After a few decades of diets' popularity and terrifying researches about fats' harm to heart health, no wonders fat is still a no-no for many people. This "fat-fear" has spawned a new fashion on low-fat foods like dairy, meat, or sugary snacks - you can find plenty of them on store shelves. It's easy to forget the primary rule of your metabolism - fats are equally essential as proteins and carbs.
But how can you allow more fats in your diet when you're worried about your heart health and waist size? We're here to help you learn how to distinguish healthy fats from harmful ones. This article will show you how you may eat more fats and get all the health benefits at the same time. Your journey to a more wholesome, balanced diet starts here!
Why are fats essential for your healthy diet?
A moderate amount of fat is an outstanding addition to your meals, which could make them tastier and help you enjoy your food. Meanwhile, fats have multiple roles in your body:
- supply you with long-lasting energy and keep your hunger away for a longer time
- help your body absorb essential micronutrients (vitamins D, E, A, and K) from foods
- contribute to your blood sugar and cholesterol levels regulation
- help produce hormones
- support your organs' cellular protection and help maintain cell growth.
As you can see, avoiding fats in your diet can disrupt essential internal body processes and make you nutrient-deficient. That's why it's worth knowing which fats are healthy for you and which ones you should avoid because of potential health risks.
In a nutshell, there are four groups of fats present in foods. Each group has a unique chemical structure and, what is more important, a different impact on your health.
Unsaturated fats are "healthy" because consuming them may help you decrease your "bad cholesterol" levels. "Bad cholesterol" or LDL is unhealthy for you because it contributes to blood clogging and plague creation. Plagues block the blood flow and may cause a heart attack or chest pain. Unsaturated fats raise the amount of "good cholesterol" in your blood, which helps break down "bad cholesterol" in your liver.
A significant amount of healthy fats in your diet could help you avoid potential heart risks like clogging arteries or stroke. The best sources of unsaturated fats are Omega-3 fatty acids (including EPA, DHA, and ALA), which are present in some plants and fish.
You can find two healthy fats in the foods - polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Both help you raise "good cholesterol" levels and contribute to your heart health. What's more, healthy fats may help you keep your brain agile! The MIND diet, which could prevent dementia and slow down brain aging, contains three foods with unsaturated fats: nuts, olive oil, and fish.
Saturated fats are present in most fast foods, fried dishes, and sugary snacks, like sweets or cakes. Opposite to the unsaturated fats work, these fats boost "bad cholesterol." They may increase your risk of getting a heart disorder. Still, only trans fats can be called "unhealthy" since studies have proven they lead to heart diseases. Scientists recommend limiting your trans fats daily intake to 5 grams to avoid health risks.
You can also find foods with saturated fats that have a neutral effect on your cholesterol and heart health. They're present in meats, dairy, cheese, and baked products. Research has recently proven that consuming these fats won't harm your heart health.
Healthy fat intake: how much do you need daily?
According to dietitians, fat should account for 25-35% of your daily calorie intake. It'd be 44-70 grams of fat if you consume near 2000 calories per day. It'd also be good to divide it through all meals to help your liver break fats down. Dietitians also claim that you should consume different fats for a better health effect. The distribution may look like this:
- Monounsaturated fats: up to 20%
- Polyunsaturated fats: 5-10%
- Saturated fats: 5% or less
- Trans fats: the fewer, the better.
You may still think that even though some fats are beneficial to your heart health, you should evade them for the sake of your waist size. For that case, we've created an overview of low-fat diet drawbacks. Take a look at them and who knows, maybe it will help you make up your mind about fats.
Low-fat diet drawbacks: how may it harm you?
Low-fat and fat-free foods may seem tasteless and don't satisfy your hunger
The good thing about fats is that they help you feel the taste of your meal better, allowing you to satisfy your hunger. Fat-free foods may seem lean and tasteless compared to foods with regular fat amounts. Fat-free meals could also satisfy your hunger not as effectively because of the lack of taste.
