, the avocado provides healthy plant-based monounsaturated fats to your diet. Avocado is also very low in cholesterol and sodium and is also a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. However, you should eat avocado in moderation because of the high number of calories provided by the fruit.
In addition to olive oil, olives are another good source of monounsaturated fat. Although high in sodium, olives are also low in cholesterol and a good source of vitamin E. As evidenced by the success of the Mediterranean diet, olives are a great addition to a heart-healthy diet.
Although also demonized as full of fat, nuts provide both healthy plant-based monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats to your diet. Almonds, peanuts including peanut butter, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and cashews are high in monounsaturated fats. Walnuts are high in polyunsaturated fats.
Almonds are very low in cholesterol and sodium; a good source of riboflavin, magnesium, and manganese; and a very good source of vitamin E. Peanuts are low in sodium, very low in cholesterol, and a good source of niacin and manganese. Macadamia nuts are very low in cholesterol and sodium, a good source of thiamin, and a very good source of manganese. Hazelnuts are very love in cholesterol and sodium, a good source of vitamin E and copper, and a very good source of manganese. Pecans are very low in cholesterol and sodium and a very good source of manganese. Cashews are very low in cholesterol and sodium and a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese. Walnuts are very low in cholesterol and sodium, a good source of copper, and a very good source of manganese.
Sunflower, Sesame, and Pumpkin Seeds
In addition to adding nuts to your diet, seeds can provide healthy plant-based fats that improve your health. Sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds in particular provide polyunsaturated fats. Sunflower seeds are very low in cholesterol; a good source of pantothenic acid, phosphorus, copper, manganese, and selenium; and a very good source of vitamin E and B vitamins including folic acid. Sesame seeds are very low in cholesterol and sodium; a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus; and a very good source of copper and manganese. Pumpkin seeds are very low in cholesterol and sodium and a good source of protein, magnesium, and zinc.
Flax seed is another great plant-based source of polyunsaturated fat. Flax seeds are very low in cholesterol and sodium and are a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, copper, dietary fiber, thiamin, manganese, and omega-3 fatty acids.
How do you incorporate healthy plant-based fats into your diet?
Choosing Healthy Fats: http://www.helpguide.org/life/healthy_diet_fats.htm
Good vs. Bad Cholesterol: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/Good-vs-Bad-Cholesterol_UCM_305561_Article.jsp
Self Nutrition Data: http://nutritiondata.self.com/
The Truth About Coconut Oil: http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/coconut-oil-and-health
Pouring Olive Oil from Glass Jar: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1162638
Coconut Cut in Half: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/550172
Avocado Slices and Pit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1152191
Olive Jars: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1208961
Fruit and Nuts: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/711732
Green Pumpkin Seeds: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1088430
Flax Seed for Rye Bread: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flaxseed_for_rye_bread.jpg