Fat is essential for good health, but some fats are better than others. Here are some of the best healthy fat foods to add to your shopping list.
It’s not 1996 anymore, and fat isn’t the enemy — so it’s time to embrace healthy fat foods. These foods are whole food sources of good-for-you fats like monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fat. They also all happen to be delicious.
Here are seven of the healthiest fatty foods you can include in your diet.
Good fats, as the word “good” implies, are totes healthy. In fact, your body needs these fats.
Fat plays an important role in several vital processes, like transporting nutrients into the bloodstream, developing brain structures, and synthesizing hormones.
Some of the healthiest types of fat in our diets include:
- Monounsaturated fat: Monounsaturated fats are found in things like avocados and olive oil. These fats are associated with better heart health and better overall wellness.
- Omega-3 fat: Omega-3 fats are found in foods like salmon, flax seeds, and chia seeds. These fats are essential for healthy brain development and function, and they also support heart health. Omega-3 fats also have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Conjugated linoleic acid: Conjugated linoleic acid is a unique type of fat found in full-fat dairy products. It’s thought to improve heart health and may be helpful for weight management.
Even saturated fat, which was formerly blamed for heart disease, doesn’t seem nearly as harmful as we once thought — and it may even be harmless. Many foods that are rich in saturated fat — like beef, eggs, and coconuts — are loaded with good-for-you nutrients. Translation: eat that steak, friend!
However, although we are much more pro-fat these days, not all fats deserve our admiration. Here are some “bad fats” that you’ll want to limit in your diet:
- Omega-6 fats: While omega-6 fats aren’t inherently bad, having too much of them — especially when you’re not eating enough omega-3 to balance it out — can lead to excess inflammation. Unfortunately, our modern diets are extremely high in omega-6 fats from vegetable oils, and extremely low in omega-3.
- Trans fats: Trans fats are found in liquid oils that have been turned solid through processing. Because of their dire negative health effects, their use has been banned in the U.S. Still, trace amounts can be found in some foods because they are created when oils are heated. There are also some naturally occurring trans fats, but these are only found in very small quantities in natural foods and they don’t cause the same negative health problems as trans fats created in food manufacturing.
The oils highest in these fats are
affectionately called “industrial seed oils.” These include oils like soybean, canola, safflower, sunflower, corn, and peanut oil.
These oils are highly processed and extremely unstable, making them prone to oxidative damage — especially if they’re used repeatedly for frying. Like in — ding ding ding, you guessed it — nearly every restaurant ever.
So what’s the deal with cholesterol? Should we avoid it?
Research shows that dietary cholesterol doesn’t seem to impact heart disease risk all that much.
And considering our sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen are made from cholesterol, it may be good for us — at least in moderate quantities.
Still, dietary cholesterol may contribute to your blood cholesterol levels. Here are some things to consider about these levels.
Your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — or “bad” cholesterol — can be two sizes: small and dense, or large and fluffy. The small and dense stuff puts you at an increased risk of heart disease, but the fluffy stuff appears to be harmless.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is your “good” cholesterol. The higher this number is, the better.
Finally, you may also want to know your triglyceride level. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood, and high triglycerides represent an increased heart disease risk. Having both a low triglyceride level and a high HDL cholesterol level can be an indicator of good heart health, though.
If you have concerns about cholesterol, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider.
Here are seven healthy fat foods to add to your diet stat.
It’s loaded with monounsaturated fats, the same healthy fats found in olive oil. These fats may help improve heart health and reduce inflammation.
One 201-gram avocado contains 20 grams of monounsaturated fat and 30 total grams of fat. In addition, avocados are loaded with potassium and fiber — making them one of the absolute best foods to support heart health. Eat up!
2. Olive oil
Olive oil, the star of the Mediterranean diet, is a perennial favorite for a reason. Olives are full of monounsaturated fats called oleic acid, so olive oil is a concentrated source of this healthy compound. Oleic acid has been linked to better heart health, lower blood pressure, better metabolic health, and reduced inflammation.
A tablespoon of olive oil packs 10 grams of monounsaturated fat and 14 grams of total fat per serving.
So go ahead — drizzle a little on everything.
One large (210-gram) fillet contains nearly 2 grams of omega-3 fat, along with 39 grams of total fat and a whopping 53 grams of protein.
4. Flax seeds
Nuts and seeds are also excellent source of healthy fats, and some even contain omega-3s. Flax seeds are one of these, making them an ideal choice for people on vegan diets or people who don’t eat fish.
They can be used in baking, mixed into smoothies, or used as a topping for anything — sweet or savory. They have a very mild nutty flavor that works with almost any kind of food.
One tablespoon of flax seed contains 2 grams of alpha-linolenic acid (plant-based omega-3), and 4 grams of total fat. It’s also rich in fiber and protein.
5. Dark chocolate
Here’s some good news: dark chocolate is a member of the healthy fat club. With a few caveats.
The stuff that’s loaded with sugar probably won’t benefit you (other than emotionally, which — you know — is also important), but chocolates that are 70% or more cocoa contain loads of healthy monounsaturated fats without a lot of extra sugar.
A 30-gram serving of 70% dark chocolate contains 14 grams of fat, and dark chocolate is also full of fiber and good-for-you antioxidants.
FYI: One square of dark chocolate a day should do the trick. The calls and sugar can add up quickly.
If you can eat dairy, yogurt is a *primo* food to include in your routine. Healthy fat, protein, AND probiotics?? Count us in. For all the benefits, make sure you go for the plain, full-fat Greek yogurt.
Research shows that high-fat dairy (like full-fat yogurts and cheeses) may be better for metabolic health than low-fat dairy, thanks to a type of fat called conjugated linoleic acid. Low-fat dairy products tend to be higher in sugar, too.
One cup of plain, full-fat Greek yogurt contains 5 grams of fat, along with 9 grams of protein and only 4 grams of carbohydrates. Sweeten it with a drizzle of honey and some fresh berries, and up the fullness factor with nuts and seeds.
They contain whole food saturated fats and cholesterol in the yolk, but it comes packaged with choline — a nutrient that is necessary for proper brain and nervous system function.
One large egg contains about five grams of fat.
Fat, bad? Nope — not all of them, anyway. Monounsaturated fats and omega-3s are great for you, and even saturated fat isn’t the evil villain we once thought. However, you do want to steer clear of trans fats and excessive omega-6s found in vegetable oils. Some of the top healthy fat foods include avocado, olive oil, salmon, flax seeds, dark chocolate, yogurt, and eggs.