Fat tends to get a bad rap, but it’s actually one of the most important parts of our diet. The reason is simple: fats are required to process vitamins A, D and E, but our bodies cannot make these essential fats on their own. This is where our dietary choices come in.
You can blame years of diet culture and insufficient research for the staunch fat-free attitudes, resulting in only 41% of people knowing that fats are a nutritionally essential part of a healthy diet. Fortunately, we’re seeing a growing understanding of the role healthy fats play in maintaining heart, brain and skin health. Have a look at the nutritious contenders we’ve collated for you below, and find out what they can do for your body.
Peanuts and peanut butter.
Peanuts are loaded with healthy fats– the kinds that lower your cholesterol levels and help balance your metabolism. While eating them whole means you’ll be taking in more fibre, peanut butter is also a great option and is high in protein and magnesium.
Peanuts are one loaded with biotin, with just 50 grams containing over 100% of the daily recommended intake. Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, plays a vital role in protecting heart health, and research shows deficiency can lead to hair loss, brittle nails and skin problems.
Our tip: If you opt for peanut butter, be sure to check the labels to find a brand free from additives and sugars. 100% peanut content equals more nutrients – and a richer taste, too.
We’re talking about that stuff you usually find in the can – though it can also be found in the frozen section. Packed with vitamins and minerals like potassium, magnesium and phosphorous. It’s also high in healthy fats. While you may want to be careful with portions, as this one comes in at a whopping 550 calories per cup, that doesn’t mean you should leave it on the supermarket shelf.
Coconut milk is made up of what are known as medium chain triglycerides, which have been found to decrease appetite, curb those sugar cravings and leave you feeling satiated. Plus, it adds richness and creaminess to a range of dishes, from curries and soups to oatmeal.
Our tip: Make your own coconut milk at home and bypass the additives often found in canned products. Simply blend the coconut meat with the liquid, adding water to achieve your desired consistency.
The Mediterranean diet has been hailed as a life-extender for good reason, with Ikaria in Greece having made it to the blue zone list of longest-living populations. Ikarians regularly surpass their centenarian milestone – doing so while staying mostly free of diseases like dementia. One of the staple healthy fats in this diet is olive oil, which boasts anti-inflammatory properties and has been found to reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Oleic oil is the active fatty acid which is responsible for these heart-healthy benefits and, as such, it’s no surprise that research also shows that olive oil plays a role in balancing blood sugar levels.
Our tip: Go for extra virgin olive oil to get the most nutritional benefits, including more antioxidants and vitamins, as it hasn’t been heavily processed like other oils.
These nuts are all about brain health, boasting high levels of omega 3 fatty acids. They have the most omegas of any tree nut, coming in at 2.5 grams per serving. Omega 3 is essential for eye and brain health, along with reducing inflammation. One trial found consumption of this fatty acid reduced the risk of heart attacks by 28%.
Our tip: While walnuts offer extensive benefits and are a great source of omega fatty acids, it is recommended to get your quota from a range of sources to ensure proper absorption. Other foods with omega 3 include seafood, chia seeds and flax meal or oil.
Avocados are brimming with healthy fats like omega 3 fatty acids, notably oleic acid. Studies show this acid protects against insulin resistance and can reduce the risk for heart disease. These fats will keep you full for longer and reduce cholesterol. Plus, this fruit – yes, technically they aren’t a vegetable, contrary to popular belief – is a source of riboflavin, magnesium, potassium and even vitamin C.
It wasn’t too long ago politicians were accusing the younger generations of wasting money on smashed avo toast, and while many believe the criticism to be misguided, avocados have actually never been cheaper than they are right now, with some going for $1, as demand dwindles. Now’s the time to snap up these nutritional powerhouses.
Our tip: Avocado is a versatile fruit, so we recommend trying some of these combos: avo and feta toast or even avocado brownies – we promise these taste like cocoa, not avocado!
These are just a few of the many heart-healthy foods backed with essential fatty acids you can pick up on your next shop. If you’re interested in no-fail recipes to kick off your health transformation, check out the I Quit Sugar Sugar-Free Baking Cookbookfor meals with all of the taste and none of the sugar.