Fat’s a word with stigma around it. Ad campaigns encourage us to eat less fat and become healthier as a result. “Eat fat, get fat,” as they say.
However, “eat fat, get fat” is total hokum. Fat is an essential nutrient. Furthermore, low fat foods tend to have more refined sugars.
Fats are necessary, but not all fats are created equal. Here are some examples of healthy fats, as well as some information about unhealthy fats.
Avoid trans fat and saturated fat
Before discussing what to eat, you need to know what to avoid.
Trans fat is to fat what refined sugar is to fruit — empty and artificial. Commercial food brands make trans fats through “partial hydrogenation,” where liquid fats are made solid by adding hydrogen. Except, manufacturers get lazy and don’t complete the process, leaving behind an incomplete nutrient that increases “bad” cholesterol and can lead to heart disease.
Fried foods, butter, lard, chips — all foods high in trans fat. Trans fats aren’t limited to these foods, however. Most packaged or processed food contains some type of trans fat. Basically, if you got it off the shelf and it’s ready for dinner, it’s a source of trans fat.
Saturated fats are fine in small doses. Full fat milk and lean red meats contain plenty protein and other essential nutrients. However, saturated fats still increase unhealthy cholesterol. Don’t go overboard by eating them multiple times a day. Make your hamburger, tenderloin and steaks proper cheat meals.
Avoid these fats by reading ingredient lists and nutrition labels. “Partially hydrogenated” is a sneaky way of saying “here be trans fat.”
If there ever was an actual superfood, it would be whole eggs.
The egg nutrition label might as well be a list of almost every essential nutrient. Protein, healthy fat, iron, calcium, vitamins A through E — it’s a who’s who of health (minus carbs and vitamin C).
They’re also versatile. If you don’t like them cooked one way, you can cook them another way. Your average, egg-based breakfast satiates even the deepest hunger.
The big concern with eggs is about cholesterol. Eggs are high in cholesterol. However, cholesterol in eggs does not affect cholesterol levels in your blood (unlike trans fat).
The only reason to avoid eggs is allergy. Other than that, they pass every conceivable nutrition test.
Avocados are as close you can get to fruit entirely made of fat.
The average large avocado is 322 calories with 29.5 grams of fat. That’s 247 calories from fat alone — 77% of total calories. Lucky for us, it’s all natural. They’re also a good source of fiber, potassium and antioxidants.
Work avocados into your meal prep if you haven’t already.
Nuts and seeds
Walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, pecans, almonds — all great sources of fat. The average nut serving is 190 calories with 16 grams of fat per ounce. That’s an incredible ratio. Nuts can handle your meals’ fat component with only a quarter cup.
Shelled nuts like pistachios carry non-nutritional benefits. Because you need to remove their shells, you have to eat slowly and think about what you’re consuming. This encourages healthier eating habits.
Chia seeds are similar. An ounce contains 9 grams of fat, making up 80% of total calories while also providing fiber.
Tasty and infinitely customizable, tofu is a go-to source of vegan protein. It’s also a great source of healthy fat.
Three ounces of tofu contains up to 6 grams of fat with only 1 gram of saturated fat. All while being a plant-based source of protein.
Its versatility lets you cook with any sort of vegetable, bean, lentil or chickpea. It’s more than a meat substitute. It’s good food in its own right
Salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, cod and tuna are swimming in healthy, omega-3 fatty acids. Being animal products, they’re also stuffed to the gills with high quality protein.
Furthermore, those who eat fish are at lower risk of heart disease.