SINCE WHEN ARE FATS HEALTHY?
All fat (and foods that are high in fats like avocado, nuts and seeds) were previously believed to be unhealthy – but this is not true.
Theories about fats being bad for the heart have been disproven, and new evidence and research has revealed that healthy fats are good for the heart, good for the brain and are essential for maintaining a body and a healthy nervous system.
Now instead of asking “is fat healthy?”, we are asking “which fats are healthy?”
Over the past few years, as I’ve focused on learning more about health and nutrition, I have learned that there are lots of healthy sources of fat and I’ve also learned that there are some unhealthy sources of fat.
In this post, I’m going to be showing you my top 10 best healthy fat foods to eat, and will be sharing a few details about why each one makes my top 10 list.
The top 10
Avocados, commonly referred to as “avo’s” in South Africa, are one of the best sources of healthy fats. They are mostly made up of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats as well a small amount of saturated fats (saturated fats were previously believed to be unhealthy, but this theory has been disproved. All of the fats found in the avocado are good ones). Some of the benefits of eating avocado include maintaining brain health, heart health, organ health and good health in general. Fats are essential for maintaining a healthy nervous system and general body functioning.
Avocados have a deliciously creamy texture and a subtle, buttery taste & are amazing added to salads, breakfasts, sandwiches, creamy basil pesto, smoothies (they make smoothies naturally creamy) and chocolate mousse. Have you tried healthy chocolate mousse made with avocado? It will surprise you how delicious it is!
Avocados not only contain healthy fats, they are also a great source of the B vitamins – namely vitamin B6 which is essential for optimal brain functioning and vitamin B5 which is vital for the health of the nervous system. Along with containing lots of Vitamin B, avocados are also packed with vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, potassium, magnesium and are full of fibre. Ps. Try my avocado chocolate mousse recipe! It’s my favourite way to eat avocado.
Walnuts are very high in antioxidants, vitamin E and are one of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Walnuts are very good for maintaining brain health, heart health and healthy organs because of all of the essential fatty acids that they contain. I love adding walnuts to salads, vegetable dishes, healthy desserts, banana walnut bread, granola, trail mix, blending them into smoothies or eating them raw as a snack. To get the most from the healthy fats found in walnuts, it’s best to eat them raw and store them in the fridge or a cool place to keep them from becoming rancid.
Eggs are really good for you! For a long time people have been debating about whether eggs are healthy or unhealthy, but recent studies have disproven the theories that they are bad and have revealed that they are in fact good! These studies have also shown that eating both the egg whites and egg yolks are healthy, and that people who eat the egg yolks do not have higher amounts of cholesterol than people who don’t.
Eggs contain lots of healthy fats as well as lots of vitamins (including vitamins A, E, D, B & K), minerals and antioxidants. Eggs are good for the heart (this has proven to be true), good for the brain, good for other organs and good for general health. Including them into your diet will cause you to feel fuller for longer because of the good fats & protein that they contain.
There’s no need to toss your egg yolks in the trash anymore and only eat the egg whites, because let’s be honest egg whites on they’re own are boring and you will only be missing out on important nutrients that can only be found in the yolk! Make sure that eggs you purchase are organic, free-ranged and grain-fed! I love to add boiled eggs to salad & I also love using eggs to make scrambled eggs, poached eggs, omelettes, frittata’s and grilled avocado-eggs! Yum!
4. Flax seeds
Flax seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, fibre (both soluble and insoluble), lignans & antioxidants. These tiny seeds are also rich in magnesium, copper, iron, manganese and potassium. Flax seeds help to promote healthy skin, heart health, brain health and general good health in the body.
I love using flax seeds in recipes that I make, but because these seeds are so small it’s best to grind them up finely in a blender or soak them before eating them – to get the most benefit from the nutrients. If you grind flax seeds be sure to keep the ground flax seed stored in the freezer so that it does not go rancid. Have you tried flax seed pudding? I love soaking flax seeds overnight and eating them for breakfast! It’s so easy to make & yummy. You can find my flax seed pudding here.
5. Chia seeds
Chia seeds may be teeny tiny but they are packed full of healthy fats & other important nutrients! These little seeds are high in protein, high in fibre and they also contain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is essential for heart and brain health! Chia seeds also contain antioxidants, niacin, thiamine, selenium, iron, phosphorus, copper, manganese and magnesium.
I love blending chia seeds into my breakfast smoothies, using them in overnight chia oats and using them to make chia pudding! Because these seeds are so tiny, it’s best to grind them finely before adding them to smoothies or other recipes so that the body can absorb the nutrients and get the best benefit from them, or soaking them before eating them. Try my chia pudding recipe!
6. Macadamia nuts & macadamia nut oil
Macadamia nuts & macadamia nut oil – macadamia nuts are one of the fattiest nuts. They are very high in fats (healthy fats), mostly monounsaturated fatty acids. Macadamia nuts are also high in fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, the B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5 & B9) and vitamin E as well as many minerals such as calcium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron.
