Fats as a food group have had a tough go of it in the last several decades. Some types, like trans fats, deserve their bad rap (more on that next week) but many others were demonized unnecessarily and minimizing or eliminating dietary fat actually did more harm than good for many people.
So let’s set the record straight: including healthy fats in your diet will not make you fat. Does that need repeating? Healthy fats will not make you fat. Nor do they make you slow and prone to heart attacks. In fact, they help make you stronger, fitter, and healthier. Healthy fats can even help you lose fat!
What do healthy fats do?
- help improve recovery
- nourish fatty tissues (brain, eyes, cell membranes – this might sound boring & science-y but it’s very important)
- help you absorb vitamins A, D, and K
- keep hormones balanced (this includes the muscle building ones and sexy time ones – you may not want to talk about them but you definitely want them to be functioning properly)
What makes fats healthy?
It’s pretty simple and the same standards apply to fats as any other group of food. You want to choose options that are:
- naturally occurring
- minimally processed (either whole, or simply pressed/ground)
What foods are considered healthy fats?
- Healthy Oils including:
- olive oil
- coconut oil
- flax seed oil
- hemp seed oil
- canola oil (this is not your best choice but is relatively good as far as vegetable oils go)
- omega-3 oils such as fish or algae (I’m talking alllll about Omega-3s in a few weeks so stay tuned)
- Butter (yes, real butter, not the I Can’t Believe It’s Not kind)
- Avocado (and guacamole – even the store bought kind, probably – check the ingredients label to make sure there’s not any sneaky sugar or anything)
- Nuts (almonds, Brazil, cashews, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, etc. – every weekend this weekend on Instagram I’m featuring a different nut and some interesting facts about them! Make sure to follow me @esther.avant so you don’t miss out on some knowledge bombs to share with everyone you meet).
- Nut butters (basically the ground-into-a-butter version of all of the above)
- Peanuts and natural peanut butter (technically peanuts aren’t a nut, they’re a legume, that’s why they’re listed separately)
- Seeds (chia, ground flax, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, etc.)
Next week I’m talking about the type of fat you do want to avoid and why, but for now, I want you to focus on eating fats from the list above at most meals.
How much healthy fat should you eat?
Precision Nutrition’s hand portion guide is a super practical way to gauge portion sizes without weighing or measuring anything:
For women, eat about 1 thumb of fat per meal; men 2 thumbs.
Now, remember this is simply a guideline. Since your thumb is relative to your body size, this is a great estimate but don’t forget to be flexible and willing to experiment to determine what size portion helps you feel your best.