Fats are essential in our diets because they provide energy, support our body’s growth, and help us to absorb some nutrients, among other important roles.
However, for many years it was believed that they have a negative effect on human health. Many people started following low-fat diets beginning in the 1980s and for many years after. Unfortunately, this trend led to people eating more refined carbohydrates and added sugars. They also avoided fats that we now know to be healthy fats.
It is true that saturated fat, often found in processed or animal-based foods, has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. This is because saturated fat increases levels of LDL-cholesterol in the blood. However, replacing it with healthier mono- and poly-unsaturated fats can reduce this risk by decreasing LDL-cholesterol levels.
Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 now focus on the types of fat that people eat. The guidelines also recommend focusing on a healthy eating pattern.
What About Plant-based Fat Sources?
Research suggests that replacing saturated fat, refined carbohydrates or trans fat with plant-based monounsaturated fat is associated with lower heart disease risk. The effect is not the same when replacing them with animal-based monounsaturated fat.
How Do I Incorporate Plant-based Fats Into My Plant-based Diet?
Here is a list of some simple ways to optimize your intake of plant-based fats, every day:
- Nuts and seeds: Have a handful of unsalted nuts or seeds as your next snack or add them to your next meal. Some ideas include almonds, walnuts, and hemp seeds. You can also mix ground flaxseeds into most dishes. Nuts and seeds provide crunch along with a dose of heart-healthy fats and fiber. You can also opt for their butters, like peanut or sunflower seed butter.
- Avocado: Technically a fruit that is high in fat as well as fiber, avocado is a versatile way to get some healthy fats in. You can spread it on toast, use it in guacamole, or slice it up into a salad. The options are endless!
- Vegetable oils: Oils that are liquid at room temperature are a source of healthy fats. You can dip bread in olive oil instead of spreading it with butter, or drizzle some olive oil on your salads. Canola oil can be used when sautéing your favorite vegetables. Get familiar with the best ways to use each type of oil.
- Edamame: These are young soybeans that are harvested before they have ripened. They make for a great snack or addition to most dishes. They are a source of heart-healthy fats as well as protein and fiber.
How do you ensure you’re getting plant-based fats while following a plant-based diet? Give us some ideas in the comments section below!
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