Most healthy diets tend to be low in fat, but did you know that fat is an important part of our diet? It not only protects our vital organs and keeps us warm but also:

  • Provides energy
  • Produces important hormones
  • Absorbs nutrients

According to the American Heart Association, while all fats contain 9 calories per gram, all fats are not equally bad (or good) for us. Here’s a quick-glance guide to the four primary types of fat:

FAT TYPE FACTS FOODS THAT CONTAIN IT
Saturated
  • Raises blood cholesterol levels
  • Comes mainly from meats and dairy
  • Is solid at room temperature
  • Butter and cheese
  • Pork
  • Poultry (with skin)
Trans
  • Comes from natural and artificial sources
  • Provides taste and texture to foods
  • Raises LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Is listed as “partially hydrogenated oil” in processed foods
  • Baked goods (cakes, pies, cookies, crackers, biscuits)
  • Fried foods (donuts)
  • Stick margarine
  • Frozen pizza
Monounsaturated
  • Is beneficial in moderation
  • Provides nutrients
  • Can help lower LDL cholesterol
  • Is usually liquid at room temperature
  • May turn solid when cold
  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Avocado
  • Many nuts and seeds
Polyunsaturated
  • Can be beneficial in moderation
  • Provides essential fats that the body can’t produce (omega-6 and -3 fatty acids)
  • Is usually liquid at room temperature
  • Usually turns solid when cold
  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Tofu and soybeans

In general, for a healthy diet, most of the fat we eat should be monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (note: some foods that contain these fats may also contain a level of trans fat or saturated fat).

Myths about low-fat diets

When they hear “low fat,” most people think they have to nix their favorite foods. This isn’t the case. If you love pizza but are trying to lose weight or improve your health, instead of cutting it out of your diet altogether, try cutting down on the serving size and how often you eat it. You can also replace some of the ingredients (use whole grain dough and low-fat cheese).

Another myth is that breads, pasta, and rice are bad news and should be avoided altogether. But you can still enjoy them; look for brown rice and whole grain breads and pastas, which provide fiber. And again, try eating smaller portions.

The right kinds of fats to eat

As a guideline, try limiting saturated fat to 10% of daily calories, and eliminate trans fat as much as possible. Replace these fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which tend to be plant-based. This means more fruits and veggies, nuts, and seeds in your daily diet. To get more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid, try adding oily fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel to your diet.

Bottom line: Healthy fats are an essential part of a healthy diet. For more information about the skinny on fats, check out the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. And remember that Teladoc is always standing by when you or a family member needs help to diagnose and treat a non-emergency medical condition. Download the app so that you’ll have 24/7 access to our network of board-certified physicians anywhere in the U.S.

 

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