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Healthy You

The Skinny on Fats

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 7:07 AM

The word “fat” can have a negative connotation associated with it. When it comes to food, fat is a necessary part of a healthy diet. Fatty acid helps keep our skin soft, fuel us with energy and can help improve cardiovascular health. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults get 20-35% of our calories from fats.


What’s important to note is the type of fats we eat. There are good fats such as unsaturated fats, polyunsaturated, omega-3s and monounsaturated fats. And there are bad fats such as saturated fats and trans fats. The bad fats can clog arteries, raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk for heart disease.

Tara Atta, MD, Cardiology at NorthShore, shares which fats should be included in our diet and what to avoid:

Good fats:

  • Unsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol levels and the risk for heart disease. These fats can be found in olive oil, natural peanut butter and avocados.
  • Polyunsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol levels as well as triglyceride levels, and can be found in vegetable oils.
  • Omega-3s can decrease the risk for coronary heart disease and lower blood pressure. These fats can be found in fatty fish such as salmon, trout and catfish as well as tofu, flaxseed and walnuts.
  • Monounsaturated fats can improve blood cholesterol levels and are found in nuts, vegetable oils, natural peanut and almond butter as well as avocados.

Bad fats:

  • Saturated fats can raise cholesterol levels, clog arteries and increase heart disease risk. These fats can be found in fatty meats, high-fat dairy and palm oils.
  • Trans fats can raise cholesterol levels and are found in foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils such as fried foods, margarine, vegetable shortening and processed snacks.

To help maintain a balance of healthy fats and minimal bad fats, Dr. Atta recommends:

  • A diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables
  • Trying a vegetarian meal once a week
  • Limited fast food or processed foods
  • Using lemon juice in lieu of some dressings or make your own with olive oil and vinegar

To keep an eye on what your cholesterol is or to know your risk for heart disease, schedule your annual exam with your primary care physician or make an appointment with your cardiologist.