Fat is an essential part of any diet, it’s critical for the health of our cells, and helps our body absorb other nutrients.
Healthful, fatty foods that are a great addition to any diet include oatmeal, eggs, chia seeds, and tofu.
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Fat in food has gotten an unfair reputation as a belly-bulging demon that can wreck your diet and cause you to gain weight.
But the truth is, we need some fat in our diets to survive. The proper amount of the right kind of fat can fuel your body and help feed your brain. Many studies have shown that people who eat more fat don’t get more fat, nor do they have higher rates of other health problems like cancer or heart disease.
It’s true that fat packs a punch: it’s got more than twice the calories, gram per gram, of carbohydrates or proteins, which means a little bit can go a long way. But you probably don’t need to track how much fat you’re eating every day.
Incorporating healthy fat into a diet can help people stay full, survive harsh conditions, and perhaps even live longer than their peers. One 2016 study followed more than 126,200 men and women for more than 30 years, and found that those who ate more healthy, unsaturated fat and less carbs were less likely to die from all causes.
One of the main reasons we need to eat fat is because it provides some essential fatty acids that our bodies can’t produce on their own.
That’s not an excuse to slather a layer of heavy lard onto everything you eat. The kinds of fats we consume make a difference. Researchers have discovered that replacing just 5% of a person’s saturated fat intake with healthier polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats is associated with a roughly 13% to 27% reduction in mortality.
Even so, nutrition researchers are slowly coming around to the idea that fat — even, sometimes, the saturated kind — is not the diet villain we were once led to believe it was. One 2020 “state of the art review” suggests that some nutritious, saturated fat-rich foods, including “whole-fat dairy, unprocessed meat, eggs, and dark chocolate” are not as bad for our hearts as we’ve been led to believe.
Eating the right kinds of fats can help keep your body satiated, protect your cells, and keep your heart healthy. Here are some prime examples of foods with the best fats that you could probably be eating more of:
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Eggs are a great fatty addition to your diet because the dietary cholesterol (that’s the term for the kind of cholesterol you eat) in them doesn’t have much effect on your blood cholesterol (the kind your doctor measures).
In fact, eggs can help regulate how cholesterol is absorbed in the body because of their high concentrations of phospholipids: special kinds of fats that can also help control inflammation. Eggs also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which may help keep our eyes healthy.
Plus, eggs are a great protein source, which means you’ll stay fuller for longer after an eggy meal. They also deliver omega-3 fatty acids, which are some of the essential fats the body can’t produce on its own. (But there is not nearly as much omega-3 in eggs as there is in fish.)
For people with Type 2 diabetes, it’s possible that eating eggs could increase the risk of developing heart disease, but more research on that is needed.
If you’re otherwise healthy, go ahead and get that omelette — and don’t bother with the egg-white substitution.
Most people don’t think of oatmeal as a fat-rich food, but part of the reason the breakfast keeps people full is that it’s loaded with more fat than most other grains — mostly the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated kinds.
Oats are also a great way to get more amino acids, as well as vitamins and minerals like B6 and iron. That’s all in addition to the protein and calcium oats are known to deliver.
Spirulina is an ancient type of blue-green sea algae that has developed a cult following as a “superfood.” It’s often added to smoothies as a dark green powder.
The algae was a source of sustenance long before the age of blenders: The Aztecs dried and ate it in Mexico as early as the 1600s.
The cyanobacteria is rich in protein and iron, and also boasts a punch of amino acids and fat. Just two tablespoons of spirulina have a gram of fat. That’s not nearly as much fat as an egg or piece of meat contains, but it’s impressive for a piece of seaweed.
But be careful where you get your algae from — the National Institutes of Health warns that some contaminated spirulina can cause liver damage and harbor toxic metals and bacteria.
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