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The 10 Best Healthy Fat Foods You Can Eat – AOL

9 minutes, 22 seconds Read

January 31, 2024 at 2:18 PM
High-protein, healthy fat foods

Many health-conscious individuals are confused about the role of dietary fat in their diet. Ever since the low-fat craze of the 80s and 90s, many Americans think the best way to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity is to follow a low-fat diet. This is because the overall thinking of that time was that fat was more calorically dense than either carbs or protein, so it made sense it would lead to weight gain and heart disease. That’s why so many individuals opted for fat-free cookies (SnackWells, anyone?) and sugary gummies instead of wholesome foods with fat like nuts, seeds, and full-fat dairy products. The problem? As it turns out, there wasn’t sufficient scientific evidence to support a low-fat diet for health and longevity.

Fast-forward several decades and health professionals all agree that it’s the type of fat—not the amount of fat—that matters for health and reducing risk for chronic conditions. Foods that contain fat provide essential fatty acids that play an important role in the health of your brain, heart, eyes, and immunity. Dietary fat is also essential for digestion and absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K and myriad fat-soluble phytonutrients. What’s more, fat is digested slowly do it enhances feelings of fullness. Being satiated post-meals can help prevent overeating and make it easier to eat with our hunger and fullness cues. Some healthy fats, in fact, can help you maintain a healthy body weight, and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, dementia, and much more.

Here’s a look at the 10 best sources of healthy fats, all backed by science.

1. Olive Oil

Olive oilOlive oil

Olive oil has likely more research than any other oil regarding its health and nutritional benefits. It is a key staple in the Mediterranean diet, considered one of the healthiest ways to eat to add more years to your life.

Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, and extra virgin olive oil in particular, provides beneficial antioxidants and more than 30 different olive polyphenols that are suspected of contributing to its many health benefits. The monos help lower harmful LDL-cholesterol levels while keeping the good HDL-cholesterol high. But the benefits of olive oil go well beyond heart health. For instance, some research shows that olive oil may help you maintain a healthier weight and more than 300 studies have been published about the role olive oil may have in reducing one’s risk for type 2 diabetes. One significant review study reported in Clinical Nutrition found a 22% reduction in risk for developing type 2 diabetes among those who regularly enjoyed olive oil compared to study participants who used other types of fats in their diet.

RELATED: 13 Highest-Quality Olive Oils on Grocery Shelves

2. Almonds

almondalmond

Almonds are one of the more unique tree nuts in terms of their nutritional profile. A serving (1 ounce or 23 almonds) has 14 grams of total with just 1 gram of saturated fat. They have 9 grams of monounsaturated fat and 3.5 grams of polys which helps to lower harmful LDL-cholesterol while maintaining beneficial HDL-cholesterol levels. According to a review article published in the journal Nutrients reported that incorporating almonds into your daily diet can improve your heart health by lowering harmful LDL-cholesterol and maintaining beneficial HDl-cholesterol levels. A study reported in Clinical Nutrition ESPEN reported that when subjects ate 20 grams of almonds before breakfast, lunch, and dinner they had lower blood sugar and insulin levels and lower body weight and body fat, compared to those when they didn’t include almonds in their diet.

3. Almond Oil

almond oil and loose almondsalmond oil and loose almonds
almond oil and loose almonds

This newcomer to most supermarkets is a versatile oil to keep on hand to reap all the health and nutrition benefits it provides. Its nutritional nutrition profile is like almonds, so it’s rich in monounsaturated fat and has just 1 gram of saturated fat per tablespoon. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin E. What’s more, a tablespoon provides 26% of the vitamin E you need every day. One animal model study reported in the Journal of Nutritional Science reported that providing almond oil with a carbohydrate meal resulted in a lower blood glucose response from the carbohydrate-rich meal. Using almond oil in place of other fats that are rich in saturated fat can also help improve blood lipids to lower the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Almond oil has a nutty, toasty flavor and a low to medium smoke point, so it’s best used to sauté, marinate, bake, finish dishes, or create delicious dressings. As with any healthy cooking oil, be sure to store almond oil in a cool, dark place to retain the nutritional benefits for as long as possible. An excellent almond oil that I’ve been using is SunnyGem 100% Virgin Cold-Pressed California Almond Oil. It’s made with CA-grown almonds and is minimally processed.

4. Whole Milk from 100% Grassfed Cows

two glasses milktwo glasses milk
two glasses milk

Milk is known for its high-quality protein and calcium, but it also provides 13 other essential nutrients including potassium, B vitamins, vitamin D, selenium, and zinc. When it comes to the dietary fat in milk, organic milk from 100% grass-fed cows has a better overall nutritional and fatty acid composition compared to milk from cows that don’t graze. According to research published in the journal Foods, pasture-fed cow’s milk has higher natural heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, vaccenic acid, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and less of the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Taken together, the fatty acid profile of grass-fed dairy may help protect against diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome, improve heart health, and provide antibacterial and anticancer properties.

