Your body needs fat. It needs it to activate your hormonal system, to help you absorb vitamins, to lubricate your joints and give you glossy hair and strong nails. Still afraid fat will make you fat? Consider that there are more fat-free foods available than ever, and yet America is fatter than ever. The reason is that fat satisfies. Take it out of food, and you’ll find yourself craving more calories than you need. Put it back in moderation, and you may discover you eat less and feel a lot better. So, since not all fats are created equal, which should you eat? Check out our top six fatty foods you should eat without guilt.
1. Avocados. We all know someone who avoids avocados because they’re “fatty.” But most of that fat is monounsaturated—that’s the kind that lowers “bad” cholesterol. They pack a wealth of vitamins and minerals. And they taste delicious as a spread.
2. Nuts and nut butters. Should you eat nuts religiously? Consider this: Seventh-Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, are some of the longest-living people in America, and one thing they have in common is that they snack on nuts. (Read more about that in Blue Zones by Dan Buettner.) Eating nuts at least five times a week can reduce your risk of heart disease and may add years to your life. Throw them into salad, make your own trail mix, “just get them as plain as possible, with no added flavorings or sugars,” says Clean Plates founder Jared Koch. “Add nut butters to a breakfast or smoothie to make it a more complete meal, or even scoop them into oatmeal.”
3. Coconuts and coconut oil. They do contain saturated fat, which is why you may have been told to avoid them. Yet coconut oil has recently been shown to operate in surprising ways: helping to improve cholesterol levels, reduce belly fat and possibly even fight Alzheimer’s. It has a high smoke point, so it’s great for cooking.
4. Grass-fed beef. We know this one may shock you. But while there is saturated fat in beef, research shows that a little bit of beef can actually decrease heart disease risk. “The problem is that many people eat poor-quality animals with other stuff in there that’s harmful: antibiotics, bad feed, hormones. This is negative stuff that doesn’t need to be in the cow,” says Koch, “and they’re eating it with bread and fries and no vegetables.” So if you choose to eat beef, make sure you’re filling out your plate with vegetables; for maximum health, only about 1/4 to 1/3 of your plate should be beef.
5. Dark meat and skin. Yep, that’s another surprise. There are a lot of nutrients in the dark meat (plus it tastes heartier). And a recent large study shows that the taurine in dark meat may help protect against coronary heart disease in women with high cholesterol. Just be sure to stick to pasture-raised organic poultry.
6. Eggs. A study of 160 overweight people showed that those who ate two whole eggs for breakfast lost almost twice as much weight as those who ate a bagel with the same number of calories and weight mass. It’s even been suggested that eggs may improve cholesterol levels (check with your doc if cholesterol is an issue for you). They contain a high concentration of protein for fewer than 80 calories apiece, and their yolks are high in choline, which reduces inflammation. One tip: “The less overcooked, the better,” says Koch. “Too much cooking can result in cancer-causing compounds.”
Want more surprising info about healthy fats? Check out our article on oils.