Good fats basically fall into two categories Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and they are actually beneficial for our health when consumed in the right quantities.
MONOUNSATURATED fats are simple fats that are typically liquid at room temperature but start to turn solid when chilled (olive oil is an example). Monounsaturated fats can actually have a beneficial effect on your health when eaten in moderation and when used to replace saturated fats or trans fats. They can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. They provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells, and are also typically high in vitamin E, an antioxidant vitamin most people need more of.
Examples of foods high in monounsaturated fats include vegetable oils such as olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil and sesame oil. Other sources include avocados, peanut butter, and many nuts and seeds.
POLYUNSATURATED fats are simple fats that are typically liquid at room temperature and when chilled. Polyunsaturated fats can have a beneficial effect on your health when consumed in moderation and like Mono’s they can help reduce the cholesterol levels in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease.
In addition, they also include essential fats that your body needs but can’t produce itself, such as Omega-6 and Omega-3. You must make sure you get these essential fats through your food as they play a crucial role in brain function and in the normal growth and development of your body. Foods high in polyunsaturated fat include a number of vegetable oils, including soybean oil, corn oil and safflower oil, as well as fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout. Other sources include some nuts and seeds such as walnuts and sunflower seeds.
How much fat should you consume per day?
Mono and Polyunsaturated fats, like all fats, contain nine calories per gram. The fats in the foods you eat should not total more than 25–35 percent of the calories you eat in a given day...and, for good health, the majority if not all of those fats should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. So for example:
Lets take an average and assume 30% of your total calories should come from fat; If you are on a 2,000 calorie diet, 30% would mean you should be consuming 600 calories from fat. 600 calories of fat equals about 67 grams of fat. To put things in perspective, 1tbsp of oil is about 13.5g fat, 7 walnuts are 18.3g fat and so on...An ideal diet should include fat from nuts and seeds, oily fish like salmon, olive oil, avocados etc…
I personally buy olive oil and canola oil at home. I use olive oil raw in salads for example and for low temperature cooking. I use canola oil for high temperature cooking such as frying an onion for a stew. I use a very small quantity of oil in my cooking (about 1tbsp mixed with water) and add the rest through nuts and seeds, avocado in salads, hummus (sesame paste ‘tahini’ is a good fat) and so on. For baking, I replace all butter/margarine with canola oil and honestly its just as good if not better. So remember that fats are essential for our wellbeing and they are not all created equal! Choose the right ones and stay within the right quantities.