If you have fat phobia, it’s time to get over it.
Eating a diet that includes healthy fats can increase your chances of living for longer, research suggests.
The 30-year Harvard University study found people who frequently consume unsaturated fats have a much lower risk of dying early.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are found in fish and vegetable oils and provide many health benefits.
Chocolate? Healthy? Who would have thought it. But as long as it’s eaten in moderation, chocolate can actually be beneficial.
Dark chocolate is 11% fibre and contains iron, magnesium, copper and manganese. It is also packed with antioxidants – more than blueberries to be exact. Some of the antioxidants in dark chocolate can lower blood pressure and protect you from harmful cholesterol.
Studies also show that people who eat dark chocolate five or more times a week are less than half as likely to suffer from heart disease, compared to people who don’t eat dark chocolate.
There are also some studies showing that it can improve brain function and protect your skin from damage when exposed to the sun.
So, the good news is we don’t have to scrap chocolate from our diets. Just make sure to choose quality dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa.
One cup of ground flaxseed contains a huge 48 grams of fat, but it’s all of the healthy, unsaturated kind and you actually only need one to two tablespoons to reap its benefits.
Flaxseed is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation and improves heart and brain health.
It’s also suggested that flaxseed can help to prevent some types of cancer as it contains plant nutrients that have estrogen and antioxidant properties.
And finally, flaxseed contains plenty of fibre, meaning it helps you to feel fuller for longer so you end up eating less.
Try mixing a tablespoon into your morning porridge, add it to yoghurts or include it when baking.
Soybean oil - which is extracted from the beans - is known for its neutral flavour and well-balanced fatty acids. This makes it a great ingredient for a variety of uses, from baked goods to salad dressings.
High in both poly and monounsaturated fats, it is one of the the few non-fish oils that supplies a great source of omega-3.
It also offers plenty of vitamin E, preventing cell damage that could lead to diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Overall, soybean oil can improve cardiovascular health, blood pressure, heart disease and cholesterol levels, research has shown.
Soybean oil can be wonderful when used as a salad dressing or dipping oil.
Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, you name it – nuts are high in healthy fats and fibre and are a great plant-based source of protein.
They’re also high in vitamin E and magnesium – a mineral that most people don’t get enough of.
It’s also suggested that nuts can lower the risk of various diseases such as obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
If you want to mix things up, try making a nut butter or spread.
Chia seeds aren't generally perceived as a ‘fatty’ food but an ounce of them actually contains nine grams of fat. But that’s nothing to worry about as almost all the carbohydrates in chia seeds are fibre, meaning the majority of calories in them actually come from fat.
This makes them a fantastic high-fat plant food packed with nutrition, minerals and protein.
In fact, most of the fats in chia seeds are heart-healthy and full of an omega-3 fatty acid called ALA.
Health benefits include lowering blood pressure and anti-inflammatory effects.
Rapeseed oil contains half the amount of fat found in olive oil, meaning it’s high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and has a healthy blend of omega-3, 6 and 9.
It can help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease.
Not only that, but rapeseed oil also has a ‘high smoke point’ so when used at high temperatures it still maintains its natural benefits.
Rapeseed oil can be used to replace other fats like butter and cheese. Or used as a dipping oil.
As if avocados couldn’t get any better, they are also classed as a healthy fat. Unlike many other fruits, avocados are packed with healthy fats rather than carbohydrates.
‘Avocados are among the most nutritious foods you can eat,’ says Heather Thomas in her new book, The Avocado Cookbook.
‘Not only are they rich in protein and fibre but they are also a good source of potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, folic acid and vitamins A, B3, B5, B6, B12, C, E and K.
‘Because they are relatively high in fat, many weight-conscious people avoid them, but in fact they contain healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated vegetable fat.’
The main fatty acid found in avocados is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, which is also the predominant fatty acid found in olive oil.
They are particularly good for healthy skin, digestion and preventing anaemia.
‘Indeed, some studies have shown that eating avocados regularly may help to lower harmful cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of developing heart disease,’ said Ms Thomas.
The oil can also be extracted from the fruit and be used for cooking or salad dressings.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Extra virgin olive oil is the queen of healthy fats and an essential component of the Mediterranean diet. Shown to have numerous healthy benefits, olive oil is definitely something you should include in your diet.
Extra virgin olive oil contains vitamins E and K and is packed with powerful antioxidants that can fight inflammation.
It has also been shown to lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
You can swap your butter for olive oil and use it for frying, a dip for breads, or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even use it in your dessert.
Salmon, mackerel and herring – these types of fish are loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, high quality proteins and important nutrients.
Studies show people who eat fish tend to be much healthier, with a lower risk of heart disease, depression, dementia and other common diseases.
If fish isn’t really your thing, then try taking a fish oil supplement instead. Cod fish liver oil contains all of the omega-3s you need as well as vitamin D.