Choosing healthy fats
Yes, it’s true. Eating (certain) foods high in fat can actually be good for your health. But remember, not all fats are created equal. Enter: ‘good’ fats and ‘bad’ fats.
Foods with good healthy fats are considered to be monounsaturated (nuts, avocado, etc.) and polyunsaturated (salmon, trout, etc.). Both fats promote good heart health. Meanwhile, saturated (poultry skin, lard…) and trans fats (fried foods, baked goods…) are seen as bad fats because they can increase cholesterol levels and lead to heart problems, among other health conditions. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t have foods with bad fats, but you should eat them in moderation. So, how can you tell which foods contain high healthy fats? We spoke with registered dietitians and nutritionists who help us identify foods with good fats to reap their health benefits.
“If you’re like me, you think peanut butter is important stuff,” says Dana Angelo White, author of The Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook. “It’s a heart-healthy food that seems decadent but is actually healthy and satisfying.” White suggests choosing a nut butter with a minimal ingredient list – so just peanuts and salt, when possible. “Slathered onto a banana, peanut butter is a great pre-workout snack, and it can also be combined with rice vinegar, garlic and low-sodium soy sauce to make a dipping sauce for grilled chicken or sautéed tofu,” she says.
“I love them, and they love you,” says Joan Salge Blake. “While black olives are about 90% fat, it’s the healthy fat! I add them to salad because they also add fibre.”
“Nearly all the fat in avocado is the monounsaturated type, which is heart-healthy,” says Elizabeth Ward. “Avocado is naturally low in sodium and rich in potassium, so it helps with blood pressure control. It also supplies several B vitamins, as well as vitamin E and vitamin K.”
This seafood is known for its EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. “Salmon combines lean protein with healthy fat,” notes Heather Steele. “Omega-3s can help with inflammation and also with reducing your risk of chronic disease.”
Yup, cheese is on the list of beneficial high-fat foods. “Few foods are more satisfying and delicious than cheese – especially a full-fat, naturally aged one,” says Regan Jones. “The richness pairs so well with fruit and veggies, two food groups most of us need to eat more of. Plus, as a rich source of calcium and protein, cheese actually offers a nutrient boost to any meal.”
Pair cheese with fig paste, vegetable sticks and seasonal fresh or dried fruit. Remember to eat cheese in moderation.
“This is my favourite heart-healthy fat,” says Bonnie Nasar. “It is a staple of the Mediterranean diet. Extra-virgin olive oil can be drizzled onto salads and cooked vegetables and even used in baked goods.”
One of the top high-fat foods, eggs are full of good-for-you nutrients, including the eye-helping carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. “I cook seven or so at a time and eat a hard-cooked one with breakfast or lunch,” says Judy Barbe. “Eggs are easy and economical, and their protein and fat make them a go-to food.”
Good news. Dark chocolate is one of the top high-fat foods. “Most of us don’t think of chocolate as a health food, but it provides that perfect little treat when eaten in moderation,” says Cassidy McCandless. “Dark chocolate also provides trace nutrients like copper and selenium, while being an excellent source of antioxidants.”
Enjoy on its own, in a fondue, or in chocolate chip cookies.
“One of my favourite fats is full-fat Greek yoghurt,” says Leanne Ray. “Regular Greek yoghurt is so much more satisfying to me than the non-fat variety, so it holds me over for hours when I eat it for breakfast. I also love Greek yoghurt for its hefty amount of protein and calcium.”
Add Greek yoghurt to dessert instead of cream, on your breakfast cereal, with berries and fresh fruit, in a smoothie or in a tandoori marinade.
“I add ground flax seeds to my baking because I love knowing that I’m getting an added boost of fibre and anti-inflammatory ALA omega-3s,” says Jean LaMantia. “Worried about phytoestrogens in flax? Don’t be. In research, these compounds have been shown to be protective against hormone-positive cancers, such as breast cancer.”
Add flax seeds to blueberry muffins, nut bars or sprinkle over a salad.
“A combination of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and protein make cashews a filling snack option,” says Cassidy Reeser. “Cashews are also a good source of magnesium, which plays an important role in heart and bone health. The high-fat content of cashews makes them great for blending into creamy sauces or vegan cheeses.”