Do you think fatty foods are bad? You're not alone. Americans have been led to believe that fat-free and non-fat foods are healthy and the fastest way to six pack abs. Nothing could be further than the truth.
Some fats are actually essential to our well being. Dietary fats give our bodies energy to support cell growth. They also help protect organs and help keep the body warm. Fats help your body absorb nutrients and produce important hormones. Your body absolutely needs healthy fats to function optimally.
But what foods contain healthy fats and what's the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats? How can you be sure you're getting enough healthy fats into your diet? Today we are going to lay out 10 super healthy fat foods you may want to start consuming regularly.
What's A Healthy Fat?
Not all fats are created equal. Although fats are an important part of any diet, good fats can actually boost brain function, lower bad cholesterol, support healthy skin, and help you feel full. Bad fats can actually do the opposite like increase the risk for chronic disease and weight gain.
Bad fats include highly-processed foods like vegetable oils, processed meats, snacks like cakes, breads, chips and crackers are all typically loaded with heart clogging, disease-starting, trans fats. These littles devils should be avoided at all costs.
The best way to identitfy healthy fats is to understand what foods contain them. Here's a list of foods with healthy fats that can support good overall health.
Saturated Fats vs. Unsaturated Fats
There's two types of fats: saturated fats and unsaturated fats.
Saturated fats are simply fat molecules that do not have bonds between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules. One easy way to remember is that saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature. Foods like coconut oil, butter and cheese are all saturated fats. Saturated fats were once considered to be unhealthy but with more and more research coming in, it's now being shown that saturated fat in moderation can be a key factor of a healthy diet.
An unsaturated fat is a fatty acid in which there is one or more double bond in the fatty acid chain. There's two basic types of unsaturated fats, monounsaturated fat or polyunsaturated fat. Foods like avocados, walnuts and salmon can all contain unsaturated fats.
Unsaturated fats have been long known for their proven health benefits like reducing inflammation, supporting weight loss, and lowering the risk of heart disease. (1,2,3)
Health experts agree that a good general rule of thumb, is to consume mostly unsaturated fats, and to eat saturated fats in moderation to promote a healthy lifestyle. Adding a small amount of unsaturated fats into your diet has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. (4)
Avocado is a fruit, but unlike most fruits which are primarily carbohydrates, avocados are rich in healthy fats. Interestingly, avocados are 77% fat, making them even higher in fat than meat. (1)
The main fatty acid in avocado is a monounsaturated fat known as oleic acid. This is the same beneficial fatty acid found in olive oil, which contains several wellness benefits.
Avocados are also a great source for potassium. In fact, avocados contain 40% more potassium than bananas.
Another amazing factor of avocados is that they are high in fiber. Studies have shown that they can lower "bad" cholesterol such as LDL and triglycerides while raising "good" cholesterol, HDL. (2)
2. Raw Cheese
Unlike pasteurized cheeses from commercially farmed cows, grass-fed unpasteurized cheese can be incredibly nutritious. Raw cheese is a great source of calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorous, selenium, iodine, probiotics, and enzymes.
Contrary to the past belief that raw milk is dangerous studies have shown that raw milk, raw cheese, kefir, and yogurts can be rich in probiotics and enzymes to help digest food, absorb nutrients, and produce healthy bacteria in the gut to fight off diseases. (3)
Raw cheese is also rich in protein and powerful fatty acids. These fatty acids have so many benefits for the body's health, one of them being the reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. (4)
3. Dark Chocolate
We have been told sweets and candy are detrimental to our health, but the fact is, dark chocolate is an amazing sweet that is extremely beneficial for our health.
Dark chocolate is high in healthy fats, has about 11% fiber, and over 50% of the recommended daily amount for iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. It is also loaded with antioxidants, so much so that is the highest ranking food in antioxidants, out ranking blueberries! (5)
Other important benefits of dark chocolate, is its ability to lower blood pressure, protect LDL cholesterol from being oxidized, and reducing the risk of heart disease. (6) (7) (8)
Dark chocolate is also known as a great anti-aging superfood because of its high content of antioxidants. When choosing a dark chocolate, make sure it contains 70% or more Cacao with no added sugar.
4. Pasture-Raised Organic Eggs
In the past there were reports that eating eggs raised cholesterol and caused heart disease, but that has proved to be a myth. Whole eggs, including their yolk, contain beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Eggs contain proteins that are essential to building, maintaining, and repairing tissue, organs, and muscles in the body. Protein rich eggs help the body to burn fat and build muscle.
Eggs are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are extremely beneficial to the body, one major reason is their anti-inflammatory properties. (9)
Pasture-raised chickens are free to roam outdoors and forage for food true to their natural diet which include seeds, plants, and insects. Organic pastured eggs contain more nutrients than commercially raised eggs.
According to a study in 2011 pasture raised eggs had 2/3 more vitamin A, 3 times more Vitamin E, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, and 7 times more beta carotene. (10)
5. Wild-Caught Fatty Fish
It is well known that wild-caught fatty fish are a healthy food and should be consumed weekly or every day to promote great health. Wild-caught fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, anchovies, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, and other nutrients.
