Should you count non-saturated fat against your diet?

A healthy diet should be filled with a variety of foods. I encourage my patients to try to include foods from all of the food groups as part of a well rounded meal plan. Fat can be a healthy part of the daily diet as well. It is suggested that people should try to increase their intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and decrease their intake of trans fats and saturated fats.

Polyunsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature and include vegetable oils, fatty fish, and some nuts and seeds. Monounsaturated fats are also liquid at room temperature and are found in: olive oil, canola oil, avocado, peanut butter and nuts and seeds. Both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (when eaten in moderation) can help reduce cholesterol levels. Trans fats (or “partially hydrogenated” fats as seen on labels) are made when hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oil to form a solid. You can find trans fats in various products such as French fries, baked goods (pastries, doughnuts, cookies, crackers), shortening and stick margarine. Trans fats are not considered a healthy fat as they raise bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower good cholesterol (HDL). Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature. They are found in foods like fatty beef, pork, poultry with skin, lard and cream, butter, cheese and other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat (2%) milk. Saturated fats are not considered healthy fats as they raise blood cholesterol levels, which increase risk of heart disease.

So, to try to answer your question, you should try to include some “non-saturated fat” options as part of a healthy diet. You may try using olive oil in your cooking, snacking on nuts during the day and aim to get more fatty-fish into your diet (salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna). These are considered healthy options. But, for each gram of fat there are 9 calories present (as opposed to a gram of protein/carbohydrate which both have 4 calories). This means that foods with fat are generally higher in calories overall, so I would just use caution and monitor your portion sizes when consuming these foods. These healthy fats still have important health benefits, but just like anything else, if you “over indulge” you may end up taking in more calories then your body needs, which could lead to unwanted weight gain.

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