Healthy High-Fat Foods to Choose

We tend to get many mixed messages about including fat in our diet. It's important to know which dietary fats play a key role in overall nutrition, and therefore shouldn't be completely avoided. Healthy fats help provide our cells with energy, protect our internal organs, and provide insulation to help us stay warm. If we don't eat enough healthy fat, our bodies may have trouble absorbing nutrients or regulating hormones.

Even if you're on a specific diet or trying to lose weight, including healthy high-fat foods is necessary to keep your body properly nourished. When you begin eating according to a specific plan, you'll figure out how much carbohydrate and protein you need to eat. The rest of your daily calories will come from healthy fats, like the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil.

Weight loss occurs once your body begins using stored fat for energy. This usually happens because you are no longer eating calories in excess of what your body needs.

Eventually, the pace of weight loss begins to slow down. At this point, you should add healthy fat to your diet rather than carbohydrates—especially if you're following a low-carb diet or hoping to better control your blood sugar.

If you're following a very low-carb eating plan like the keto diet, you'll need to include a variety of healthy high-fat foods in your meal plan to ensure your body is adequately nourished.

1

Avocados

Avocado

Photo: Alexandra Shytsman

Avocados are a rich source of monounsaturated fat. While they're technically a fruit, avocados are packed with fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and potassium. They taste great on their own or with toast, but you can easily slice or cube them for a quick, filling addition to a salad or wrap.

While they might seem like a savory food, avocados can also be used as a substitute for several baking ingredients. Try making a batch of brownies using avocado in place of oil, butter, or shortening.

2

Olive Oil

Olive oil

Photo: Alexandra Shytsman

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is often touted as a superfood with its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effects. Research has proposed these qualities could make olive oil helpful in protecting against heart disease in those who are high-risk.

Olive oil (whether it's EVOO or not) makes a natural base for salad dressing. It can also be used to cook meat or fish, drizzled on a veggie stirfry or added to soups. Olive oil can even be used to make sweet treats like apple crumble.

To maximize its shelf life, keep olive oil in your pantry. To prevent the oil from going rancid, you'll want to keep it away from heat and light.

Once opened, use a bottle of olive oil within six months.

3

Nuts and Seeds

Pecans

Photo: Alexandra Shytsman

Nuts make for quick, filling, and tasty snacks. In addition to being full of healthy fats, some research has shown nuts may help reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

However, it's important to note that some nuts are healthier choices than others. Nuts vary in ​carbohydrate content as well as the type of fats they have. Some varieties, especially those that are salted, can add less healthy saturated fats to your diet. Check out the grams of fat per serving of popular types of nuts.

Remember: It's easy to over-estimate portion size with nuts which can result in a lot of added calories. Whether you're having them as a snack or added them to a salad, yogurt, or baked goods, keep an eye on portion sizes.

4

Flax and Chia Seeds

Chia seeds

Photo: Alexandra Shytsman

While many plants, especially greens, do have some omega-3 fatty acids, the amounts are small compared to what's recommended. If you don't want to include animal products in your diet, try pairing greens with other plant-based sources of omega-3, like flax seeds and chia seeds.

Flax and chia also work well in a variety of other dishes—everything from fruit smoothies to pizza crust.

Flax and chia seeds are also rich sources of fiber, making them a natural constipation remedy.

5

Fish

salmon-healthy-fats-fish
Bogdan Vasiljevic.

The most powerful form of these fats—longer-chain omega-3s (DHA and EPA)— are abundant in oily fish. One of the most nutritious and versatile types of fish is salmon. A serving of protein-rich salmon only has 5.5 grams of fat and 185 calories.

Salmon is also one of the best choices if you're concerned about the mercury in fish. Compared to other popular types of fish, like tuna, the levels of mercury in salmon are very low.

6

Coconut

Coconut

Photo: Alexandra Shytsman

While the fat that comes from the meat and milk of coconut is mostly saturated fat, there are different types of these fats (called triglycerides) and your body doesn't handle them all the same way.

