We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: “99% of what you’ve read about or heard on the nightly news about the dangers of fat and cholesterol is flat out wrong.” In a previous article, we showed you that:
- A low-fat diet isn’t the key to losing weight
- It’s okay to eat cholesterol-rich foods (for most people)
- Saturated fat isn’t bad for you (when eating a low refined carbohydrate diet)
- Low-fat processed foods are NOT good choices
And to drive the point home, here is a list of 17 foods filled with healthy fat that can contribute to your physical and even emotional wellbeing.
Avocados contain about 75 to 80 percent fat, the majority of which is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat. Because of their very high fat content, avocados are also called “butter pears.” Nonetheless, although they have a very high fat content and contain a lot of calories, research has suggested that people who consume this fruit actually tend to weigh less and have less belly fat than people who don’t. As an added bonus, avocados also contain high levels of potassium – approximately 40 percent more than bananas do – and lots of fiber. They even contribute to the reduction of osteoarthritis symptoms and keep your heart healthy. When eaten with other foods, avocados can also help your body work better to absorb more nutrients from these other food items.[i]
Eggs used to be considered unhealthy because of their high cholesterol and fat content. A single egg can contain up to 212 mg of cholesterol, and 62 percent of its calories come from fat. However, the types of fat found in eggs can be broken down evenly into monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats, adding up to 66 percent total good fats.
Additionally, recent studies have proven that the cholesterol content of eggs has no effect on blood cholesterol levels, making it one of the healthiest and most nutrient-dense food items. Eggs contain numerous vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin to protect the eyes, as well as the brain nutrient choline, which is not sufficiently consumed by almost 90 percent of the entire population. In addition, eggs also contain lots of protein, which is the most important nutrient when it comes to losing weight. This makes eggs a great choice for dieting. Some eggs are even enriched with omega-3, making them very healthy for your heart.
Make sure to eat the entire egg and not just the whites to maximize on its benefits. While the yolk does contain high levels of fat, it is also where most of the important nutrients are contained. A whole egg contains only 5 grams of fat, but only 1.5 grams are considered bad fat.[ii]
Olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil, is one of the healthiest types of oil. It is an essential ingredient in the Mediterranean diet, a weight-loss diet which has been proven to have a lot of health benefits. Extra virgin olive oil contains lots of powerful antioxidants which can help protect the blood from bad cholesterol by preventing the oxidation of LDL particles in the bloodstream. These antioxidants can also help lessen inflammation. Extra virgin olive oil also contains vitamins K and E and can lower blood pressure, as well as decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases.[iii]
Nuts and Nut Butters
Nuts contain high levels healthy fats and are also rich in fiber, protein, magnesium, and vitamin E. Research has suggested than people who consume nuts have a lower risk of contracting cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
The best types of nuts are almonds, which have the highest levels of vitamin E, walnuts, which contain omega-3, and pistachios, which contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin to improve eye health. Almonds also contain the lowest levels of calories at just over 14 grams of fat per ounce, 9 grams of which are monounsaturated, with the remaining being polyunsaturated. A single serving contains one ounce of nuts – approximately 14 walnut halves, 35 peanuts, 15 pecan halves, 18 cashews, and 24 almonds.
Nut butters are also a great alternative to whole nuts. Peanut butter, for example, contains 16 grams of fat for every two tablespoons. Half of these fats are monounsaturated, while about four grams are polyunsaturated. You can also try cashew or almond butter if you want something different. Nut butters also contain protein and fiber. Just be sure to pick all-natural varieties and stay away from those with lots of added sugar.[iv]
Naturally fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These fish include mackerel, lake trout, albacore tuna, sardines, herring, and salmon. The good fats these fish contain contribute tremendously to maintaining your heart and brain health, especially as you age.[v]
Several researches have also shown that those who consume fatty fish regularly have better overall health, as well as a lower risk of contracting heart disease and even dementia. Because it is a very healthy food item, the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fatty fish every week in order to maximize the benefits of their omega-3 contents.[vi]
If eating fish is not an option for you, fish liver oil supplements can be a suitable substitution. Cod liver oil is one of the best options, as it contains not only high levels of omega-3, but lots of vitamin D, as well.
When buying cheese, stay away from highly-processed products. Instead, try hard, full-fat cheeses such as cheddar, Swiss, or Monterey Jack. They contain up to 74 percent fat and have lots of health benefits. The amount of nutrients found in one slice of cheese is equivalent to that found in a full cup of milk; cheese is a great source of dietary calcium, selenium, phosphorus, and vitamin B12, among others. It also contains high levels of protein – one thick slice has approximately 6.7 grams of protein. The fatty acids in cheese have also been suggested to be a great help in reducing the risks of developing type 2 diabetes.[vii]
Dark chocolate is very healthy because of its high fat content, which comprises about 65 percent of its total calorie count. Dark chocolate is made of about 11 percent fiber and has more than 50 percent of the recommended daily allowance for magnesium, manganese, copper, and iron. Moreover, it contains a tremendous amount of antioxidants that have potent biological activity. Dark chocolate has also been proven to decrease the likelihood of contracting heart disease, reduce skin damage from prolonged exposure to the sun, and even improve brain function.[viii]
Coconut and Coconut Oil
Coconuts contain very high levels of saturated fat, but those who consume it in large amounts are in excellent health and are even less prone to heart disease. This is because more than half of these saturated fats are lauric acid, which cause an increase in bad cholesterol levels but negate this by increasing good cholesterol levels at an even greater rate, making it a great way to decrease risks of contracting cardiovascular diseases.
