As you’re probably well aware, not all dietary fats are created equal. There are some that keep your heart strong, cholesterol at bay, and overall health in excellent shape, while others that do the exact opposite, clogging your arteries, causing weight gain, mood swings, and more. Even better, if you choose the right healthy fats (more on that below), they’ll help you stay full for longer, preventing unhealthy snacking on empty carbs and sugar. They’re a brilliant weight-loss tool.
If nothing else, these are the basic rules to know and live by when it comes to which fats to seek out, and which to avoid at all costs.
The Difference Between Healthy and “Bad” Fats
Apart from the foods in which they’re found, healthy fats and unhealthy fats have very different components—saturated and trans fats usually turn to solids (oh hey, butter), while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature, like olive oil.
- Monounsaturated fats (including things like olive oil, sesame oil, olives, almonds)
- Polyunsaturated fats (including things like walnuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, tuna, tofu)
- Trans fats (including things like packaged junk food, candy bars, deep fried food)
- Saturated fats (including things like beef, ice cream, cheese, lard)
While the list of healthy fats is long and varied (a good breakdown can be found here), here are seven you should be eating on the regular.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The holy grail of healthy monounsaturated fat, EVOO is literally brimming with health boosters (that include minimizing your gut!), cardiovascular benefits, brain-boosting benefits, and many others. Opt for around two tablespoons a day—an easy feat if you drizzle it over fresh fish or veggies, or mix it with a little lemon juice, garlic, and spices to create the perfect salad dressing. However, in order to reap the benefits, you shouldn’t cook or heat up olive oil for several reasons, including the fact that chemical changes take place in its compound and could be harmful to eat and breathe.
Another monounsaturated fat superstar, avocados have many of the same health benefits as EVOO. However, they too are pretty high in fat, so it’s suggested you don’t eat more than a quarter of a cup a day, at most. A slice or two on top of a green salad can be a nice stand-in for saturated fatty cheese, while a heart-healthy (and fashion blogger-approved!) breakfast can include a slice of mashed-up avocado on multi-grain toast with red pepper flakes.
In addition to being high in monounsaturated fat, these little guys are packed with fiber, protein, and vitamin E, as well as magnesium, which helps your body stabilize its blood sugar levels. Most health experts suggest eating an ounce a day—roughly 23 almonds—which clocks in at 9 grams of monounsaturated fat and around 165 calories. A perfect snack.
One of the highest existing sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseeds are an excellent source of fat. Not only can ground versions they be added to baked goods like muffins or bread, but they can—and should—be sprinkled on yogurt, salad, cereal, and pretty much everything else you eat.
Did you know that real dark chocolate is brimming with health benefits? It is! Cocoa butter is extracted from the cacao bean and incorporated into most high-grade dark chocolate, is mostly monounsaturated and saturated fat. The catch: The higher the cocoa content, the better it is, so look for bars that feature 70-85% cocoa, if not more (most are found at health food stores and specialty supermarkets, as opposed to drugstores and newsstands like other chocolate, which is packed with bad fats like full-fat milk.)
Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which can speed up metabolism, and it’s filled with bloat-busting protein. As Fitness pointed out, an Australian study showed that overweight people who ate fish daily improved their glucose-insulin response. Meaning: Seafood may help slow digestion and prevent cravings. Try for one to two servings of salmon a week, and jazz it up with things like EVOO, fresh garlic, herbs, and veggies.
Provided you’re not eating them in a fried BEC every day, eggs provide unsaturated fats and other nutrients, including B vitamins, that can be beneficial for heart health.
When eaten in moderation, PB is a great source of healthy fat. While some people are confused about whether it’s healthy or not because it contains both monounsaturated fats and saturated fats, peanut butter’s overall nutritional profile, which also includes fiber and potassium, is generally good for you—in small doses.