Healthy Fats and Low-Fat Cooking Ideas

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on April 19, 2021

Remember, all fats have twice the calories of carbohydrates and protein, so use them sparingly.


Olive OilIs a monounsaturated fat that contains  antioxidants, especially extra-virgin. When substituted for butter or other saturated fats, it promotes a healthy heart.Drizzle lightly on bread instead of butter. Saute vegetables in olive oil and garlic for extra flavor. Cut up fresh potatoes, toss in a dash of oil, and roast in the oven at 400 F for healthier french fries.
Canola OilIs a good source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce the risk of heart disease and may reduce the risk of ischemic stroke.Use in cooking whenever you want a neutral tasting oil. Toss with root vegetables, then roast in the oven. Mix a dash of canola oil with lemon juice and salt and pepper, and toss in a salad of apples, fennel, and greens. Use canola and soybean oils instead of margarine or shortening for baking or cooking, for greasing cookware, and for sauteing and stir-frying.
Fish: Salmon, Tuna, Trout, Striped Bass, Mackerel, Herring, SardinesDietary omega-3 fatty acids from fish help reduce the risks of heart disease and sudden cardiac death.Current dietary guidelines recommend including seafood twice per week. Baste a fillet of salmon with a teaspoon of olive oil, toss on some sprigs of rosemary or thyme, some salt and pepper, then roast for 17 minutes at 350 degrees. Make a light tuna salad with a bit of olive oil or canola oil instead of mayonnaise. Brush a fillet of trout with olive oil and lemon, then coat with seasoned breadcrumbs and bake for Mediterranean taste. 
Nuts: Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, PeanutsContain healthy poly- and monounsaturated fats that, when substituted for other fatty foods, can help reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels. Are also a good source of protein, dietary fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals.Eat raw, as a healthy snack, instead of chips or crackers. Pulverize into crumbs and use to bread a trout fillet, then saute lightly in canola oil. *Avoid nuts roasted with oil and salt.
Flaxseeds or Hemp SeedsAre rich in the omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which helps control inflammation and blood pressure, as well as other body functions.Flaxseeds spoil easily, so buy them fresh and keep them in the fridge. Toss into salads, soups, stews, or casseroles, Your body cannot break down whole flaxseeds, so it must be ground first in order to access the omega-3 fatty acids. Could also add ground flaxseed to cereal, yogurt, and baked goods.
AvocadosAre high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and are good sources of vitamins E and C, fiber, folate, and potassium. And they’re cholesterol-free.Choose avocados that are firm. When they give under gentle pressure, they’re ripe. If they feel squishy, they’re too ripe. Add chopped or sliced avocado to salads, use in place of mayonnaise on sandwiches, or blend into smoothies.


Show Sources


Stanton, R. Good Fats, Bad Fats, Marlowe & Co., 2002.

The PDR Family Guide to Nutrition and Health, Medical Economics Co., 1995.

Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 


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