10 Fat-Filled Foods You Should Stop Avoiding
There's something going down in the yogurt aisle at the grocery store, and I don't like it one bit. First it was low-fat yogurt. Then nonfat. Then fat free. Now, labels are trumpeting "0% fat!" and "only 35 calories per serving!". Next up: an empty carton? (See also: 12 Foods to Add to Your Diet This Year)
I find it a little sad, actually. "Calorie" has become such a bad word that we've forgotten that we actually need calories to live. The same goes for fat.
Yes, you heard me. You need to eat fat. At least some fat. Probably more than you think. In fact, evidence is mounting that a diet with relatively high levels of the right fat is healthier than the typical alternative — one with more sugar and starch. Even the highly-publicized Mediterranean diet is 30% fat.
Want to add more fat to your diet? Here are 10 fat-filled foods you should be eating.
A whole avocado has about 250 calories and 23 grams of fat, almost all of it monounsaturated. It also has 10 grams of fiber and tons of nutrients, which means that if you sprinkle one of these babies with a little salt, it'll keep you full for quite a while. Or, slice half an avocado into a salad. The fat will help you absorb other nutrients in the veggies, especially fat-soluble vitamin A.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat that's believed to reduce inflammation in the body. It's inflammation that damages blood vessels, so eating lots of omega-3 may reduce the risk of heart disease, boost immunity, reduce the symptoms of inflammatory conditions like arthritis, and even improve cognitive function. The best place to get those fats is from fatty cold water fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring, among others. If you don't like fish, you may be able to get some of the same benefits from a fish oil supplement. Or try ordering a piece of fish in a nice restaurant. I know a lot of people who've been converted by tasting very fresh fish that's been perfectly prepared. Next step: recreating the recipe at home. (See also: Affordable White Fish Recipes)
Walnuts have heart-healthy omega-3 fats, almonds contain lots of vitamin E, and macadamia nuts contain selenium and manganese. All nuts are pretty high in fat, but they also contain healthy fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants galore. One recent study found that people who ate a handful of nuts every day were 20% less likely to die from any cause. Still think fat's bad for you? (See also: The Best and Worst Nuts)
Pumpkin, sesame, chia, hemp — if it's a seed, there's a good chance it's very good for you...not to mention very high in fat. Chia is especially popular right now, thanks to its high levels of omega-3 fats and fiber. For vegans, it can also make a great egg substitute in recipes.
5. Olive Oil
Olive oil is the component of the Mediterranean diet that many experts believe gives the diet its health and longevity-boosting powers. And you don't have to go lightly with it either. A large study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in April found that those who consumed one liter of olive oil per week reduced their risk of heart attack by a whopping 30%. Olive oil's great for cooking, salads, and dipping. Despite its strong flavor, it even works out well in a lot of baking. Whole olives include many of the same benefits, along with some fiber, iron, copper and vitamin E. They do tend to be very high in sodium, though, so most experts recommend that you go easy on these. (See also: Best Cooking Oils for Your Heart and Wallet)
Coconut oil is one of the few vegetable-sourced fats that's mostly saturated fat, which, for a time, a lot of people assumed wasn't good for you. Turns out that it is (many of the initial studies were conducted using hydrogenated coconut oil, rather than natural). Although this fat's been heralded as the cure for everything from acne to Alzheimer's, the research just isn't there to support those claims yet. However, many health experts have touted coconut oil's benefits if consumed within the limits recommended for saturated fats by the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans: 10% of calories, or 20 grams per day for a 2,000-calorie diet. For those who avoid animal products, it's a great substitute for lard or butter in many recipes. Or, just crack open a fresh coconut. Along with a healthy dose of fat, coconut flesh has tons of fiber and trace minerals like copper, manganese and selenium.
Egg-white omelettes be gone! Health experts say you can and should eat your eggs — especially the yolk, where virtually all the fat is found. A whole egg contains five grams of fat, about two grams of which are saturated fat. Eggs are also very high in cholesterol, which is what had experts worried. As it turns out, dietary cholesterol doesn't affect cholesterol levels. In fact, one recent study found that eating whole eggs increases the good cholesterol in the blood, or "HDL." Eggs are also highly nutritious, and the richest dietary source of a B-complex vitamin called choline, which has been found to improve neurological function and reduce inflammation in the body. (See also: 10 Easy Eggs-for-Dinner Recipes)
Butter: created by churning pure cream. Margarine: created by mixing vegetable fats with emulsifiers, artificial color, and salt. For many years, the latter was believed to be better for you. Now, some recent studies suggest butter's the better choice. It won my heart long before that.
OK, OK. The American Heart Association still says that soft, non-hydrogenated margarine made of vegetable oils is the better choice. In other words, the jury on whether butter's actually good for you is still out. But butter tastes wayyy better than the alternatives. Use it sparingly, and you'll be fine. (See also: 24 Unusual Uses for Butter)
9. Peanut Butter
I already mentioned nuts and seeds, but guess what? Peanuts are actually legumes, just like peas, beans, lentils, and soybeans. At 188 calories and 16 grams of fat per two-tablespoon serving, peanut butter sounds, well, fattening. In fact, several studies have shown that peanut butter actually helps people maintain a healthy weight thanks to its satisfying combination of fat, protein, and fiber. Plus, those 16 grams of fat are mostly the monosaturated kind, which have been shown to reduce belly fat. There's even evidence that the consumption of peanut butter can help combat diabetes and heart disease. So, the next time you make a PB&J for your kids, make one for yourself, too. (See also: Ways to Update Peanut Butter and Jelly)
Yogurt is considered a "superfood" because the bacteria that helps give it its tangy taste is also really good for our digestive health and immune systems. And it doesn't have to be fat-free either. In fact, a 2011 study from Brown University found that high-fat dairy products don't have the negative health effects they were once assumed to have. This may be because of all the beneficial nutrients milk contains. Plus, if you check the labels, the higher fat version of your favorite yogurt probably has as many or almost as many calories as the fat-free variety. The reason: Sugar. You have to get flavor from somewhere.
That brings me to another solid reason for adding more fat to your diet. The real thing tastes way better than its fat-free, low-calorie cousins. Maybe your taste buds really don't lie — it might just be better for you, too. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go find a grocery store that still stocks full-fat yogurt.
What's your favorite way to get more healthy fat?