Our bodies need fat to help give us energy, stay warm and absorb certain vitamins, but it can be tricky to get the balance right with the types and amount of fats we eat. A good start is to try to cut down on saturated fats, such as those found in fatty meat, cream, cheese and baked treats, as these have been linked to high cholesterol and heart disease. Instead include more unsaturated (including mono- and polyunsaturated) and omega fats in your diet where possible; here are seven tasty, everyday ingredients that can help up your intake.
Soft and creamy, this versatile fruit is high in monounsaturated fats and happens to be the trendiest ingredient around. A breakfast and brunch staple, it’s actually very versatile; try it mashed on toast, whizzed into a smoothie or baked with eggs. At lunchtime, blend into guacamole or slice into salads and sandwiches. You could even try using in sweet recipes such as cakes and mousses, adding creaminess without dairy.
Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fats and walnuts in particular are a source of polyunsaturated fat and the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. This is needed for the heart to function normally as well as providing a host of other benefits, too. A great choice for both sweet and savoury dishes, try sprinkling chopped walnuts over porridge for a lovely crunchy texture or swapping them with pine nuts next time you make a green pesto.
For a snack that's high in fibre as well as these good fats, try this nutty lobio bean dip with crunchy veg sticks, or if catering to a crowd, add this colourful Turkish salad, with bulgur wheat, walnuts and pomegranate seeds, to your menu.
Like nuts, seeds (including sunflower, hemp, chia and flax) are also sources of unsaturated fats including both mono- and polyunsaturated and omega-3 fats. This makes them a particularly great addition to a vegetarian diet and a great choice all round for snacking and adding to your cooking. They’re easy to sprinkle on yogurt for breakfast, over salads for added crunch, or to include in your baking.
This seed and grain kedgeree makes a great choice for breakfast or dinner, while this simple pea salad recipe combines pumpkin seeds with avocado for even more good fats.
Vegan and vegetarian diets need to include lots of plant-based sources of fat to remain healthily balanced, and soya beans and products made from them can help play a part in this. Although often eaten more for their high protein levels, they do also contain unsaturated fats.
Soya milk and yogurt can be used as a dairy substitute in cooking, such as with this creamy mushroom carbonara recipe or a vegan take on a classic lasagne. The bright green soya (or edamame) beans are crunchy and sweet, perfect for adding to Asian-style dishes such as this prawn and kimchee noodle salad.
The Mediterranean diet is thought by many to have multiple health benefits and olive oil plays an important part in this. Great used raw and for cooking, olive oil comes in various strengths of flavour and contains monounsaturated and omega (-3, -6 and -9) fats.
Use mild, light-coloured olive oil to cook with, you can even use it for sweet baking recipes such as this gorgeous almond and courgette cake. Rich, peppery dark green extra-virgin olive oil is perfect for salad dressings and punchy pestos - try with tangy mustard to dress this spring salad, or as the base of a colourful hazelnut pesto for butternut squash spaghetti.
Oily fish are one of the best sources of omega-3 fats, and salmon in particular is not only widely available and easy to cook, but also delicious. With a distinctive flavour and pink flesh, baked or grilled salmon fillets make a perfect family dinner, and is a favourite in fish pies or as smoked salmon for an indulgent breakfast.
Salmon's richness and meaty texture make it the perfect match for strong flavours; try with tangy citrus in this grilled salmon and bulgur wheat dinner, or flaked through a spicy satay salad. For an unusual lunch, give Hawaiian-stye smoked salmon poké bowls a go.
Eggs, which contain some unsaturated fats, have gone in and out of foodie fashion but are currently right back in the limelight. Previously thought to be linked to the problems of high cholesterol, new studies have suggested that the benefits of eggs as part of a healthy diet outweigh these risks. Not just for breakfast, they are great baked, poached, boiled and chopped into salads or stirred into curries. Or our favourite, a traditional soft boiled and served with soldiers – heaven.
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