Sugars and fats have been under scrutiny for what seems like forever. For the last 40 years, the idea that fats had a bigger impact on health compared to sugar was the consensus, until recently. We now know that fat is very healthy, and is actually necessary for optimal health.

Now that fats have gained much earned popularity, there should be more of a discussion about what is a good fat versus what is a bad fat. This is truly important because our bodies need fat, but not all fats are equal. Certain classes of fats can be unhealthy. Trans fats can contribute to a buildup of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the bloodstream, the kind that can contribute to heart disease. Also, fats like canola, corn and soybean oil have been shown to contribute to inflammation so you want to avoid these at all costs. Certain healthy saturated fats play a role in keeping healthy levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol and decreasing the risk of heart disease.

These beneficial fats include:

Avocado Oil / Avocados
Walnuts
Almonds
Macadamia nuts
Coconut Oil
Olive Oil
Pasture raised beef and poultry
Organic, pasture raised eggs
Wild caught salmon, sardines, and herring
Chia seeds
Hemp seeds
Pumpkin seeds
Flax seeds / Flaxseed Oil

All of these foods have a healthier fat content, naturally. Good quality nuts, seeds, and animal proteins should come from healthy sources using sustainable and organic methods. It is also important to eat organic whenever possible because these foods have higher nutrient profiles and grow without the use of harmful pesticides, antibiotics, GMOs or steroids.

Olive and avocado oil, both omega-9 fatty acids, are common cooking and dressing oils that are among the healthier fats. Their monounsaturated fat content has been shown to help with reducing inflammation and supporting heart health. These oils are great for sautéing at medium heat and for creating dressings for salads and vegetables. Avoid frying at high temperatures with these because it can destroy all the beneficial nutrients they have. Always look for extra virgin and organic.

Flaxseed oil, derived form flax seeds, is a wonderful source of plant based, omega-3 fatty acids. It boasts a plethora of benefits contributing to healthy skin and hair, and aiding in the reduction of inflammation. Flaxseed oil is rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is the only omega-3 that is found in plants. Other plant sources of ALA include hemp seeds, flax and walnuts. Always choose organic and cold pressed. This oil should only be used cold, never heated.

Like olive and avocado oil, coconut oil is high in compounds that can lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. It is rich in medium chain triglycerides (MCT) and high in beneficial nutrients and antioxidants. It’s one of the best for high temperature cooking because it tolerates heat well and the nutrients don’t oxidize as easily, making it very stable. Coconut oil, taken in its raw form by the teaspoon, can be a quick source of energy for your body. It contains anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties, as well as anti-viral. Coconut oil can be used as a great skin and hair moisturizer, too. When purchasing coconut oil, look for organic and extra virgin.

Humanely raised meats come from animals that are raised and fed properly, on pastures, without the use of steroids or antibiotics. This creates a much healthier animal. Animals that are raised in stressful environments have altered metabolisms because of the stress hormones that their bodies consistently produce. This changes the nutrient profile of the meat, including the fat. Sustainable farming practices where animals are allowed to roam freely creates a more natural environment for the animal to grow and develop before harvesting.

Consuming good fats and vegetables as a large part of your diet is vital for good health. In addition to the benefits mentioned, fats play a very important role in hormone production and metabolism. So it turns out that eating fat doesn’t make you fat after all. All the more reason to add these delicious and healthy options to your daily diet and lifestyle.