Healthy high-fat foods are a wonderful way to incorporate more flavor, satisfaction, and nutrition into your meals and snacks. This macronutrient rocks for a few reasons. Fat makes food taste better by creating a creamy mouthfeel and intensifying flavors, as SELF previously reported. It also provides you with energy, helps keep you fuller longer, and plays a vital role in numerous body functions and processes. A lot of naturally high-fat foods are also rich in other nutrients, like fiber, protein, and a range of vitamins and minerals. You might be wondering what healthy high-fat foods are, exactly, and what ones you can include more of in your diet.
First, here’s what we mean by healthy-fat foods.
It can be dicey to divide foods into discrete categories of “healthy” or “unhealthy.” Our tendency to label foods this way is a practice supported by diet culture as much as (or more than) science, and generally speaking, all foods can have a place in a varied, balanced diet. Also, like many topics in nutrition, the research into the effects of the various types of fats on our health is evolving, and sometimes a source of disagreement among experts. That said, the phrase healthy fats is generally used to refer to unsaturated fats. There are two types—here’s a quick rundown on each one:
Monounsaturated fats: “These are among the healthiest of all fats,” Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., senior dietitian at UCLA Medical Center and adjunct assistant professor at the Fielding School of Public Health, tells SELF. Monounsaturated fats help develop and maintain your cells, and can help lower your LDL cholesterol levels, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. They can be found in foods like olive oil, nuts, and avocados, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Polyunsaturated fats: The two main types of polyunsaturated fats are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, essential fats that our bodies cannot make on their own but need for many essential functions, the American Heart Association (AHA) explains. Omega-3 fatty acids, especially, are beneficial for heart health, including reducing blood pressure and decreasing cholesterol and triglyceride levels, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Omega-3s are mostly found in foods like fish, nuts, and seeds. “Other polyunsaturated fats [omega-6s] can be found in certain plant-based oils,” Hunnes adds.
The other types of fats are not known to be as healthy (although the science is not as definitive).
There are two main types of fats that nutrition and public health experts advise either minimizing or moderating your intake of:
Trans fats: Trans fats raise your LDL cholesterol while lowering your HDL cholesterol (the kind that helps keep blood vessels clear), according to the AHA. They also increase your risk of developing heart disease and stroke, and are associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, the AHA says. The AHA advises minimizing your consumption of trans fats, which are generally found in fried foods and baked goods that contain partially hydrogenated oils.
Saturated fats: The guidance on saturated fat is a little more complicated. Old nutrition research said saturated fat was really bad for your cholesterol levels and cardiovascular risk, but newer information suggests it has a more neutral effect. Saturated fats are found in animal products like beef, lamb, pork, butter, and cheese, as well as fried foods and baked goods, per the AHA. While the topic is far from settled, currently the USDA Dietary Guidelines and the AHA do still recommend limiting your intake of saturated fats, and opting for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats instead.
Here’s a list of some healthy high-fat foods you can add to your plate—most are primarily good sources of unsaturated fats (generally, along with modest amounts of saturated fat). In fact, as SELF has previously reported, most foods with fat have some combination of both saturated and unsaturated fats.
Try it: You know what to do here. Toast, guacamole, salads. Here are a bunch more creative ideas, like desserts and pastas.
The scoop: With 21 grams of fat in a 1-oz. serving, walnuts are a fantastic source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They’re also rich in the minerals manganese and copper. (They also happen to taste delicious, so they're even more deserving of a spot on this list.)
Try it: Sprinkle chopped walnuts on a salad or bowl of cereal or oatmeal. Or if you’re feeling crafty, try making it into a tasty nut butter.
The scoop: Nuts in general are packed with fat. While it’s hard to go wrong with any kind, we’re big fans of almonds, which have 15 grams of fat in a 1-oz. serving (about 22 nuts) and are rich in vitamin E.
Try it: Raw or roasted, salted or unsalted, plain or flavored—there are a lot of great almond options at the supermarket. Enjoy a big handful on their own or in trail mix, cereal, and salads.
Nut and seed butters
The scoop: A possibly even tastier way to get all the fatty goodness of nuts may be from a nut or seed butter. Beyond peanut butter, try almond, cashew, or sunflower seed butter for a plant-based dose of creamy fat (plus fiber and protein). For example, there are 16 grams of fat in two tablespoons of both PB and sunflower seed butter.
Try it: Spread 2 tablespoons on toast or eat it with fresh apple slices. Both options are simple, delicious, and nutritious—real winners all around.
The scoop: They may be small, but all varieties of olives are rich in fat and flavor. Just 1 oz. of green olives (about 14 olives) has 4 grams of fat.
Try it: Olives are awesome on pizza, pasta, and salads. But they also make a great addition to a cheese plate, along with some crackers and veggies.
The scoop: We all know the oil pressed from olives is a tremendous source of healthy fats. Just one tablespoon of the stuff, a go-to oil in many people’s kitchens, has 14 grams of fat.
Try it: Besides the obvious advice to cook pretty much anything with it, try drizzling olive oil over Greek yogurt with cracked pepper for a savory dip to eat with chips, pita, or crackers. Not sure which kind to buy? Check out this handy guide.
The scoop: Flaxseed is a great source of those omega-3 fatty acids and packs about 8 grams of fat per ounce. Flaxseed also contains both insoluble and soluble fiber, which are good for for feeling satiated, digestive health, stabilizing blood sugar, and regular poops, as SELF has previously reported.
