February 7, 2018

Are “Good Fats” a Real Thing?

Believe it or not, consuming fats can be good for you. Fats are an essential part of our diet and are important for good health. However, not all fats are created equal, and understanding the benefits of healthy fats and their benefits will help you lower your risk of heart disease while contributing to a balanced diet.

Why do we need fats in our diet? Fats provide energy, healthy brain function and cell growth, and are the source of some essential fats that the human body cannot create on its own.

Below are four good examples of good fats:

  • Olive Oil – Most olive oils have added hydrogenated oil, so make sure to select these. Cold pressed indicates that no heat was used to extract the oil from the olives. Good olive oil should be grown, pressed and bottled in a single country. Reading labels is important. “Olive oil is a good choice and some studies have shown lower cardiovascular mortality,” said Brian Asbill, MD, a cardiologist with Asheville Cardiology Associates, an affiliate of Mission Health.
  • Fish Oil – These are generally used as supplements and not in food. Look for high quality, mercury-free fish oils. Benefits of these oils include decreasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can prevent and reverse a variety of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Nuts – These crunchy treats are a good source of fat, protein and fiber. Most nuts are generally healthy, but walnuts contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds and pecans appear to be quite heart healthy as well. Even though most of the nut is fat, it still has a lot of calories, so make sure to choose raw variations that aren’t covered in chocolate and salt.
  • Avocados – These fruits (yes, avocados are fruits) are considered a nutrient-rich food, full of antioxidants and a broad spectrum of vitamins including C, K and B. Adding avocados to your diet may lower blood pressure. A diet varied in fruits and vegetables has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and improve your overall health.

As with most things in life, we must practice moderation. Over-consumption of anything, including these “good” fats, can have an undesirable impact on our health. But when used in moderation, these can (and will) be an essential part of a healthy lifestyle to improve and maximize your health.

For more opportunities to improve your heart health, visit mission-health.org/heartmonth.

Reviewed by Brian Asbill, MD, a cardiologist with Asheville Cardiology Associates, an affiliate of Mission Health.