Sure, the term “healthy fats” seems like an oxymoron—after all, fatty foods like ice cream and fries aren’t exactly key ingredients in most healthy eating plans. But experts swear that incorporating certain fats and oils into your diet can do everything from help you lose weight to boost your mood. With that in mind, we asked registered dietitian Lindsay Martin of Hilton Head Health to break down the top healthy fats and oils you should be eating on a regular basis. She also offered up ways to actually work them into your diet to make the process as painless as possible.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Why It’s Good for You: Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to lower levels of depression and a lessened chance of developing heart disease. They may also help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
How to Eat It: The most efficient way to get your omega-3s is by eating fatty fish, like wild salmon, two or three times a week. Not a huge fan of fish? You can also get it by eating foods like walnuts, flaxseed, and chia and hemp seeds.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Why It’s Good for You: Some research shows that higher amounts of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in your diet can help give you improved body fat composition and strength. It may also help boost your immune system.
How to Eat It: This one is found in animal products: Grass-fed beef and dairy are your best sources, followed by sustainably-raised eggs and poultry.
Why It’s Good for You: The powerful plant antioxidant lignin, which is found in flaxseed and flaxseed oils, has been shown to slow tumor growth and decrease inflammation. Flaxseed is also a good source of fiber, which can help you lose weight—and keep it off.
How to Eat It: You can add ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil to just about anything. Try adding two to four tablespoons of ground flaxseed or one tablespoon of flaxseed oil to pasta, smoothies, soup … really, anything. It has a subtle nutty flavor that easily blends into most dishes.
Why It’s Good for You: Hempseeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber—both are great for weight loss and overall health. They’re also high in protein, so they can boost energy levels and help you to feel fuller longer.
How to Eat It: Sprinkle the seeds over a salad or drizzle the oil over pasta or vegetables. Like flaxseed, it has a slight nutty flavor that isn’t overpowering.
Why It’s Good for You: There’s a reason why olive oil has become so popular: Extra virgin olive oil is great for your heart, lowers cholesterol, and helps control blood sugar levels. It also contains antioxidants, which can help ward off wrinkles and other signs of aging.
How to Eat It: Use it as your go-to oil of choice! Drizzle it over vegetables, serve it with bread, and sub it in for vegetable oil when you’re cooking.
Why It’s Good for You: Research has shown that medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are found in coconut oil, can help you burn energy more efficiently and may boost heart health. One study found that it can help ward off weight gain, and may actually help you lose belly fat.
How to Eat It: Coconut oil isn’t as versatile as olive oil but it has a higher smoke point, which makes it most useful when you’re cooking. Use it in a stir-fry or when you’re pan-searing meat at a very high heat.