Fat is finally having its day after decades of vilification. Research increasingly confirms how essential fat is to health. It helps us absorb fat-soluble vitamins, makes up cell membranes, and supplies energy and insulation to help maintain body temperature. Trans fats are still unhealthy, but nature has provided a bounty of beneficial alternatives that help you feel full longer and contribute to heart, brain, metabolic health, and even weight loss. Satisfy your appetite with these healthy high-fat foods.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the most abundant polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid in most people’s diets. It is an essential fat because our bodies can't make it — we must obtain it from the foods we eat. ALA is present primarily in plant foods, including flaxseed, soybeans, walnuts, hemp, and chia. A 2016 scientific review in Biochimie found that ALA offers remarkable neuroprotective benefits. The fatty acid stimulates brain artery vasodilation and neuroplasticity through various multicellular pathways. Researchers hope that it can help prevent or reduce cerebral damage caused by stroke.
Olive oil is a staple in the popular Mediterranean diet and other healthy, fat-friendly eating plans. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits are well-established in scientific literature. A 2018 study in Clinical Nutrition reported that higher consumption of this food also correlates to a reduced risk of osteoporosis-related fractures. Authentic extra virgin olive oil is not labeled as “pure,” a “blend,” or “light.” Check for an International Olive Oil Council seal and harvesting date. Choose dark bottles as they help impede oxidation.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is another essential omega-3 fatty acid that makes up about 30% of brain matter. Marine sources, including anchovies, halibut, mackerel, salmon, and tuna, are rich in this nutrient. DHA is crucial to the development and functioning of the nervous system, especially the brain and retina. A 2017 research paper noted DHA's potential to counter neurodegenerative diseases and injury while protecting the brain against aging.
A PLOS One study reports that DHA may help reduce alcohol-induced inflammation and the death of brain cells. The fatty acid also appears to protect the eyes against age-related macular degeneration. Further, this nutrient can enhance learning and memory function to fight age-related cognitive decline.
Eicosapentaenoic acid, also primarily derived from marine foods such as fish and certain algae, exerts powerful immune-enhancing and anti-inflammatory actions. Clinical studies confirm the nutrient’s effectiveness in alleviating symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Research published in Arthritis Research and Therapy stated that this fatty acid works with DPA to inhibit arachidonic acid metabolism, which contributes to the development of arthritis.
Hundreds of studies back the tremendous health-boosting properties of coconut oil. The product is full of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) that are easier to digest than the long-chain fatty acids found in many other plant-based oils. Capric, caprylic, and lauric acids are three of coconut oil’s primary MCFAs the liver processes for immediate conversion to energy. These compounds also have potent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory capabilities.
Goat milk contains more mono- and polyunsaturated fats than cow and sheep milk. Fat in goat milk is also easier to digest than the other two, and offers abundant medium-chain triglycerides known for treating cystic fibrosis, infant malnutrition, gallstones, and a vast range of cardiovascular conditions. Research indicates that these nutrients help reduce serum cholesterol and cholesterol deposits within arteries.
Fats and fibers can delay gastric emptying while stimulating the release of gut hormones related to satiety. Avocados provide a unique combination of these nutrients. A 2019 study in Nutrients suggests that this fruit’s load of monounsaturated fats and fiber can suppress hunger in adults who are overweight and obese. The research also indicates that avocado can reduce post-meal insulin demand.
The low-fat myth advocates eating only egg whites, but eating the whole egg gives you the full benefits of this inexpensive superfood. Egg yolks are rich in healthy fats such as omega-3s. Contrary to long-standing medical opinion, they do not elevate the risk of cardiovascular disease; growing bodies of evidence suggest that this food provides many heart-strengthening properties. According to another study in Nutrients, egg yolks also provide vitamin D and antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients with remarkable therapeutic potential for individuals with chronic kidney disease.
Studies suggest cows that eat grass instead of grains produce meats with extra health benefits. Grass-fed beef contains more omega-3 fats and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a cancer fighter, and it also combats diabetes and heart disease. Research suggests that CLA is involved in down-regulating immune and inflammatory responses, fatty acid metabolism, and oxidative damage.
Delectable dark chocolate is a superfood full of antioxidants and good fats. Studies show that it helps enhance cognitive performance and reduces blood pressure. Research implicates that this treat can also modulate obesity by impeding the expression of genes involved in fatty acid synthesis and increasing satiety. A chocolate product containing a minimum of 70% cacao is best to avoid excess sugar while ensuring ample nutrition.
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