One study published in Food Science&Nutrition tested more than 1,000 samples of Organic Valley Grassmilk from 100% grass-fed cows and the researchers reported that the milk had 147% more omega-3 fatty acids compared to conventional milk and significantly more omega-3s than regular organic milk. Organic Valley Grassmilk comes from grass-fed cows who eat a diverse blend of grasses and other pasture plants, but no grains whatsoever. Whole milk has 8 grams of total fat per serving and 5 grams of saturated fat and provides 20% of the calcium you need in a day, 15% of the vitamin D, and several other essential nutrients.

RELATED: The 15 Healthiest Yogurts on Grocery Store Shelves

5. Avocados

halved avocados with pithalved avocados with pit
halved avocados with pit

Avocados are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, with a serving (1/3 of a medium avocado) providing 5 grams of monos. Studies show that individuals who consume avocados may reduce the risk of being overweight, improve blood sugar levels to help reduce the risk of diabetes, and improve heart health. A serving of avocados provides 80 calories and 8 grams of fat with only 1 gram of harmful saturated fat and 20 different essential nutrients. They are a good source of fiber, vitamin K, folate, and other B vitamins, copper, and several beneficial phytonutrients. A review study published in Cureus found that avocados help lower harmful LDL-cholesterol levels while boosting beneficial HDL-cholesterol.

6. Flaxseeds

flaxseedflaxseed

Seeds in general are a great addition to your diet as they are nutrient- and fiber-rich and provide healthy unsaturated fats. Flaxseeds are among the best choices because they contain the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids help reduce overall inflammation and they play a role in brain, heart, and eye health.

One study reported in Nutrition&Metabolism found that the addition of flaxseeds (taken as a flax drink) to study participants’ diets lowered total cholesterol and harmful LDL-cholesterol by 12 and 15% respectively. Other studies show that flaxseeds may reduce the risk of diabetes, improve joint health, and may even reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. A serving (about ¼ cup) of flaxseeds has 170 calories, 11 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of unsaturated fat, 8 grams of filling fiber, and 6 grams of protein. To absorb more of the beneficial omega-3 fat in flaxseeds, grind them before incorporating them into your meals and snacks

7. Walnuts

raw walnutsraw walnuts
raw walnuts

Walnuts stand out as one of the best fats to include in your diet because they are the only nut significantly high in omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that are important for your brain and heart, reducing systemic inflammation, and adding years to your life.

One study published in the journal Nutrients reported that walnuts may improve cognitive function among older individuals through a variety of mechanisms. Walnuts are also a good source of protein with 4 grams per serving, 2 grams of fiber, and just 1.5 grams of saturated fat. Walnuts are one of the foundational nuts in a traditional Mediterranean diet, which is considered a gold standard for health and longevity.

RELATED: The 8 Healthiest Nuts You Can Eat, According to Science

8. Salmon

cooked salmoncooked salmon
cooked salmon

Adding salmon to your diet is a great way to get more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids for their unique health benefits. The American Heart Association and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating at least two servings of fish per week, with emphasis on fatty species like salmon. A 3.5-ounce serving of cooked salmon has 180 calories, 8 grams of healthy fats, 2.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, and 17 grams of protein. It’s an excellent source of vitamin B12, vitamin B6, potassium, vitamin D, selenium, iodine, choline, and several other nutrients.

According to a review article published in StatPearls, omega-3s provide more than 20 different health benefits, including reducing risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, depression, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis, among other conditions. According to the American Pregnancy Association, salmon is also one of the recommended seafood options for pregnant and breastfeeding women and the association provides lists of high-mercury options that should be avoided.

9. Tuna

canned tunacanned tuna
canned tuna

Like salmon, tuna is often recommended by health authorities due to its high omega-3 fatty acids content. The omega-3s in tuna can help protect against heart disease, certain types of cancer, and systemic inflammation. Tuna is also rich in vitamin D, which is essential for a healthy immune system. It also provides vitamin B12, iron, potassium, selenium, and iodine.

One study reported in the journal Public Health Nutrition found that light tuna packed in water is better to obtain more omega-3s, compared to tuna packed in oil. Tuna is a lean protein option that packs in about 23 grams of protein in a 100-calorie, 3.5-ounce serving. Pregnant women and young children should consult with their health professionals about how much tuna is OK, as it does contain more mercury than many other species of fish.

RELATED: 11 Best Canned Tunas on the Market, and 3 to Stay Away From

10. Whole Eggs

soft boiled eggssoft boiled eggs
Shutterstock

Eggs used to be regarded as bad for your heart, due to their dietary cholesterol levels. However, more current research confirms that eggs are good for your heart and overall health. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy individuals get, on average, less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day. That means most of us can enjoy an egg a day without worrying about any increased risk for heart disease.

A large egg has about 5 grams of total fat and just 1.5 grams of saturated fat. Eggs provide 13 essential nutrients, including hard-to-find nutrients like vitamin D and choline. What’s more, studies show that an egg-based breakfast is more satisfying than a more carb-rich breakfast with the same calories. Eggs also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that are important for promoting eye health and reducing the risk for age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness among older Americans.

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