Healthy Fats: The Benefits & Foods Containing Them

Fats often get a bad reputation in nutrition and health circles, but not all fats are created equal. There are good fats that provide important health benefits and should be included as part of a balanced diet. Let’s explore the benefits of healthy fats and highlight foods that are rich in the types of fats you want to be eating more of.

Blog image showcasing foods with healthy fats and text that explains you will learn what the benefits of them are in the blog

What Are Healthy Fats?

Healthy fats refer primarily to unsaturated fats, specifically monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Plus, unlike saturated and trans fats which can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increase inflammation, unsaturated fats provide anti-inflammatory effects and other benefits.

Some of the major healthy fats to focus on including:

  • Monounsaturated Fats: Found in plant oils like olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
  • Polyunsaturated Fats: Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are found in fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds.

In addition, polyunsaturated fats introduce more Vitamin E into your diet, a healthy antioxidant that most of us need.

Benefits of Healthy Fats

Here are some of the top evidence-based ways that healthy fats can improve your health:

  • Heart Health: Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help reduce LDL cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Brain Function: Omega-3 fats are critical for brain health and development. They may improve memory, mood, and cognitive function.
  • Inflammation: Omega-3s are potent anti-inflammatory fats, while olive oil provides antioxidant polyphenols that also reduce inflammation.
  • Blood Sugar Control: Replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fats may improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.
  • Skin and Hair Health: Healthy fats provide the building blocks for healthy cell membranes and tissues, including the skin and hair.
  • Absorption of Fat-Soluble Vitamins: Vitamins A, D, E, and K are only absorbed properly in the presence of fat.

As you can see, healthy fats provide a wide array of benefits for nearly every system in the body. That’s why it’s recommended to get a moderate amount from whole food sources as part of a nutritious diet. You don’t have to follow a specific diet to eat healthy. Rather, prioritize your health by fueling your body with nutrient-rich foods.

With this in mind, let’s look at which foods contain healthy fats and how you might be able to integrate them with your current lifestyle.

Top 10 Healthy Fat Food Sources

Looking to incorporate more healthy high-fat foods into your meals and snacks? Here are 10 of the top foods loaded with beneficial fats:

  1. Avocados: A rich source of monounsaturated fats and fiber. Avocados can be added to salads, smoothies, toast or dips.
  2. Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, pecans, chia seeds, and flaxseeds contain healthy fats along with protein, fiber, and minerals.
  3. Olive oil: A key component of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil provides heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and polyphenols.
  4. Salmon: One of the best sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
  5. Coconut Oil: Contains medium-chain triglycerides, which may boost energy expenditure and fat burning.
  6. Full-fat dairy: Options like whole milk yogurt and cheese provide conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid associated with fat loss.
  7. Chia seeds: These tiny seeds offer plant-based omega-3s along with protein, fiber, and minerals like manganese.
  8. Eggs: Especially the yolks which are full of vitamin D, zinc, and antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin.
  9. Grass-fed beef: A source of heart-healthy conjugated linoleic acid, iron, zinc, and B vitamins. Focus on lean cuts.
  10. Vegetable oils: For example, soybean, sunflower, safflower, walnut, and corn oils.

Aim to get a balance of different healthy fats from whole foods each day. This provides the biggest nutritional payoff over isolated oils or supplements. On the whole, if you include more foods with healthy fats in your diet, you will get a variety of benefits for heart and brain health, inflammation, hormones, and beyond.

Be sure to check out our weight loss program here in Cincinnati, Ohio if you’re struggling with where to start in your nutrition journey. Our dietitian will guide you every step of the way! Fill out our initial consultation form and a member of our staff will be in touch to get you started.

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