What does ‘healthy fats’ actually mean? Well, the phrase ‘healthy fat’ usually refers to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. To break it down, monounsaturated fats are among the healthiest of all fats as these particular foods are anti-inflammatory, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and are full of healthy nutrients.
Polyunsaturated fats can also be healthy. The two main types are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which are essential fats our bodies need for brain function and cell growth. Here are a handful of the best food sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats you could incorporate into your diet plan:
This Instagram-worthy food contains naturally good fats – primarily monounsaturated. They are a great substitute for trans fats and are cholesterol and sodium free. As well as being highly nutritious, avocados contain nearly 20 different vitamins and minerals. Keep in mind, though, that they are pretty high in calories so you generally want to stick to no more than a quarter of an avocado at a time.
Now we don’t just mean in a martini! One cup of black olives has 15 grams of fat and again, is mainly monounsaturated. If you suffer from allergies or other inflammatory conditions then olives may be the perfect snack for you, with evidence to suggest that olive extracts function as anti-histamines on a cellular level. Just be wary of portion sides as olives can be high in sodium so it’s best to stick to only a small handful.
Full of omega-3 fatty acids, oily fish like salmon are known to help boost heart health. This is one of the best ways to ensure you’re getting the essential fats you need. Two weekly servings are recommended to get the best benefits of this delicious food. There are plenty of great recipes to choose from – you could eat it with your favourite pasta dish or try it oven cooked with some asparagus and veggies to go with.
One of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are walnuts. Consuming a handful per day can help lower total cholesterol as well as improve blood vessel function. Plus, other nuts like almonds and pistachios also pack a lot of healthy fats. Almonds are richest in vitamin E and pistachios contain lutein which is important for vision. Portion control is key to reap the benefits as nuts on average contain 45 grams of fat per cup.
5. Dark chocolate
Yes, you read that correctly. Dark chocolate is saturated fat but it also contains healthy fats and numerous other healthy nutrients such as vitamins A, B and E, iron and potassium. One serving, which is approximately one ounce (equivalent to about three fingers) of dark chocolate, contains about nine grams of fat. Aim for a cocoa content of at least 70 percent for the highest levels of flavonoids. Who knew a sweet treat could actually have some health benefits?
6. Whole eggs
Egg yolks have sometimes been criticised, with many claiming that egg whites are far better for you. Whole eggs contain about six grams of high-quality protein. While egg yolk is associated with cholesterol concerns it is generally accepted that dietary cholesterol doesn’t raise blood levels. So the next time you separate the white from the yolk, think about the rich source of vitamins needed for optimal muscle recovery and for using valuable minerals like calcium, zinc and iron more efficiently.
7. Ground flaxseed
Flaxseed is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and it contains insoluble and soluble fibre, which helps in feeling fuller for longer as well as reducing cholesterol and promote heart health. One cup of ground flaxseed has 48 grams of fat but it’s all healthy, unsaturated fat. You only need approximately one or two tablespoons to reap the benefits. Try sprinkling a little bit on your morning oatmeal or lunch time yogurt.
8. Olive oil
The go-to ingredient in many kitchens for cooking or salad dressings, olive oil is full of monounsaturated fats. Extra virgin olive oil is probably the best oil to use due to its quality, but don’t be too heavy handed with your pouring as one tablespoon has 14 grams of fat.