Your body needs fat to function, but there are good and bad fats.
What are some unhealthy, aka “bad,” fats? Three types of unhealthy fats include saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Foods high in saturated fat include: chicken skin, turkey skin, gravy made with meat drippings, lard, sauces made with butter or cream, high-fat meats such as ground beef, bologna, hot dogs, sausage, bacon and spareribs, coconut/coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, whole milk, ice cream, full-fat cheese, and… brace yourselves… chocolate. Foods high in trans fat include: processed foods made with hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil, such as cookies, chips and cakes, along with stick margarine and shortening. Foods high in cholesterol include: chicken skin, turkey skin, egg yolks, liver and other organ meats, as well as high-fat meats and dairy products.
Ideally, you’ll want to avoid unhealthy fats because they can harm your heart. However, it can be hard to avoid these foods when they’re so prevalent at our grocery stores. Can you totally give up cookies, chips, and hot dogs? Probably not. But if they can be “once in a while” foods, that’s much better than “everyday” foods in your diet.
Then there are healthy, aka “good,” fats that are actually good for your heart, though they may also be high in calories, so keep that in mind. Healthy fats include monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Foods high in monounsaturated fat include: avocado, canola oil, olives and olive oil, peanut butter and peanut oil, sesame seeds, and nuts, like almonds, cashews, pecans and peanuts. Foods high in polyunsaturated fat include: corn oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, and oil-based salad dressings. Soft tub margarine, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, and walnuts are also high in polyunsaturated fat. Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids include: albacore tuna, herring, rainbow trout, salmon, sardines, walnuts, flaxseed and flaxseed oil.
To avoid unhealthy fats and limit healthy fats when you cook, try grilling, roasting, or stir-frying in a small amount of healthy fat instead of frying foods in unhealthy fat. Coat pans with a squirt of healthy cooking spray. Take the skin off chicken and the fat off meat before you cook it. Bake with ground-up veggies or fruit with no added sugar. Use nonfat plain yogurt rather than butter and oil. And to top food, try lemon juice, vinegar, salsa, herbs, spices, hot sauce, plain nonfat yogurt, tomato sauce, or low-fat salad dressing when you want to avoid topping foods with fatty sauces.