healthy fats
healthy fats

How To Add Healthy Fats To Your Diet

Posted on February 20, 2023 by Henry Ford Health Staff

Twenty years ago, eliminating fat from your diet was promoted as a critical step in maintaining a healthy weight and heart. Some people are still following these recommendations, choosing only nonfat foods. Others follow a more recent trend, the keto diet, which recommends eating 80% of your calories from fat.

So what’s the right balance of fat to include in a healthy diet? It turns out that eating a moderate amount of fat—especially unsaturated fat—offers many health benefits.

“Adults should aim to get about 20% of their calories from fat, with the majority coming from unsaturated fats,” says Sarah Hutchinson, RDN, a registered dietitian at Henry Ford Health. Unsaturated fats reduce the risk of heart disease, provide energy and help you absorb vitamins. “Limit saturated fats, which increase the risk of heart disease, obesity and other chronic conditions,” Hutchison adds.

What Are Healthy Fats?

It can be confusing to sort out which fats to add and which to avoid in your diet. Hutchinson explains how each type of fat impacts your health:

Unsaturated fats

The healthiest fats are unsaturated fats, which are liquid at room temperature. These fats offer many benefits, including:

  • Supporting high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) and reducing the risk of developing heart disease
  • Reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Promoting cell growth and renewal
  • Supporting organ health and providing energy
  • Helping the body absorb vitamins

Sources of unsaturated fats include:

  • Plant-based oils (olive, canola, corn, safflower, sesame and sunflower)
  • Nuts and nut butter
  • Avocados
  • Cold-water fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines)

Saturated fats

Saturated fats have a high percentage of fatty acids, making them solid at room temperature. These fats are found in animal products such as butter, lard, dairy and fatty meats.

Eating too many foods with saturated fat can raise your low-density lipoproteins (LDL), sometimes called “bad” cholesterol. As LDL increases, the extra cholesterol in your body combines with other substances to form plaque. Over time, plaque can build up in your arteries, causing coronary artery disease and increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Healthy Fats For A Well-Balanced Diet

“The healthiest diet is balanced and includes fruits, vegetables, lean protein, fiber-rich foods and unsaturated fats,” says Hutchinson. You can add healthy fats to meals with these easy swaps in your recipes:

  • Choose low-fat dairy products rather than full-fat options
  • Choose lean meat and skinless chicken breasts, removing excess fat before cooking
  • Broil, roast or bake foods using plant-based oils instead of frying
  • Read nutrition labels to identify foods made with unsaturated fats and avoid items containing saturated fats

You don’t have to give up flavor when creating meals with healthy fats. Try these recipes, which have 10% or fewer calories from saturated fat. They also provide good sources of unsaturated fat from nuts, avocados, seeds and fatty fish:

Signs You May Need To Add Healthy Fats To Your Diet

“We all need some fat in our diet, but it can be difficult to determine if you’re getting enough healthy fats,” says Hutchinson. Some signs that you may need to add fat to your meals include:

  • Dry hair or hair loss
  • Dry skin and nails

These symptoms could also be due to a variety of other conditions. That’s why it’s important to check with your physician or dietitian if you have any questions or concerns, Hutchinson notes. “As trained professionals, we can evaluate your diet and overall health to determine whether you need to adjust your nutrition plan.”

Looking for more information about nutrition or want to make an appointment with a registered dietitian? Call 1-855-434-5483 or visit

Sarah Hutchinson is a registered dietitian for the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

Categories : EatWell

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