Fats have unfairly gained a bad reputation in the diet and nutrition world. While some of this bad reputation is valid, there are many good fats that are essential components of any healthy diet. While consuming bad fats may result in unhealthy outcomes like weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes, eating good fats can lower cholesterol levels, improve functionality throughout the body, and promote weight loss.
The key to reaping these benefits is identifying the good fats from the bad fats. A fat generally is categorized as “good” if it is monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. The monounsaturated variety is particularly favored for its ability to reduce the risk of heart disease and reduce inflammation throughout the body. Polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids similarly are also healthy. They promote cell growth and brain function while also lowering levels of bad cholesterol.
Nutritionists and doctors agree that trans fats are the ones that should be avoided. Any food label that includes the words “partially hydrogenated oils” contains trans fat. People who consume too much trans fat put themselves at risk for stroke, heart attack, and diabetes. Additionally, heart experts recommend that people generally avoid saturated fats as they are known to increase levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood. High levels of LDL cholesterol increases your risk for stroke and heart disease, which is why the American Heart Association recommends limiting one’s daily saturated fat consumption to between 5-6% of total caloric intake.
Contrary to popular belief, certain high-fat foods are actually healthy choices. The list below contains 15 good fats to eat.
1. Dark Chocolate
This is one of the most popular good sources of fat. Of course, it pays to keep moderation in mind.
Experts recommend eating about one ounce of dark chocolate a day to derive health benefits. In addition to its healthy fat content, dark chocolate also is loaded with vitamins A, B and E. Also present are calcium, potassium, iron and plant-based antioxidants called flavonoids.
The upshot is that dark chocolate improves brain function and heart health while lessening inflammation. Be sure to choose dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao content to get the best results.
When it comes to healthy high-fat foods, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds must be on the list. That’s because they boast high polyunsaturated fat content.
As a bonus, seeds are easy to add to any diet. Sprinkle them on a salad, incorporate them into a casserole or just pop them by themselves as a snack. Regardless, you’ll benefit from lower cholesterol, and you also may suffer fewer symptoms of depression.
Don’t forget to try flax and chia seeds for added variety.
Nuts are another source of healthy fats to eat. Of course, some are better for you than others. Walnuts, for instance, deserve to be called a superfood.
Walnuts are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids. Anyone who wants to lower bad cholesterol levels and improve the functionality of blood vessels may want to consider having a handful of walnuts a day. Walnuts average five grams of fat in each serving. Those who aren’t crazy about walnuts may want to try almonds, hazelnuts or macadamia nuts.
This healthy food has gotten an undeserved bad reputation. The truth is that eggs can be beneficial to almost anyone’s health. Eggs are a wonderful source of protein, and recent studies demonstrate that eating whole eggs may actually improve heart functionality while lowering bad cholesterol levels.
Most eggs contain about five grams of fat, 1.5 grams of which are saturated. To get the most nutritional value out of an egg, be sure to eat it yolk and all.
This fantastic fruit is another one of the most popular good sources of fat. A whole avocado features about 23 grams of largely monounsaturated fat. Plus, 40 percent of the recommended daily fiber intake is included in one whole piece of fruit. Considering how people struggle with fiber intake, the avocado is a great choice on many scores.
Snacking on avocado also raises vitamin E levels, which boosts the immune system. These fruits further have protein and folates, so they are important to any diet.
6. Nut and Seed Butters
Spread them on toast or dip apple or carrot slices in them. Either way, these healthy fat foods are nutritionally dense and delicious.
Choose varieties like cashew, almond, and sunflower seed to get the most benefit. The fewer ingredients, the healthier the nut butter is. Just two tablespoons are needed to lower bad cholesterol.
7. Olive Oil
Many people use olive oil for cooking or as an ingredient in salad dressings and sauces. That’s great because this oil is filled with healthy monounsaturated fats.
Use olive oil in moderation, and try to stick with genuine, extra virgin olive oil. These products tend to be more expensive, but the cheaper knock-offs don’t have the same nutritional value. Look for products labeled by the International Olive Oil Council to be sure.
8. Fatty Fish
Healthy high-fat foods like salmon and sardines are fantastic sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Eating them regularly will improve your heart health. In fact, numerous studies have shown that people living in cultures where fish are regularly consumed live longer and enjoy better health.
9. Coconut Oil
This food may have fairly high saturated fat content, but it remains among the undoubted good fats to eat. Using coconut oil may help to suppress appetite and boost metabolism in addition to improving brain function.
Although it contains both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, tofu’s fat content levels are not as high as other foods described here. Still, you will benefit from eating three ounces of this plant-based protein given the substantial amounts of calcium and low amounts of sodium present in this food.
11. Full-fat Yogurt
It may seem counterintuitive, but small servings of full-fat yogurt are filled with healthy fats that are good for you. Plain yogurt is the healthiest since added-fruit varieties tend to have too much sugar. Toss a few nuts, seeds or fresh fruit pieces into plain, real yogurt to improve nutritional value and help with digestive issues.
Most people are surprised to discover that cheese is one of the best healthy fat foods. It’s packed with vitamin B12, calcium, selenium and wonderful fatty acids that help fight off type-2 diabetes. Just a few ounces a day can reap big benefits.
13. Organic, Grass-fed Beef
Meat eaters will be delighted to see this entry. The right beef promotes feelings of fullness and provides a healthy dose of protein. When cattle are grass fed, their beef features higher levels of healthy fats. That is good news for the heart and overall health.
14. Full-fat Milk
This is another food that provides healthy fats to eat. Full-fat milk may help lower the risk of diabetes, and it helps the body absorb vitamins A and D, which are all present in milk. Additionally, this dairy food contains healthy levels of calcium that helps support bone density and longevity.
This vegetable is filled with good fats to eat along with protein, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Edamame can make a fantastic snack by itself or can be added to salads. Additionally, edamame contains a high fiber content that contributes to healthy digestion.
Fatty Foods to Avoid
Foods that have trans fat and higher-than-normal amounts of saturated fats are best to avoid. Unfortunately, many people will see some of their favorite snacks and indulgences on this list. Remember to eat these in moderation and on rare occasions.
- Ice cream
- Highly processed foods
- Snack crackers
- Microwave popcorn
- Fried foods
- Certain margarine
For individual nutrition counseling, make an appointment with your Primary Care Physician for a referral to a Registered Dietitian today. Click here for more information on how you can take control of your wellness today!