A low-fat diet leads to depression and irritability
Consuming less fat than recommended may negatively affect your mood. A recent survey has shown that after a one-year on a low-fat diet, men were 26% and women - 37% more likely to become depressed. Another research discovered that people with a high-fat diet are less anxious, tense, and hostile with an overall better mood.
Avoiding fats in meals may cause sleep problems
One more trouble with a low-fat diet is worse sleep quality. Scientists have found that a low-fat diet leads to significantly shorter slow-wave sleep and sleep latency. Meanwhile, lack of fat in the diet may also lead to daytime sleepiness and nonrestorative sleep.
So low-fat diet is not an option anymore for those who want to keep their heart and brain health. Now it's time to opt for thoughtful and balanced nutrition, which will deliver all essential macronutrients, including fats, in the proper dosages. Still, how can you define which foods contain healthy fats? We've come up with an ultimate list of the best nutritious high-fat foods to fuel your brain and keep your heart strong and healthy.
Top-7 healthy high-fat foods to add to your diet
Cheese, which was among the undesirable foods because of a high saturated fat content, is now safe and proven healthy. Eating cheese doesn't increase your "bad cholesterol" and blood glucose even though it contains saturated fats (around 70% of total fat). Besides, cheese also includes monounsaturated fat (20%), helpful to your brain and heart.
Scientists have recently found that saturated fats from cheese are not similar to those in red meat. Some cheeses contain bacteria that change the effect of fats on your cholesterol levels. Cheese is also a source of calcium and linoleic acid, which contribute to your heart health. Add it to your toasts, use it as a topping for spaghetti, or enjoy with crackers and honey as a delicious high-fat snack.
No jokes here, but trendy and mainstream avocado is literally the best high-fat food you can find. One avocado contains around 22 grams of monounsaturated fat, covering your daily recommended dosage of this fat type! This fruit is also a substantial source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It bursts with potassium, vitamins C, E, and B6, while one-half of avocado contains 30% of your daily fiber norm.
A study has found that avocado delivers a massive amount of folate to your body, helping you avoid depression and bad mood. Eating avocados may also reduce your "bad cholesterol" levels and blood pressure. Another great thing about avocados is that you can add them to most of your meals. It's perfect as a snack, fatty addition to your morning toasts, or as a spread ingredient.
This nut is a convenient option if you want to get more healthy fats with your meals. It's a real king among all other nuts in alpha-linolenic acid content - 1 handful of walnuts contains 2,5 grams of Omega-3 ALA. In addition, one ounce (28 grams) of walnuts has 13 grams of polyunsaturated fats and 2,5 grams of monounsaturated fats. All the above makes walnuts an excellent food to support your heart health and avoid potential health risks. You can add walnuts to your salads, baked dishes, or taste as a standalone snack.
You may have heard about the rich protein content of chia seeds. Still, it's also extremely rich in healthy fats. Two tablespoons of this superfood contain 7 grams of Omega-3 fatty acids, which is the highest amount among other plant sources. Consuming chia seeds may help you reduce cholesterol and inflammation markers, normalize heart rhythms, and possibly prevent blood clots.
Meanwhile, chia seeds deliver much fiber, calcium, ALA fats, and zinc to your body, contributing to your blood vessels' health and fueling your brain. Research claims that increased ALA intake may reduce your risk of sudden cardiac death by 40%. You can add chia to your smoothies, use them as a salad topping, or easily make overnight chia puddings.
It'd be a huge mistake to skip fish on this list, so here it is - the unsurpassed salmon! It's among the fishes with the highest healthy fat content - 3 ounces (85 grams) of raw Atlantic salmon contain 1671 mg of EPA and DHA fatty acids. These fatty acids provide significant support to your heart and blood vessels, normalizing your blood pressure. A study claims that Atlantic salmon contains bioactive peptides that may reduce your risk of getting heart diseases or diabetes.
Omega-3 fats, present in salmon, are also beneficial for reducing inflammation in your cells, which may help you keep your brain healthy and agile. Unsaturated fats in salmon also link to your mental health and mood. Scientists claim that significant EPA dosages may help relieve depression symptoms. Besides, salmon has a vibrant taste, making it an outstanding option for your meals. Try to make some salmon salad with eggs, kale, and tomatoes, or bake a salmon steak for a filling and healthy dinner.
