A balanced diet should have plenty of the right fats—not no fats at all.
Trans fats that show up in fried foods, commercially baked goods, and candy bars may soon go the way of the dodo, thanks to a federal ban instituted last year. It’s a good thing too, because trans fats introduce dangerous levels of cholesterol and contribute to a host of chronic health conditions.
But you probably know by now that not all fats are created equal. The fat-free diet craze of the 1980s and ’90s—which, ironically, told Americans to eat more trans-fat-heavy margarine instead of butter—ignored the fact that humans need certain fats to survive and that many fatty foods are beneficial to our minds and bodies. The Harvard School of Public Health said it best: “It’s time to end the low-fat myth.”
Those Cambridge eggheads went on to say that the bulk of credible research (“much of it done at Harvard”) shows no connection between the total amount of fat in a person’s diet and his or her obesity or risk for disease. What does matter in all the studies, however, is what kind of fats a person is consuming on a daily basis.
In short, you want to be eating unsaturated fats, of which there are two varieties: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are found mostly in foods derived from plants, such as vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds.
Saturated fats come from items such as red meat, whole-fat milk and cream, butter, cheese, and lard. Switching out these for unsaturated fats can help to lower LDL cholesterol—and the unsaturated fats have health benefits of their own.
Here are five fatty foods you can eat more of and why they’re beneficial.