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Nutrition

Healthy Fats and Why They Are Important

Before you reach for that Snickers bar, find out what kinds of cheese and chocolate—and healthy fats—can benefit your body.

Published: 7/2/18

All fat is not created equal. Big Macs are not your friends, but cheese and chocolate can be. Yes, you read that correctly: Cheese and chocolate. Yes! Sign us up, but… not so fast.

Before you reach for that Snickers bar or a grilled cheese on Wonder Bread, educate yourself about what kinds of cheese and chocolate—and fats—can benefit your body.

Years ago, when doctors warned about the dangers of fat, people resorted to eating more carbs, sugar, and processed foods to fill the void. That was not a wise decision. It turns out that void was literally a void of empty calories that saddled us with more weight. As a result, a whole generation has become bigger (read: fatter) and even sicker because of this. It’s time to reexamine what we think of fat because studies now show that fat, even saturated fat, isn’t our bodies’ nemesis as we once thought.

What Are Some High-Fat Foods That Are Good for Us?

How about that cheese and chocolate we spoke about? First, cheese does not mean Kraft Singles. We’re talking about real cheese. Real cheese is very nutritious, and it can be a part of a very healthy diet if consumed in small amounts. A single slice contains lots of vitamins, minerals, proteins and, yes, healthy fats.

All chocolates are not created equal. Skip the Kit-Kat and other milk-chocolate delights, and reach instead for dark chocolate. It’s your friend in this category. While dark chocolate is high in fat, it’s 11% fiber and contains over 50% of the RDA for iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. It is also loaded with antioxidants, so much so that it even outranks blueberries. And, let’s not forget how amazing it tastes—it’s chocolate, people!

Avocados. Now, we didn’t say nachos. We said avocados, so that means guacamole is its close cousin. Avocados are a fruit, with fat coming in at 77% of its calories. Wowza! But…they are an excellent source of fiber and potassium as well and the fact that they have been proven to have major benefits for cardio health.

Some other high-fat foods that are incredibly healthy include eggs, nuts, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil (which is one of the richest sources of saturated fat you can find anywhere). Coconut fats are different than most other fats because they consist largely of medium-chain fatty acid which means they are metabolized differently and can even help people eat fewer calories overall.

What Should I Avoid?

Processed foods and so many foods labeled as healthy, diet, light, or lite—that can actually be much worse for you than those products with natural fat content. Take yogurt, for example. While, real, full-fat yogurt is incredibly healthy, many of the yogurts in grocery stores are low in fat but loaded with added sugar instead. This is a big no-no—go for the full-fat version instead. Yes, we know, this thinking takes some getting used to, but it’s the truth.

Full-fat yogurt is plentiful with healthy, probiotic bacteria, that can have powerful effects on your overall health, including combating things like heart disease. Just make sure to choose real, full-fat yogurt and read the label. Don’t be fooled by those lesser-calorie, colorfully-packaged cups of fruit-topped yogurt promising great taste and weight loss.

Why Are Healthy Fats Important?

Despite its bad rap, fat is important to a healthy diet. The current recommendation is that healthy adults digest about 25% to 35% of our daily calories from fat with no more than 10% (about 20-25 grams) from saturated fat.

With that said, keep in mind that fat comes in two forms: saturated fat which is solid when at room temperature (think: a stick of butter); and unsaturated fats which are oils (liquid at room temperature like olive oil.) The bottom line is your body needs both, but the majority of fat consumption should come from unsaturated fats.

Fat provides a great deal of calories (this we know), but this also means it’s a major fuel source for us. Fat also gives our cells structure, and fat helps absorb certain nutrients like vitamins A, D, E and antioxidants.

Remember: eating fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat. Overeating it can. Fat makes food more flavorful and satisfying, which means your body doesn’t need as much to feel full. So, enjoy healthy amounts of fat—in moderation—and enjoy the food you eat!