In addition, coconut fats are unique and are made primarily of medium-chain fatty acids. Instead of affecting the body the way fat normally does, coconut fats are metabolized and sent straight to the liver, where they are processed into ketone bodies. This not only boosts metabolism by as much as 120 calories every day, but also works well to suppress appetite and reduce belly fat. Studies even suggest that coconut fats can benefit patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease.[ix]
Full-fat yogurt contains lots of important nutrients and high levels of healthy probiotic bacteria, which can do wonders for your health. It can greatly improve digestive health, as well as reduce the risks of developing obesity and contracting heart disease. However, it is important to be careful when buying yogurt; although the full-fat varieties are extremely healthy, there are many commercial brands that offer low-fat, high-sugar versions, which will really do more harm than good.[x]
One of the best seeds with high fat content is flax. A single tablespoon of whole flaxseeds can hold approximately 4 grams of fat, 3 of which are polyunsaturated, and the remainder of which is monounsaturated. They also contain up to 800 times more lignans than other plants. A lignan is a plant component that acts as an antioxidant for the body. Flax can also make your skin look younger by plumping it up and they contain lots of fiber, which can decrease inflammation.
Other seeds like pumpkin and sesame can also bring lots of health benefits. A tablespoon of sesame seeds have 2 grams of polyunsaturated and 1.5 grams of monounsaturated fats, while pumpkin seeds have 2.5 grams of polyunsaturated and 2 grams of monounsaturated fats.[xi]
Although butter is nearly pure fat and is has over 50 percent saturated fat, it contains important nutrients and vitamins, such as vitamin K2 and A. In addition, it contains CLA and butyrate, which are fatty acids that are known to bring lots of health benefits. Butter from grass-fed cows also lessens the risk of contracting heart disease, and high-fat butter can actually lessen the chances of obesity. Additionally, the fat in butter is essential in helping your body absorb other nutrients that your consume from vegetables and other food items. These include carotenoids, which are antioxidants found in colorful vegetables, as well as vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are soluble in fat.[xii]
Pork is very versatile and can be cooked in many ways. For instance, bacon is made of 69.5 percent fat, most of which are healthy. Bacon has high levels of protein and low carbohydrate content. Just make sure to choose pork that doesn’t contain too much preservative such as sodium and nitrates, which can not only raise blood pressure but also make you more likely to develop symptoms of cancer.[xiii]
Remember, moderation is key. Don’t make this an excuse to eat a ton of bacon.
Full-fat versions of sour cream contain up to 88.5 percent fat, half of which are saturated. Even if the total percentage of fat is large, the total amount is quite low. A single tablespoon, for instance, will contain only about 26 calories. Sour cream is also made of healthy, natural animal fat and not bad trans fats.[xiv]
Most cuts of beef found in supermarkets are lean, which means all the fat – and health benefits – are often stripped away. Try to look for 70 percent ground beef, preferably from grass-fed cows, so that you can maximize its health benefits. The fat in beef is actually very healthy, as half of it is from oleic acid, a monounsaturated healthy fat that can also be found in olive oil. The remaining saturated fat it contains also decreases your risk of contracting heart disease by lowering your bad cholesterol levels or lessening the ratio of your total cholesterol to good cholesterol. Additionally, beef also contains lots of high-quality protein, vitamin B, zinc, and iron.[xv]
Cream cheese contains up to 88.5 percent healthy fat and is very similar to sour cream. You can eat it in a lot of ways, and it will give you the boost you need in your nutrition. Just make sure to steer clear of the low fat varieties, as those have lots of added sugars that are not exactly good for you. Always make it a habit to read the labels so that you know you’re getting the full fat versions, which are much healthier for your body.[xvi]
Poultry products like chicken and turkey are great sources of high-quality protein. However, contrary to popular belief, it should actually be encouraged to eat both the dark meat and the skin of poultry. Because these are made of animal fats, the fat composition is almost the same as that of beef. This means that eating them will not increase your risk of contracting heart disease or otherwise compromise your health in any way. Eating more of these healthy animal fats will also help you reduce your calorie intake without feeling unsatisfied or hungry.[xvii]
Every health care provider recommends including a variety of fruits and vegetables in a balanced diet. Because the human body is incapable of producing these good fats on their own, it is important that we eat food rich in omega-3. Dark green vegetables like Brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach contain a bit of omega-3 fatty acids.[xviii]
It is important to always keep aware of the nutritional content of the food you eat. While it is not a bad thing to consume fat as part of your diet, make it a point to eat only the good kinds of fat. It is better to pick full-fat varieties of food items over the low-fat or lean versions, which usually have lots of added sugar and other unhealthy ingredients.
And don’t forget about being reasonable with portion sizes.
Julie Haugen, MS, RD, LN says:
Please note: There seems to be metabolic differences in how some people process some fats and cardiovascular disease risks as well as those suffering from liver diseases who need to eat a low or moderate fat diet due to fatty liver. Cardiovascular risk markers like apolipoproteins and other markers of inflammation, absorption, fatty acid ratios, etc. are affected by diet and lifestyle. Some cardiovascular researchers and specialists still believe that these markers are affected by fats in the diet and for those who have higher levels of certain particular markers; they are instructed to keep their intake of saturated and/or polyunsaturated fats to a low-to-moderate amount. Therefore, the information in this article is not meant to replace your doctor’s advice. Eating a diet low in refined carbohydrates and sugar has been shown to be the best approach when consuming a diet higher in fat with cardiovascular risk markers and in general.
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[iii] If olive oil is high in fat, why is it considered healthy?, Donald Hensrud, M.D., Mayo Clinic, Published February 25, 2014, Retrieved June 1, 2015.
[ix] Why is Coconut Oil Good for You? The Healthiest Oil for Cooking, Kris Gunnars, Authority Nutrition, Retrieved June 1, 2015.
[xv] Men’s Health Op. cit. http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/saturated_fat/Beef.php
[xvii] Men’s Health Op. Cit. http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/saturated_fat/Poultry.php