6 Fatty foods that nutritionists really want you to stop avoiding
It finally seems to be sinking in that in order to be healthy you don't have to give up fat. The macronutrient helps keep you fuller longer and it’s linked to everything from reduced belly fat to improved heart health to superior cognitive function - depending on the type.
It's not just all about avocados, olive oil and nuts though: many doctors and nutritionists say that saturated fat has a place in a healthy diet, and that whole, unprocessed foods containing high amounts of it can actually improve cholesterol quality, cognitive function, and metabolism (opposed to the mono- or polyunsaturated fats found in nuts oils and avocados, pushed heavily by health professionals). Here are 10 fatty, nutrient-packed options that nutritionists love.
1. Grass-fed butter
“Nutritionally, butter is actually a much healthier fat than most people realise, especially if it comes from grass-fed cows,” says dietitian Laura Schoenfeld, M.P.H. The dairy fat from pastured cows contains higher levels of fat-soluble vitamins, particularly vitamin K2, which helps your body utilise calcium appropriately, meaning it deposits it into your bones and removes it from your arteries where it can do serious damage, she says.
Saturated fat is also a much safer fat to consume than the omega-6-rich polyunsaturated fats that come from industrial vegetable and seed oils. Plus, butter makes vegetables taste amazing and helps us better absorb their nutrients, she says.
2. Egg yolks
Skip the egg white omelette and embrace the yolks. This is another highly misunderstood fat-rich food that’s an incredible source of vitamin A, choline, B vitamins, and selenium, says Schoenfeld.
“Egg yolks from pastured chickens contain higher levels of vitamin D and carotenoids - antioxidants that give those yolks their deep orange colour. Plus, the yolk is what gives eggs their awesome flavour. I often recommend eating two to three eggs per day for those who tolerate them,” she says.
3. Pasture-raised bacon
“High quality bacon is chock-full of a very important nutrient called choline, which has been shown to help fight off the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic mental impairments,” says Ali Miller, R.D. Bacon also delivers a good dose of the various B vitamins, along with zinc. These nutrients aid in production of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain, and can help reduce anxiety, she adds.
The important priority is choosing a locally sourced, pasture-raised product, Miller says. This will provide your body with more nourishment. “Combining your clean bacon with loads of fibre- and antioxidant-rich vegetables, fruits, and whole grains is a great way to promote health and satisfy your palate,” she adds.
4. Cocoa butter
Cocoa butter is just as good for eating - it has a rich creaminess and works well in energy bars, smoothies, and blended into coffee with grass-fed butter as a unique spin on “Bulletproof coffee”. Miller says: “As far as nutrition goes, cocoa butter provides antioxidants and omega-9 fatty acids, which aid in hormone balance and immune function support,” Miller says.
5. Flax and chia seeds
These super-seeds are plant-based sources of omega-3s. While the best way to get omega-3s should be fish, these can still support anti-inflammatory efforts throughout the body, says McDaniel, says Jennifer McDaniel, M.S., R.D.N. “They also contain compounds called lignans, which may help lower cholesterol, and loads of heart-healthy fibre. I love to add a tablespoon of flaxseed, chia seeds, or both to my morning oatmeal or smoothies,” she adds.
6. Full fat dairy
If you don’t eat a lot of meat, full-fat dairy products like burrata cheese on tomatoes, full-fat yogurt as a snack with fruit, and half-and-half in your coffee are all good ways to sneak in good saturated fats, says McDaniel. Plus, despite popular belief, some recent studies have failed to find a link between increased risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, or stroke with dairy fats. This may have to do with other nutrients within dairy that these fats interact with, says McDaniel.
For instance, dairy foods are rich in micronutrients such as vitamin D and potassium - two nutrients important for optimal heart health, blood pressure, and insulin sensitivity. The higher fat content also helps keep you full.
It’s not just the fat itself that’s good for you, though - naturally fatty whole foods tend to be loaded with other health-promoting nutrients like vitamin K2 and choline that are hard to find elsewhere. Look out for these ingredients at your next weekly shop.