Good fats add healthful boost to Thanksgiving meal |

Good fats add healthful boost to Thanksgiving meal

This Thanksgiving, try adding some flaxseed or walnut oil to salad dressing or vegetables for a healthy omega-3 boost. Eating more unsaturated, or vegetable-based, fats can actually help your heart rather than hurt it.
Lauren Blair

There’s no reason to avoid fat this Thanksgiving, but knowing which fats to cook with and which to leave out can make a world of difference for the healthfulness of your feast.

Numerous health experts agree that when it comes to dietary fat, there are good types and bad types. Good fats can actually promote good health while bad fats have been linked with cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Across the board, most conventional medical establishments such as the Mayo Clinic and the Harvard School of Public Health agree that the two main forms of bad fats are saturated fat and trans fats.

Saturated fat “comes mainly from animal sources of food, such as red meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products,” according to an article from the Mayo Clinic. “Saturated fat raises total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Trans fats are present in partially hydrogenated oils, which are used in many processed foods such as margarine, cookies and crackers, as well as in deep-fried foods at restaurants.

“Trans fat is considered by many doctors to be the worst type of fat you can eat,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

One rule of thumb, suggested Lindsey Hester, dietitian at The Memorial Hospital in Craig, is to switch out fats that are solid at room temperature for fats which are liquid at room temperature.

“Most fats that have a high percentage of saturated fat or that contain trans fat are solid at room temperature,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “They include beef fat, pork fat, butter, shortening and stick margarine.”

The main forms of healthy fats are monounsaturated — found in a variety of foods and oils — and polyunsaturated fats — found mostly in plant-based foods and oils, according to the Mayo Clinic. Eating more of both types of fats can actually improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Hester offers an easy rule to tell the difference.

“If it’s fat from an animal, it’s saturated and if it’s fat from a plant, it’s unsaturated,” Hester explained, adding that seafood falls into its own category.

Two types of polyunsaturated fats that have garnered a lot of attention in recent years are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Americans tend to get plenty of omega-6 from plant-based foods and oils, however Hester recommends trying to add more omega-3 fatty acids to your diet.

Fish are an ideal source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can also be found in flaxseed, walnuts and other nuts and seeds, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“In terms of baking, brown flax seeds are easy to throw in,” Hester said, and suggested adding it to oatmeal as well.

This Thanksgiving, consider using flax oil or walnut oil in a salad dressing or drizzled over fresh steamed vegetables with sea salt. Walnuts are also a great addition to salads, pilafs, baked goods and desserts. Extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil is another great option for low-temperature sauteing or cooking.

“If people want to switch out (unhealthy) fats, the easiest thing to do, with any of the recipes that call for any kind of fat from an animal — like the drippings from the turkey or pork fat… switch to vegetable oil, which is polyunsaturated,” Hester said.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or

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