Carbohydrates, proteins and fats are the three major components of your daily food intake. Your body needs carbohydrates in the highest amount for energy but fats in the smallest amounts, due to their high concentration of calories. This does not mean you should shy away from all fat sources, however. Fats are necessary to dissolve certain types of vitamins in your foods and stabilize heart rhythms, among other functions. When you choose healthy fats for your diet, you can reap the benefits without increasing your risk for heart disease.
Your best fats options will come from a group of fats known as unsaturated fats. These are typically liquid at room temperature and come in two varieties. The first is monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to improve blood cholesterol levels and thus can be vital in the fight against heart disease. Examples of monounsaturated fats include those found in some cooking oils, such as olive, peanut and canola oils. Other food sources of monounsaturated fats include nuts, avocadoes and olives.
Foods that contain polyunsaturated fats are considered beneficial to eat because they can contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Your body cannot produce these acids, which means you must take eat them. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are touted for their abilities to fight inflammation to help prevent disease, according to the University of Michigan Health System. Examples of foods with polyunsaturated fats include walnuts, flax seeds, fish, walnuts and soybean and flaxseed oils.
While polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are considered to be healthy options, they must still be consumed in moderation. For a 2,000 calorie per day diet, MayoClinic.com recommends no more than 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories come from fats -- this is about 44 to 78 grams of fat each day. While there are no distinct recommendations for monounsaturated versus polyunsatured fat consumption, read food labels carefully to ensure you are not exceeding daily fat intake recommendations. It's best to eat a minimum of saturated fat.
Just as there are healthy fat sources, unhealthy fat sources exist. Saturated fats, which tend to be solid at room temperature, are considered harmful because they have a link to heart disease. They also are associated with raising “bad” cholesterol levels and lowering “good” cholesterol levels. Examples of foods with saturated fats include cheese, pizza, hot dogs, lard, butter and oils, such as coconut, palm and tropical oils. You also should avoid another harmful source of fats entirely: trans fats. These fats are added to foods to increase their shelf life and are often found in margarines and pre-packaged desserts.
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.