What kind of fats are healthy to eat?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
A certain amount of fat is essential to your health. Get 25% of your calories from healthy fat -- mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are found in olive oil, canola oil, avocados, flaxseed, fish, and nuts.
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Julieanna Hever, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Dietitian Julieanna Hever explains which types of fats you should choose for a healthy diet. Watch Julieanna Hever's video for tips and information on healthy eating.
Healthy fats are better for your heart and blood vessels. They are mostly found in plant foods, such as nuts and oil. They include unsaturated fats -- monounsaturated and polyunsaturated -- and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, walnuts, and flaxseed oil, are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease. For this reason, three servings of fish a week are recommended.
Types of Healthy Fats
  • Monounsaturated fat is in olive and canola oil, avocados, nuts, and all-natural peanut butter.
  • Polyunsaturated fat is in corn, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, and soybean oils, as well as in margarine and mayonnaise.
  • Omega-3 fats are in walnuts, flaxseed oil, and fish such as tuna, bluefish, lake trout, salmon, and sardines. Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are found in fish oil and flaxseed and soybean oils.
Dr. Vonda Wright, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Good and healthy fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated Fats. Make the wise choice to eat monounsaturated fats. These plant-based fats decrease the risk of heart disease by reducing bad cholesterol levels, minimizing the feeling of hunger, and supporting memory. Olive oil has become increasingly popular as a source of "good fat" and is mainly composed of Oleic acid, also known as Omega 9. Good sources of monounsaturated fats include nuts, olives, avocados, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Polyunsaturated fats include Omega 6 and Omega 3 fats. Both decrease the risk of heart disease, and Omega 3 is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Omega 3 has received the most attention of late and includes eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexanoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA are found in a variety of foods but mostly in fatty fish. Good sources of Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats include corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, and olive oil. Sources of Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats include fatty fish, flaxseed oil, walnuts, and soybean oil.
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Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
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We know from media exposure that hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils (ahem: trans fats) clog your arteries, hence the halo over monounsaturated options such as extra-virgin olive oil. Nature provides a balance of fats in many whole-food forms, so the key is to consume most of your fats in the whole-food form. When consuming products with fats in them, look to see if they contain a variety so you're not consuming just one type of saturated fat and zero monounsaturated fat.

Limit your intake of the polyunsaturated from these vegetable oils (e.g., corn, sunflower, safflower, soy, and cottonseed), and use extra-virgin olive oil to replace these. Olive oil is heat-stable at low temperatures for cooking, which is the healthier way to cook anyway. Or, use other fats such as omega-3-rich chia and flaxseed oils, or blends such as an omega-3, -6, -9 mix or hempseed oil. You'll want to eat more oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and black cod) and use a variety of nuts and seeds such as walnuts; chia, hemp, and flaxseeds; as well as omega-3 fortified organic eggs to ensure you get sufficient omega-3 fatty acids for optimal health.
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You need some fat in your diet but not too much. You also need to choose the right types of fat.

Look for foods with unsaturated fat. There are 2 main types, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

Here are some examples of each:

Monounsaturated fats are found in:
  • Olive oil or olives
  • Canola oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Nuts

Polyunsaturated fats are found in:

  • Vegetable oils (like soybean, safflower, sunflower, sesame, or corn oil)
  • Salmon or tuna (fresh or water-packed)
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
You may be surprised to find that certain healthy fats can keep you energized and satisfied for longer without adding to your waistline. These three foods are full of good fats that can provide a slew of health benefits. Though they are caloric, a small amount can keep your body happy for a long time, so enjoy them in moderation.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil: Olive oil is packed with monounsaturated fatty acids, which may lower the risk of heart disease by lowering bad cholesterol. These healthy fats may also help control insulin and blood-sugar levels, so are a great choice for diabetics.
  • Avocado: Avocado can be a tasty and satisfying addition to a sandwich, salad and quesadilla, or as a dip. The monounsaturated fats in avocado may help you absorb antioxidants such as lycopene and beta-carotene more effectively.
  • Coconut oil: Coconut oil contains a special kind of fat called medium-chain triglycerides, which may help regulate metabolism. One study even suggests that coconut oil may help reduce abdominal fat.
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While you may already know that following a low-fat diet is beneficial for your cardiovascular health, you may be less clear on exactly which types of fats you should eat. Indeed, just as certain fats can harm your body, other fats are essential for its proper function. Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are beneficial for your body. They can lower levels of bad cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. These healthy fats are found in plant-based oils, fatty fish, seeds and nuts. For example, avocados, walnuts, salmon and olive oil are good sources of MUFAs and PUFAs.

Continue Learning about Good Fats

Why are nuts considered healthy when they're full of fat?
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.