Healthy Fats

By Charlyn Fargo

May 17, 2019 6 min read

It is a mystery that it's suddenly OK to eat fat to lose fat. Just how does that make sense?

I grew up in the SnackWell's age — those no-fat cookies in the green box that you could feel good about eating because they didn't have any fat. It was only later we realized they had more sugar and equal amount of calories compared to "regular" cookies.

Now, we're in the age of good fats — avocados, olive oil, walnuts, salmon — good because they either are high in omega-3s or high in mono- or polyunsaturated oils. And the message now is to feel good about eating "good" fats. The "bad" fats, by the way, are the saturated fats, found in animals, and trans fats, found in foods with hydrogenated margarines and other fats that tend to give foods shelf-life (think desserts in a box).

So why is it that you can eat fat to be healthy and maybe even lose weight?

A recent article in Eating Well magazine did a great job of explaining. It has to do with insulin sensitivity to the fats.

A study at Harvard School of Public Health looking at data from 120,000 women over 20 years found that the type of fat that people ate affected their weight. The more saturated and trans fats in the diet the more pounds gained. And the more unsaturated fats (poly or mono) the less likely to gain; in many cases, weight loss occurred.

Here's how Dr. Frank Hu, chair of the department of nutrition, explained it: "Different types of fats have different metabolic effects in the body." If you eat saturated or trans fats, your cells don't absorb the resulting breakdown of glucose like they should. That results in insulin production and eventually weight gain from fat.

The researchers found that plant and fish sources of fats — from olive oil, tuna, salmon, walnuts and sunflower seeds — promoted insulin "sensitivity," which means the body used the fat for energy instead of storing it.

That makes you want to eat healthier fats, doesn't it? Make some simple switches: Instead of bacon bits on your salad, get your crunch from sliced almonds. Instead of queso dip at the Mexican restaurant, choose guacamole (just watch how many chips you eat). Instead of a rib-eye, choose salmon. Add some walnuts to your salad rather than croutons. Healthy fats, healthy you.

Q and A

Q: What are some of your favorite health and nutrition tips?

A: A client recently asked me this question on his journey to losing weight and building muscle. While I could fill an entire page, I picked three that I felt were really important - and often overlooked.

1. Get enough sleep. When we are sleep-deprived, our brain doesn't function well. We stop thinking about what's important to eat for health (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein) and simply grab what is convenient (typically, food from a vending machine). In reality, our appetite hormones are affected, causing increases in insulin resistance.

2. Drink more water. I keep a glass on my desk at all times. Many times, we think we're hungry when we are simply thirsty. Drink it before a meal; it helps you feel more full, and you end up eating less. Water is better than iced tea, soda, fruit juice or sports drinks. It's the No. 1 thing our bodies need.

3. Always choose a protein and a fiber-rich carbohydrate for a snack and at meals. Protein keeps you feeling full. Fiber-rich carbs take longer to digest, so your blood sugar doesn't spike. Put the two together and it's a win-win. Try an apple with peanut butter, almonds, low-fat Greek yogurt, hummus and whole-grain crackers or string cheese and air-popped popcorn.


Here's a recipe for a quick breakfast — with heart-healthy fat from an avocado, compliments of Avocados From Mexico.


1/2 medium ripe avocado, diced

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1 medium frozen ripe banana, cut into chunks

1 container (5.3-ounce) low-fat coffee Greek yogurt

1 cup chocolate almond milk

1/2 cup ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. Add more water or almond milk for desired thickness. Serve with a sprinkle of cocoa powder on top. Serves. 2.

Per serving: 270 calories; 9 grams protein; 42 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams fat (1.5 grams sat fat); 10 milligrams cholesterol; 3 grams fiber; 105 milligrams sodium.

Note: To reduce calories, use unsweetened chocolate almond milk.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Illinois, and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: congerdesign at Pixabay

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