What foods contain heart healthy fats

The words “fat” and “healthy” seem like opposites, but the terms go together nicely when you choose what you eat wisely.

That’s because foods with healthy fats can be beneficial for your heart and overall health. Incorporating foods with healthy fats into your diet is a breeze when you know what to include.

For more information on building a heart-healthy diet, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.

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The Difference Between Saturated and Unsaturated Fats

There are two types of fats: saturated and unsaturated.

Eating foods with a high saturated fat content can raise your cholesterol level, which can increase your risk for heart disease. Sources of saturated fat include fatty cuts of meat, full-fat dairy products, coconut oil, and palm oil. Unsaturated fats are considered healthy when eaten in moderation. Unsaturated fats, including polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, can both lower your cholesterol level and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

The list of foods containing healthy fats may surprise you. Here are some top foods with healthy fats and suggestions for incorporating them into your diet.

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Foods That Contain Healthy Fats


When choosing your meal, opt for fish instead of red meat. Cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, albacore tuna, and trout are a great way to add healthy fats to your diet. If you do choose red meat, go for the leanest cuts available and broil, roast, or bake it.


Add walnuts, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans to your dishes. They all have health benefits, according to the American Heart Association. Walnuts in particular are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (a heart-healthy fat also found in fish).

Drop some unsalted nuts on your salad for lunch or stir peanuts into your stir-fry for dinner. Nuts also make an excellent addition to yogurt, cereal, or a smoothie.

    Cooking Oils

You can find a range of healthy cooking oils in the grocery story, including canola, corn, olive, peanut, soybean, and sunflower oil. When you cook, use one of these healthier oils in place of butter, shortening, lard, and margarine. But steer clear of coconut oil and palm oil, which have higher amounts of saturated fats.


Sunflower seeds, ground flaxseed, and pumpkin seeds are all excellent, heart-healthy options to add to your diet. You can eat these raw or roasted, or add to a salad for a healthy, crunchy boost. Another idea is to mix them into your muffin batter or sprinkle them on yogurt. Just remember to avoid the salted seeds since they are usually high in sodium.


Most fruits have low levels of fat, but avocados break that mold. An avocado is primarily made up of monounsaturated fat and is also a good source of fiber and antioxidants. Luckily, avocados are easy to incorporate into your diet. Use avocado spread on toast or in place of sour cream on a baked potato. Avocados are also great for sandwiches, salads, burgers, pasta, dips, and tacos.

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Olives are another good-for-you fruit because they are rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that protects the heart. Add olives to salads or orzo dishes, sprinkle some on your meat dishes, or use them to make bruschetta or hummus. Olives contain a high amount of sodium, so stick with a single serving.

With a little planning and preparation, you can begin to include more heart-healthy fats into your diet. Not only will you feel better and healthier, but your heart also will thank you.

For more information on building a heart-healthy diet, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.


About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.