Try it: Sprinkle some whole or ground flaxseed on yogurt or oatmeal, scoop a spoonful into a smoothie, or put an interesting spin on a salad with a flaxseed oil-based dressing. Heck, you can even make chocolatey energy bites with this versatile little seed.
The scoop: Tuna also packs a high amount of healthy fats and omega-3s. We're talking about both the cheap and conveniently canned stuff (about 5 grams in one regular can), and the kind you find at your favorite Japanese spot (about 5 grams in 3 oz., cooked).
Try it: There are lots of ways to get this fatty fish in your diet—try seared tuna steaks, tuna burgers, tuna salad on a sandwich or bed of lettuce, or tuna casserole.
The scoop: A 1-oz. portion of delicious dark chocolate boasts around 11 grams of fat, plus a bonus 2 grams of fiber.
Try it: You probably don’t need any help figuring out how to enjoy this decadent treat. While you could have it with something like raspberries or mix some slivers into Greek yogurt, we're partial to dark chocolate all on its own. (Or covering nuts like almonds. That's great too.)
The scoop: Tofu is considered a “health food” for a reason: It's a solid plant-based protein made of soybeans, while providing nearly a quarter of your daily calcium needs. It’s not as high in fat as some other foods on this list, but a 3-oz. portion of super-firm tofu contains 4 grams of fat.
Try it: There are basically countless ways to incorporate this deliciousness into your life. For dinner, you can throw together something like sheet pan tofu combined with veggies and chickpeas. If you want to get creative, you could also experiment with these tofu breakfast recipes—it makes for a great scramble or smoothie base.
The scoop: Hi, hello, since tofu's on the list, we clearly can't leave out the plant that is used to make it! With 4.5 grams of fat in a half cup of shelled edamame, soybeans are also a great source of plant-based protein (9 grams a serving) and fiber (4 grams a serving).
Try it: Buy them frozen, in the pod or pre-shelled, and enjoy them boiled and salted as a tasty and filling snack, or purée them into a green-hued twist on your usual hummus. Here are tons of other ways to ramp up your edamame consumption. Or buy some roasted edamame for a snack.
The scoop: A 2-tablespoon serving of these flavorful, crunchy little guys delivers about 14 grams of fat, along with 6 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.
Try it: Sprinkle raw or roasted sunflower seeds on top of your salad, try them in a batch of trail mix, or toss back a handful along with a piece of fruit for a quick snack.
The scoop: Their popularity is well-deserved: These small but mighty seeds have fiber, protein, essential minerals, and, of course, fat—6 grams of the stuff per 2 tablespoons, including lots of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Try it: Add a tablespoon into your smoothies or oatmeal for a quick and crunchy fat, fiber, and protein boost, or whip up some chia seed pudding.
The scoop: Everyone knows eggs are an inexpensive and easy source of protein. And if you don’t get rid of the yolk, they’re a great source of fat too. One extra-large whole egg contains 6 grams of fat. Sometimes people opt for egg whites only, but the yolk is packed with rich flavor and important vitamins and minerals along with the fat, such as selenium and choline. (As for cholesterol in egg yolks: The latest nutrition research has found that egg yolks can be included in a healthy diet and don't typically impact cholesterol levels in a significant way.)
The scoop: Since fat in general is satiating, the fat in protein-packed dairy is no exception. Opting for full-fat dairy can result in the type of satisfaction you might be missing with lower-fat versions. Whole milk and full-fat yogurt each contain 8 grams of fat (with 5 grams of saturated fat) per cup, plus a whole lot of richness and creaminess.
Try it: If you normally have low- or no-fat dairy, upgrade it and see how you feel. For instance, grab some full-fat Greek yogurt you can top with fruit, nuts, and granola, or have some chocolate whole milk as a post-workout snack.
The scoop: Hemp seeds are a lovely, underrated little seed. They have a nutty taste, creamy texture, and 15 grams of fat in a serving (3 tablespoons), plus 9 grams of protein to boot.
Try it: Sprinkle these seeds wherever you could use some extra flavor, texture, fat, and protein—oatmeal, salads, cereals, grain bowls, pasta, avocado toast, you name it.
The scoop: There are many delicious forms to enjoy coconut in—milk, cream, water, oil, fresh meat, and dried flakes. Sweetened or unsweetened shredded coconut flakes pack 8 grams of fat per ounce, and a lot of tropical flavor.
Try it: For extra fragrant and lightly crispy coconut flakes that are delicious on pretty much everything, toast in a skillet or under the burner for a couple of minutes until light golden-brown. Keep a close eye so they don’t burn.
The scoop: When you’re thinking about fish full of healthy fats, it’s easy to forget about anchovies. One small can (2 oz.) or these briny little fishes, drained, has 4.5 grams of fat—more if you don’t completely drain them—plus a whopping 13 grams of protein.
Try it: Anchovies are fantastic on pizza, pasta, salads—anywhere you can use a salty punch.
The scoop: Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, have 13 grams of fat per ounce—along with 7 grams of protein and quite a bit of the minerals iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese.
Try it: Roasted and salted pumpkin seeds are great for munching on all by themselves, sprinkled on soups and salads, or made into a pesto.
The scoop: Macadamia nuts are itty-bitty tropical fat bombs, packing 22 grams of the stuff per serving (1 oz., or 10-12 whole nuts). They’ve also got a nice amount of protein at 7 grams.
Try it: It’s hard to improve on a handful of raw or roasted macadamia nuts, because they taste simply divine. But you could also grind some up for some macadamia-crusted fish, or try making some delicious macadamia nut butter.
Originally Appeared on SELF