Your body uses lipids, or fats, for insulation, to cushion organs and as a source of stored energy. Dietary fats also help your body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Healthy adults should get 20 percent to 35 percent of total calories from fat, or 45 to 78 grams per day on a 2,000-calorie diet. Saturated, trans and unsaturated fats are all types of lipids, but unsaturated fats are healthier choices. Cholesterol is a type of lipid that does not provide calories and is not a necessary component of your diet.
Cook With Plant-Based Oils
Oils are pure fats, with no carbohydrates, protein or water. Each tablespoon of canola oil provides 14 grams of fat. Oils also provide antioxidants, such as vitamin E and selenium. Olive oil is particularly high in monounsaturated fats, which reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, while flaxseed, canola and soybean oil contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Stir-fry tofu, chicken or shrimp and vegetables in sesame or canola oil, use olive oil as a base for salad dressings or brush acorn squash, eggplant or zucchini with oil before roasting it.
Healthy Lipids from Nuts and Peanuts
Nuts, such as almonds, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts, and peanuts are high in unsaturated fats and low in unhealthy saturated fats. An ounce of cashews has 13.1 grams of total fat, an ounce of pecans supplies 20.4 grams of fat and an ounce of peanuts has 14 grams of fat. Walnuts also provide linolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fat that has cardiovascular benefits. Have nuts as a snack or add them to cereal, vegetables or chili.
Avocados Are Fatty Fruits
A cup of sliced avocado has 21.4 grams of total fat and only 3.1 grams of saturated fat. It contains 14.3 grams of monounsaturated fats, which can lower your risk for heart disease. Avocados also provide vitamin C, an antioxidant vitamin, and dietary fiber, a plant nutrient that can help lower your cholesterol levels. Make guacamole with garlic, tomatoes and lime juice, mix avocados into soup to thicken it or use avocado slices in burritos and sandwiches.
Nutrient-Rich Fatty Fish
A 3-ounce portion of cooked Atlantic salmon provides 10.5 grams of total fat and only 2.1 grams of unhealthy saturated fat. Other fatty fish include mackerel, tuna, herring, anchovies and sardines. To increase your intake of omega-3 fats, make a herring and apple salad with Greek yogurt, use canned tuna or salmon and broccoli to make a casserole or toss sardines with tomato sauce or olive oil and whole-wheat pasta.
Limit Saturated and Trans Fats
Choose sources of fats that are highly unsaturated instead of highly saturated to lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. Limit your intake of butter, fatty meats and full-fat cheese to limit your saturated fat consumption. Also try to avoid trans fats, which increase your risk for heart disease. Trans fats can be in fried foods and partially hydrogenated oils found in some processed snack foods, such as sandwich cookies, snack cakes and crackers. High-fat foods can be high-calorie, so monitor your portion sizes to avoid unwanted weight gain.
Egg Yolks Contain Cholesterol
Eggs and egg-containing dishes are the leading sources of cholesterol in the average American diet, providing 25 percent of total dietary cholesterol. A large egg yolk contains 210 milligrams of cholesterol. Your body can make enough of its own cholesterol to meet your needs, so you do not need to get cholesterol from the diet. Cholesterol from your diet can raise your levels of low-density lipoprotein, or "bad" cholesterol, and healthy adults should have no more than 300 milligrams per day. Chicken and beef are other major sources of cholesterol in the typical American diet.
- Iowa State University: Fat
- University of Michigan: Healthy Fats
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
- Linus Pauling Institute: Nuts
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Red Blood Cell MUFAs and Risk of Coronary Artery Disease in the Physicians' Health Study
- University of Michigan: Fish and Seafood
- University of Michigan: Eggs