It's time for a sweet contestant full of healthy fats on our list! Peanut butter is possibly the most nutritious high-fat dessert you can find. Just two tablespoons of peanut butter have 7 grams of monounsaturated and 4 grams of polyunsaturated fats. Research shows that incorporating 46 grams (around 3 tbsp) of peanut butter into your diet may improve your "good cholesterol" levels and support your heart health.
Peanut butter also delivers magnesium, niacin, and protein to your body, helping maintain your healthy nerve functioning, brain health, and sleep quality. Good news - peanut butter pairs with most fruits like apples or bananas so that you can make a healthy high-fat snack in no time. Plus, you can use it as a topping for ice cream or as muffin filling - whatever your creativity decides.
Last but not least, olive oil is an extremely rich source of monounsaturated fats. A single tablespoon of olive oil contains 10 grams of these fats, being a perfect solution for increasing healthy fats intake. Survey has found that people who take more olive oil together with a Mediterranean diet have up to 48% lower risk of heart disease. Aside from healthy fats, olive oil also contains vitamin E and organic chemicals phenols, which contribute to your heart protection.
Extra virgin olive oil contains antioxidants, which could help you maintain brain health and slow down brain aging processes. Plus, olive oils may help you remove the plagues in your brain cells, which cause Alzheimer's and impair your brain function. Thus, by consuming olive oil, you may keep your memory strong and contribute to your cognitive health as you age. You can easily add olive oil to your daily nutrition:
- use it for cooking, as a salad dressing
- mix it into soups
- just get a spoon of it together with a few sips of water.
Healthy high-fat meal options: that's how your meals may look like
If you lack ideas on how to add more healthy, fat-rich foods into your daily nutrition, it's okay - we've got you covered! Get inspired by our high-fat meal ideas to make your diet more balanced and nourishing.
Breakfast - avocado & egg toasts
Toast your bread and smash one avocado half into a puree. Then get two soft-boiled eggs and cut them into halves. Put your avocado puree on toasts, then add two egg halves on top. Enjoy a delicious mix of soft egg yolks and avocado to fuel yourself for a productive day.
Lunch - goat cheese salad with smoked turkey and walnuts
Take some salad greens and mix them with goat cheese and toasted walnuts. Then add smoked pulled turkey and dress with olive oil and dijon mustard. A perfectly healthy high-fat lunch is ready!
Dinner - salmon steak with baked sweet potato
Slice a few sweet potatoes thinly, add some spices and olive oil. Then take two salmon filets, spread the softened butter on top of each fillet, add some salt and sliced garlic. First, bake sweet potatoes for 10 minutes, add salmon and bake for 15 more minutes. Serve with veggies and enjoy an ultimate healthy delight!
- Know The Facts About Fats (2021)
- All About Fats: Why You Need Them In Your Diet (2019)
- Nutrition Basics (2021)
- Fat: The Facts (2020)
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- Fat: What You Need To Know (2014)
- Alterations In Mood After Changing To A Low-Fat Diet (1998)
- A Low-Fat Diet Can Make You Angry, Irritable And Depressed (2020)
- The Impact Of Diet On Sleep Quality (2016)
- How Does Nutrition Impact Sleep Disorders? (2018)
- High Intake Of Regular-Fat Cheese Compared With Reduced-Fat Cheese Does Not Affect LDL Cholesterol Or Risk Markers Of The Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial (2016)
- Cheese (2017)
- How Many Calories Are Actually In An Avocado? (2021)
- Health Benefits Of Avocados (2020)
- Walnuts Nutrition Information (2021)
- Chia Seeds (2021)
- Seafood Nutrition Overview (2021)
- Dietary Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, Brain Function And Mental Health (2017)
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- A Detailed Guide To Olive Oil: Why It’s Good For You, What’s In It, Whether You Should Use It On Your Skin, And More (2019)
- Olive Oil Intake And Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease And Mortality In The Predimed Study (2014)
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Preserves Memory, Protects Brain Against Alzheimer's (2017)