Top Tips for Healthier Eating

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6. Replace bad fats with good.

You probably know by now that all fat is not created equal — that saturated fat and trans fat raise LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or “bad”) cholesterol, may raise blood pressure, and are even associated with poor blood glucose control. Conversely, unsaturated fats — particularly omega-3 fatty acids – may have the reverse effect.

When choosing foods — even “healthy” cooking oils that are high in unsaturated fat — be aware of three things. First, all fats have 9 calories per gram and will contribute to weight gain if consumed in excess. To keep calories low, moderate your use of all fats and oils. Second, the health benefits of unsaturated fats are not seen when they are simply added to a diet high in saturated or trans fat. To improve your health, you must replace saturated fat, found in animal products and tropical oils, with unsaturated fat, found in other vegetable oils and fish. Finally, focus on adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet; these are found in flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil and fatty fish. It is thought that the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, the other type of essential “good” fat, in one’s diet is crucial to obtaining the health benefits of both. Americans currently consume far less of omega-3 than omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in large amounts in many vegetable oils (including corn, sunflower, safflower and soybean oils). So focus on eating foods and oils with omega-3 fatty acids while minimizing saturated and trans fats, and perhaps omega-6 fatty acids, as well.

Originally Published November 5, 2009

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