Macadamia nut oil has a high smoke point, which makes it good for cooking at higher heats. Macadamia nut oil is my favourite oil to use for cooking savoury dishes because the flavour of the oil is very subtle. I love to add macadamia nuts to healthy snacks & treats that I make & even salads – and of course macadamia nuts are delicious eaten simply by themselves. I love to make macadamia nut butter, eat them raw and I love them roasted with sea salt! Yummy! Make sure that you only purchase cold-pressed oil from a good source.
7. Coconut & coconut oil
Coconut fat is made up of saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. Saturated fat was previously believed to be unhealthy but these theories have been disproven. Saturated fat is good for the heart and good for maintaining the health of there organs as well as the brain. Coconut is high in fibre, minerals including manganese, selenium, iron, zinc and phosphorus AND it helps to boost the immune system. Coconut has anti-inflammatory properties and is anti-fungal. I love baking with coconut oil and coconut.
Try adding coconut flakes or desiccated coconut to desserts, treats, cereals, granola, muesli, pudding, oatmeal and use coconut oil to cook & bake with. Coconut oil can withstand high heats unlike most other oils, meaning that the properties in the oil do not change with high heat because it has a high smoke point (like macadamia nut oil) – and that is why I like to bake with it. I also like to add coconut oil to smoothies and oatmeal. It makes my smoothies & oats extra creamy and delicious! Always make sure that your coconut oil is cold-pressed and purchased from a reputable source.
8. Olives & olive oil
Olives contain high amounts of monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, flavonoids and antioxidants. They are very good for reducing inflammation in the body as well as keeping the heart, brain and other organs healthy! I like to buy olives that have been preserved in water with sea salt – they are also delicious soaked with fresh herbs! I love adding olives to salads and other savoury dishes, and I love drizzling a bit of olive oil over a salad with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Olive oil is not the best oil to cook with because it has a low smoke point which means that the nutritional properties start to degrade when the oil is heated. Olive oil is best used to drizzle of foods for extra flavour (like with a salad) instead of using it for cooking. I use macadamia nut oil and coconut oil to cook with instead of olive oil. Always make sure that the olive you buy is cold-pressed and from a good source. Try using olive oil to drizzle over a salad – you can browse my salad recipes here.
9. Wild Alaskan Salmon
There has been a lot of debate about whether salmon is in fact good or bad. While it has come to light that a lot of salmon is being farmed instead of being caught wild & that wild caught salmon can contain high amounts of mercury (which can be toxic), some salmon is still good – it really depends where you get it from. While there has been a lot of controversy lately about Norwegian Salmon containing high amounts of mercury and farmed salmon being dangerous for ones health, it has been proven that wild caught Alaskan Salmon remains safe and healthy to eat.
Salmon caught wild around Alaska is the cleanest, healthiest and safest salmon available on the market. Alaskan salmon contains low amounts of mercury (if any) and is caught fresh. Salmon is high in omega-3, good protein & amino acids as well as vitamin B6, vitamin D, zinc and magnesium. Salmon helps to reduce inflammation in the body, helps with insulin resistance, is good for the digestive tract, good for keeping joints healthy, good for the heart, good for the eyes and great for the brain!
Make sure that you always get your Alaskan salmon from a good, reputable source and always double check that it is wild caught, not farmed! I like to eat salmon for dinner with oven roasted vegetables, for breakfast with eggs & avocado or in my favourite salmon salad.
10. Nuts & seeds
All nuts and seeds contain healthy fats, and there are so many different kinds of delicious nuts and seeds! Almonds for example have a subtle yet delicious flavour, a good crunch and they are very versatile. I love to eat almonds raw as a snack and sprinkle them on top of soups and salads. I use them a lot in baking and cooking & are really easy to make into almond butter, almond flour or almond milk.
Almonds are very high in fibre, the B vitamins and vitamin E as well as healthy fats. Other great nuts include walnuts & macadamia nuts (mentioned already), Brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, pine nuts, cashew nuts and pecan nuts! To get the best benefit from the healthy fats in the nuts & seeds that you eat, avoid eating ones that have been roasted at high temperatures and instead opt for raw nuts & seeds dry roasted at low temperatures. Store in the fridge to keep them from turning rancid.
These are some of the best sources of healthy fats to eat, and my personal top 10 faves! It’s easy to incorporate these into a diet, which is great.
I love to grill Salmon for dinner in the oven (with fresh lemon juice, sea salt and pepper), have boiled eggs with a salad or lunch, and have almond butter with my oatmeal at breakfast (or any type of nut).
I always stir a teaspoon of coconut oil into my hot oatmeal, and add chia seeds to overnight oats or smoothies.
Avocado is perfect with just about anything (on gluten-free toast, in a smoothie, in a salad, on its own), macadamia nut oil is my fave cooking oil and I always drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil over my salad to make it extra creamy!
What are your fave healthy fats, and how do you eat them?
Liezl Jayne xo
Photographs by Ross Charnock for liezljayne.com – styled by Liezl Jayne