10 Healthy Fats You Need in Your Diet

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition
healthy fats

Don’t be afraid of fat! Eating the right kinds of fat can keep extra fat off your body: In a Johns Hopkins study, participants who ate a high-fat, reduced-calorie diet lost 10 pounds 25 days faster than those on a high-carb diet. Monounsaturated fats, in particular, can help: Another study found that people eating a diet rich in these fats lost body fat and weight without reducing calorie intake.

Monounsaturated fats help control spikes in blood sugar, which can keep your body from storing fat around your middle. Polyunsaturated fats, like omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, support heart health, eye health, and healthy cholesterol. And both kinds help you feel full faster than with carbohydrates—and because fat takes a long time to digest, you feel full for longer. Try these 10 sources of healthy fats to get all those benefits—plus flavor, crunch, and disease-fighting power.

1. Walnuts

Walnuts are great for your brain: Omega-3 fatty acids in these nuts, the same acids found in salmon and fatty fish, have been shown to help with brain and memory function. In a study of rats, those given walnuts for 28 days saw an increase in their ability to complete a maze, and the walnut-eaters ate less food overall—so they were smarter and slimmer!

Try adding them to salad for added crunch and for some filling fats that can make the bowl much more satisfying. This Green Leaf, Pear and Goat Cheese salad is a delicious, sweet-and-crunchy way to start.

2. Avocados

As if you needed an excuse to eat more, half an avocado provides 10 grams of healthy fats. When you pile it on, your favorite green fruit can do much more: Japanese scientists have found that avocado may help reduce liver damage, and they’ve got sterols to help control your cholesterol. Instead of mayo in your tuna or egg salad, try mixing in ripe avocado: The creamy fruit will replace the saturated fat of mayonnaise with monounsaturated, plus add the awesome flavor of avo for a filling, flavorful lunch alternative. It’s also a fantastic topper for lunches like the Chipotle Black Bean Bowl.

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3. Olives

Olive oil, of course, is great for weight loss: In one study, when olive oil was added to yogurt, dieters lost more weight than those who ate yogurt without the oil added—and the oil was added as extra calories to their diet! Whole olives can give you those filled-up feelings, too, plus added bonuses: Spanish researchers found in 2009 that the skins of olives may be a powerful natural protectant against colon cancer.

They’re great for snacking, on salads, and even in sandwiches: Try this French-inspired pan bagnat sandwich that includes egg, tuna, green beans and olives.

4. Canola Oil

Canola oil has a higher “smoke point” than olive oil, so when cooking something that needs a little more heat—i.e., something that would burn if cooked in olive oil—canola oil offers a higher-heat alternative without adding undue flavor or saturated fat. It’s also got omega-3 fatty acids, like walnuts and fatty fish, which can help protect against heart disease death, protect your eyes from macular degeneration, and fend off certain types of cancer.

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5. Almond Butter

A tablespoon of almond butter has about the same amount of calories as a tablespoon of natural peanut butter—but just half the saturated fat. See, peanuts aren’t nuts at all—they’re legumes. But almonds are tree nuts, and come with all the healthy fat benefits we love. Almond butter is just as creamy as peanut butter and goes great in many of the same dishes, but it may also reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping blood vessels healthy. Try ordering pre-packaged, single serving packets of almond butter—they’re available on Amazon, in packets similar to a restaurant ketchup pack. Toss a few in your purse or backpack to have a filling, easy snack on the go when you’re out and about. The single-serving packet is great with celery, carrots, apples, or even by itself—squeezed right into your mouth.

6. Flax Seeds

Flax seeds can add crunch and filling fat to salad, and also lower your cholesterol with soluble fiber and alpha-lineoic acid, a heart healthy fatty acid. Because of their high content of something called secoisolariciresinol diglucoside lignan, flaxseeds may also protect you against breast cancer. That’s a lot of power in a little seed! Flax can also be ground into a flour that adds filling fiber and fat to meals (we love them in smoothies), without tons of calories. Grind some up in a coffee grinder or food processor to make these flavorful Inside-out Cheeseburgers with turkey, goat cheese and tasty balsamic vinegar.

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7. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds make great pets, but they’re also great to eat: They’re not just loaded with healthy fats and antioxidants, but are also high in protein and fiber—both nutrients that can make you feel full fast and stay feeling full longer. Chia seeds have also been shown in studies to help control blood sugar and protect your liver against damage. They’re also great for making gorgeous, Instagram-worthy—and delicious—breakfast bowls.

8. Pumpkin Seeds

A single ounce of these seeds provides not just four grams of unsaturated fat, but five grams of protein and five grams of fiber, making them a great alternative to popcorn or pretzels when you’re planning to Netflix and snack.

Toasting raw pumpkin seeds is simple: After rinsing and drying the seeds, spread them in a single-layer on a baking sheet that’s been coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes, then toss the seeds in a bowl with cinnamon, garlic powder, or a seasoning mix of your choice.

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9. Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has been shown to help lower blood pressure and, in studies of rats, has been shown to alleviate the “oxidative stress”—the damage done that requires recovery—from exercise. Virgin coconut oil is lower in saturated fat than its non-virgin counterpart. Try using extra-virgin coconut oil as a cooking oil—it adds some flavor to food, but has a higher smoke point than olive oil.

10. Vinaigrettes

Adding vinegar to a simple oil-based salad dressing or marinade doesn’t just add bite, it may also add fat-fighting properties. That’s what researchers concluded in a 2009 study from Japan. They found that when on a high-fat diet, mice who also ate vinegar developed up to 10 percent less body fat than those who didn’t get the acid.

Using an oil-and-vinegar marinade can also help fight cancer: When you grill, fire exposes you to cancer risks from compounds called heterocyclic amines, or HCAs. Many scientists contend that HCAs increase risk for colorectal, lung, breast, pancreas and prostate cancers. Soaking meat in marinades infused with herbs for an hour, especially those with rosemary, helped decrease the formation of HCAs by more than 70 percent in a study from Kansas State University.

Using vinaigrettes can also help reduce the amount of salt in your diet: Instead of sprinkling on your veggies or salad, try tossing lightly with a homemade vinagrette of two parts vinegar, one part canola or olive oil, plus spices of your choice—black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper or cumin. You’ll add flavor, reduce your salt intake, and—bonus—add healthy fats from the oil that will make you feel fuller, faster.