Studies show eating fish or consuming a fish oil supplement a few times a week can greatly improve your health along with fighting off disease, depression, dementia, and other health issues. (11) (12)
If you are not open to eating fish for whatever reason it is highly recommended taking a daily fish oil supplement in place of a high fish diet. A high quality fish oil from sardines and anchovies are among the best fish oil supplements on the market because they're considered the safest fish on the planet, with the lowest mercury and contaminant levels.
Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and macadamias are not only a great source of protein, fiber, vitamin E, and magnesium, but also of healthy fats.
Research has shown that people who eat nuts regularly tend to be healthier, have a lower risk of disease, and less chance of developing heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. (13)
7. Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is a key component of the favored Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet has been studied for years and have been found to be one the healthiest diets in the world. People who eat a diet high in healthy fats, wild-caught fish, and leafy greens tend to be the longest living and healthiest people in the world.
Virgin olive oil is high in vitamin E, vitamin K, and is full of powerful antioxidants. These powerful antioxidants aid by slowing the aging process down and calming inflammation.
Inflammation is becoming one of America's leading causes for disease. Eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods is key to good health. (14) Virgin olive oil has gone through extensive research to suggest its anti-inflammatory properties are useful in lowering bad cholesterol and preventing LDL cholesterol from oxidizing. (15)
8. Coconut Oil
Coconuts and coconut oil are an amazing superfood that has so many health benefits. One awesome factor is that coconuts are made up of medium-chained fatty acids, which are easy for the body to digest, so it doesn't get stored as fat.
These medium-chained fatty acids go straight to the liver, where they are convert to ketones in the body. Ketones are essentially a chemical that converts sugar into energy. In the case of coconuts, the liver turns this fat into energy. (16)
Studies have shown that medium-chained fatty acids help to suppress appetite and boost metabolism up to an extra 120 calories per day. (17)
9. Chia Seeds
Most people wouldn't think chia seeds are a fatty food, however one ounce of chia seeds contains about 9 grams of fat. Even though the majority of the carbohydrates in chia seeds are fiber, most of the calories are actually from fat, which makes it such an amazing superfood.
Chia seeds are made up of about 80% fat making them an excellent source of plant fat. The extremely healthy omega-3 fatty acids inside chia seeds are called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which has been shown to lower inflammation. (20)
These properties make chia seeds a great food for lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation. (21)
10. Organic Grass-Fed Beef
In recent decades, chicken has been more favored than red meat because less saturated fat than red meat. Organic grass-fed beef can be rich in proteins and healthy fats to maintain strong muscles.
Grass-fed beef is superior to grain-fed beef because it contains way more extra benefits and nutrients like more omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Conjugated linoleic acid has been shown to help prevent diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer. (22,23)
CLA has antioxidants properties which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and lower bad cholesterol (LDL). (24) Organic grass-fed beef doesn't commonly use antibiotics, or hormones, like grain-fed beef, so it's by far the superior choice.
What Are the Benefits of Healthy Fats?
There's no doubt that fat is absolutely essential to health because is helps you absorb vitamins, supports healthy skin and nails, supplies energy and helps to regulate your body's temperature. (25)
Believe it or not, healthy fats can also help aid in weight loss because fat is digested slower than protein and carbohydrates to keep you feeling fuller longer. Studies have shown that fat can also suppress food intake consumption and potentially possibly enhance weight loss. (26)
Research has proven that Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to relieve inflammation and reduce symptoms of autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease. (27)
There are currently no dietary recommendations for monounsaturated fatty acids but new research indicates that it may lower triglyceride levels, increase good cholesterol (HDL), and lower the risk of heart disease. (28)
What Are the Benefits of Healthy Fats?
Fat is definitely an essential part of any healthy diet, however keep in mind that fatty foods are also calorie-dense foods, so take caution when increasing your intake of healthy fats. Make sure you make adjustments to your diet when consuming more fat foods, like cutting down on sweets and refined carbs. Without making these adjustments, eating more fatty, calorie-dense foods can increase weight gain instead of working against it.
Adding more healthy fats to your diet is one piece of the puzzle, when it comes to longevity but be sure to include plenty of protein foods like green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, and sprouted grains for a well balanced diet.
The Healthy Fat Conclusion
It's true your body does need healthy fats to function however that doesn't make all fats good. Healthy fats come from whole foods like avocados, coconut oil and wild-caught oil fish.
There's two types of fats: saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Both are an essential part of a healthy diet that promote a healthy heart and good cholesterol levels.
Healthy fats have been shown to help improve brain function, and keep you feeling full to satisfy hunger, make food taste better and enhance nutrient absorption inside the body.
Eggs, organic grass-fed beef, dark chocolate, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado, raw cheese and coconut oil are all example of healthy fats.
Enjoy these healthy fats as a part of a well balanced healthy diet rich in green leafy vegetables, fruits and sprouted grains to optimize your health.