When it comes to fatty foods, we've been trained to avoid them at all cost or to find low-fat alternatives. However, all fats aren't bad! Unsaturated fats (both mono and poly) like omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, oleic acid and linoleic fats are actually essential for proper nutrition. Fats, proteins and carbohydrates are your three macronutrients that are required in large amounts — especially if you're trying to lose or maintain weight.
Trans fats are not naturally occurring in your food (which means they are industrially made); those are the "bad" fats you should be avoiding. And saturated fats fall somewhere in the middle!
Check out these fatty foods nutritionists are begging you to add to your diet — your waistline will thank you!
One of the trendiest foods, avocados are crazy dense in nutrients, says Jessica Fishman Levinson (M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N.) at Today’s Dietician. In fact, one avocado contains nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Thanks to their high fat content, avocados help the body absorb fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin A (known for its important role in eyesight). Plus, fatty avocados also really shine when it comes to heart health. They contain those healthful monounsaturated fats we mentioned earlier, and phytosterols (which can help lower your cholesterol). Moreover, there's some promising research showing that avocados may reduce markers of inflammation, which is a risk factor associated with heart disease.
Bet you didn’t expect to see chocolate show up on a list of healthy foods! Dark chocolate is a superstar of a treat when it comes to nutrients. Authority Nutrition reports that one serving of dark chocolate is 11 percent fiber and contains over 50 percent of the recommended daily allowance for iron, magnesium, copper and manganese. It's also one of the highest scoring foods when it comes to antioxidants, even outranking blueberries.
"I bite into a bar every day after lunch," says Jennifer McDaniel, M.S., R.D.N. "My family has a history of heart disease, and research shows that certain types of chocolate can protect my precious ticker. It takes about 200 milligrams of flavonol antioxidants to improve blood flow and really promote heart health." Just be sure to buy natural, non-alkalized cocoa powder (the processing of alkalized cocoa significantly reduces flavanol content) and stick to dark chocolate bars that list cocoa solids as the first ingredient.
Chia seeds are generally not perceived as a "fatty" food, but when measured by calories, chia seeds are around 80 percent fat. This makes them an excellent high-fat plant food.
"Although chia seeds are tiny, they pack the most omega-3 fatty acids — which are proven to reduce risk factors for heart disease — and fiber compared to any other food by weight," says Lisa Hayim, registered dietician.
"Pestos are a delicious blend of phytonutrient-packed green herbs, olive oil, a bit of high-flavor cheese, and in this case, walnuts for their distinct taste and omega-3s," explains Annie Kay, MS, RDN. "Herbs also have some of the highest ORAC scores (a measure of antioxidant levels) of any food."
She’s not kidding! Pesto is actually a great way to take advantage of three yummy, fatty, healthy foods. Eating one serving of nuts a day, walnuts in particular, has been shown to play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s, boosting memory, and reducing depression, says McDaniel. Cheese is a great source of calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and selenium, and contains all sorts of other nutrients. It is also very rich in protein, with a single thick slice of cheese containing almost 7 grams of protein. Olive oil is also a real winner when it comes to healthy fatty foods: Aside from being a good source of vitamins E and K, and powerful antioxidants, it's also jam-packed full of essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
“My favorite plant-based fat is definitely coconut butter, which is a blend of coconut meat puree and coconut oil,” says Katie Shields, R.D.N. It’s packed with the same nutrients of regular coconut oil, including medium-chain fatty acids. Studies show that medium-chain fats suppress appetite, helping people eat fewer calories, and can boost metabolism by up to 120 calories per day. And that’s not all: They have also been shown to help you lose belly fat.
A recent review of the existing research on dairy fat published in the European Journal of Nutrition came to some surprising conclusions: When it comes to sidestepping weight gain, full-fat dairy may actually be better for you. Nutrition scientist Dr. Mario Kratz reported that of the 25 studies included in his team’s review, 18 reported lower body weights, less weight gain, or a lower risk for obesity among full-fat dairy eaters. Another study backed these results up, revealing that those who frequently eat full-fat butter, milk, and cream have lower obesity rates than those who avoid dairy fat. “Based on my own research and on the research of others, I believe high-fat dairy is less likely to contribute to obesity that low-fat dairy,” the study’s author, Dr. Sara Holmberg, said.
If you were looking for an excuse to eat bacon, here it is: “High-quality bacon is chock-full of a very important nutrient called choline, which has been shown to help fight off the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic mental impairments,” says Ali Miller, R.D. She also notes that bacon delivers a good dose of zinc and B vitamins which help your brain’s production of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter. For the best nourishment you can get, Miller says that it’s important to choose a locally sourced, pasture-raised product. Pro tip: Instead of frying up your morning bacon, try baking it for a skinny swap.
Health and wellness expert Jillian Michaels says that although eggs have gotten a bad rap for being high in cholesterol, the truth is that not only are whole eggs a fantastic source of lean protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but they contain some pretty important nutrients. According to her, whole eggs are a nearly perfect food, with almost every essential vitamin and mineral our bodies need to function: One egg will get you 7 grams of protein, plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, a rare natural dose of vitamin D, and many of the B vitamins and nutrients that help prevent heart disease. Michaels says that when you eat only the egg whites, you’re missing out on all of these nutritional benefits and are getting only half (3.5 grams) of the protein.