The fats found in coconut oil, for example, are mostly medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). Unlike how our body uses other types of saturated fats, MCTs are used up quickly for energy rather than storing them as fat. We know this happens in part because as MCTs are metabolized, the body readily generates ketones.

Many people find MCTs to be an asset in weight loss and weight management. The oils have also been shown to help manage conditions affecting the brain, including epilepsy.

7

Cheese

cheese-plate-healthy-fats
Jakub Kapusnak.

As long as you are mindful of portion size, some varieties of cheese can add healthy fat and protein without adding too many extra calories. Cheese also lends itself to just about every meal—including dessert—making it one of the most versatile sources of healthy fats.

With only 6 grams of fat and 87 calories per serving, mozzarella cheese made with skim milk can be added to veggie omelets, sandwiches or wraps, salads, used to top low-carb eggplant pizza and even makes a great snack on its own in single-serve cheese stick form.

While these cheeses are also lower in fat, keep in mind that most types of cheese can be high in sodium.

  • Goat cheese (8 grams)
  • Gouda (8 grams)
  • Swiss (8 grams)
  • Parmesan (8 grams)
  • Cheddar (9)
  • Gruyere (9 grams)
  • Cottage cheese (10 grams)

For the many other types of cheese, check the nutrition label for calories, fat, and serving size. Popular sandwich favorites like provolone, American, and Monterey Jack usually have between 30 to 40 grams of fat.

If you're trying to keep your fat intake low, avoid soft cheeses, such as camembert, which can have over 50 grams of fat per serving.

8

Eggs

eggs-healthy-fats
Aida Solomon/Unsplash.

Like cheese, eggs can be featured at any meal—either as the star of a dish or a nutritious side. Depending on how you prefer them cooked, eggs can add as little as 5 grams of fat (hard-boiled). Even the occasional fried egg will only add around 7 grams of fat as long as you're mindful of how much butter is used.

Using only egg whites, or mixing whites in with one whole egg to make a lighter scramble or breakfast sandwich, is another way to reduce calories and fat.

Aside from being easy, versatile, and tasty, eggs are also packed with micronutrients like Vitamin A, choline, selenium, and B-complex vitamins.

9

Full-Fat Milk and Yogurt

yogurt-fruit-healthy-fats
Wesual Click/Unsplash.

The fat in dairy milk and full-fat milk products like yogurt isn't something you have to strictly avoid if you're trying to be mindful of your daily fat intake. In fact, if you can tolerate lactose, the healthy fats in milk-products are nutritious, filling, and if you follow serving sizes closely, won't go beyond your recommendations.

Depending on the brand, a serving of plain full-fat yogurt typically has fewer than 5 grams of fat per serving. Plain Greek yogurt can have less than a gram, leaving plenty of room for add-ins like fruit, nuts, or seeds.

Yogurt also has the added benefit of being rich in probiotics, which many people find helpful in keeping their digestive system in working order. Some research on probiotics has linked balanced gut flora to improved immune system function and even a boost in mood.

When you're shopping for yogurt, check the nutrition labels for added or hidden sugars—especially if low-fat and non-fat versions catch your eye. You'll get the most nutritional benefit sticking with smaller portions of the full-fat version.

10

Lean Meat

healthy-fats-lean-meat
Jakub Kapusnak.

With the right cut and prep, beef and pork can be a healthy source of fat and protein. When you're picking cuts of meat, look for those that are lean or extra-lean.

The FDA states meats labeled "lean" should have under 10 grams of fat, while those labeled "extra-lean" should have under 5 grams.

When you're preparing low-fat meat, the best way to avoid adding fat during the cooking process is to stick to grilling, broiling, or roasting. Any food that's fried, meat or otherwise, will pack on extra less-healthy fats.

While some deli meats can be a healthy choice, avoid highly-processed products sausages and hot dogs. These meats aren't just high in fat and sodium; they often have additives, preservatives, and even added sugar.

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