21 Best Healthy Fats to Boost Metabolism (and 5 to Avoid)
Fat does a body good.
Contrary to old-school popular belief that “fat makes you fat,” eating healthy fats actually does the opposite—helps you boost your metabolism, lose fat and tons of other amazing benefits.
However, if you have a hard time understanding why are fats all of a sudden called “healthy” now, if we’ve been told that they are “bad” for years, you are not alone. Americans have been told that, “fat is bad” for more than 40 years.
Moreover, if “healthy fat” is considered a healthy food now, what exactly are “healthy fats” anyway?
Chew on this…
FAT PHOBIA: HOW IT ALL BEGAN
NPR traces Americans’ fat phobia back to July 1976, when Senator George McGovern called an urgent hearing to discuss the possible link between diet and disease.
This urgent hearing was inspired by an increase in Senate member deaths at the time (eight total during the 1960’s and 70’s).
Senator McGovern and others tried to explain the outbreak amongst each other, but with few answers, they concluded that “Americans must be eating too much fat.”
Their conclusions were solely based on a few early studies that suggested a link between saturated fat (like eggs and meat ) and heightened LDL cholesterol, as well as heart disease.
However, as we would later find out nearly 40 years later, these studies were all myths.
An in-depth review (Chowdhury et al, 2015) of nearly 80 studies over a course of 40 years concluded that no evidence clearly supported the recommendations that “saturated fats” are bad for you
Another 2016 report, evaluating early research from the 1960’s and 70’s determined that the report’s eat-low-fat conclusions at the time were false (Ramsden, 2016) — revealing that people on low-fat diets actually had a higher incidence of death than those who ate fat.
And, one more analysis, released in 2016 in the New England Journal of Medicine (Kearns et al, 2016), found that the sugar industry sponsored a program in the 1960s and 70s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sugar, while (falsely) posing fat as the “dietary culprit” for heart disease.
In short: The fat scare is a big fat lie.
Nevertheless, by 1977, the USDA released its first set of Dietary Guidelines, changing the way Americans viewed food dramatically.
The USDA warned Americans against the consumption of all fats and oils (especially saturated fats in meat, butter and eggs), while emphasizing the consumption of grains, fruit, dairy, veggies and some protein, and not mentioning anything about sugar.
From then on, “fat phobia” spread, and even though Americans began to cut butter, eggs, red meat, coconut oil, lard and other fats out of their diets.
Fast-forward to the 1980’s and the aerobic fitness kicked in high gear, led by fitness icons like Richard Simmons, Jack LaLane, Suzanne Somers and Jane Fonda, who preached the “low fat” message.
By the 1990s, the majority of TV marketing, grocery-store shelves and American consumers were “all aboard” the low-fat bandwagon—replacing butter with margarine, eggs with egg whites, full-fat milk with skim, and buying hundreds of new processed shakes, bars and foods filled with “healthy whole grains” and “low fat.” We totally fell for it.
“Fat must make me fat,” became America’s battle cry, based solely on the heavily marketed messages, ringing in our ears near daily.
Ironically, during this time, America’s war on obesity, diabetes and heart disease only began to soar.
WHY FAT IS ACTUALLY GOOD
So, if fat is actually “good,” what makes it so good anyway?
First, it’s important to understand what fat is in the first place.
Fat is one of the top four macro-nutrients essential for human energy, vitality and life (the others include protein, carbohydrates, and the often forgotten, water).
Fats are composed of long-chain fatty acids that compose the outside structure, or the “shell,” of every single cell in our body. Fats are like the steel armor or guardsmen that make our cells strong and “less permeable” to outside toxins, sugar and foreign invaders.
This is why some people say, “fat does not make you fat”—if sugar and unwanted toxins can’t get in, your cells can thrive and have ample energy to perform all the metabolic functions required to keep you going strong.
Fats are divided into one of three types (similar to how proteins are divided into “complete proteins”—like and incomplete proteins—like beans and nuts, or carbohydrates may include “starchy tubers,” “grains,” “fruits and veggies”).
The 3 Types of Fats:
Saturated Fatty Acids (SFA’s) – Highly stable in nature; do not turn rancid (spoil) easily, even at higher temperatures. Help support immunity and hormone health. Include: Butter, egg yolks, ghee, coconut, fatty meat, full-fat dairy.
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA’s) – Relatively stable; do not turn rancid easily. Liquid at room temperature, but semi-solid upon refrigeration. Monounsaturated fat molecules are often referred to as the “healthy” fats by those who still don’t realize saturated fats are actually good for you too. Include: Avocados, olives, extra virgin olive oil.
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA’s) – Unstable at even room temperature; easily damaged by heat, light, moisture and oxygen exposure; refrigeration required; turn rancid quickly and easily. Polyunsaturated fat molecules have two bends, which will not allow them to stack together well at all. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids fall in this category. Include: Wild-caught fatty fish, nuts and seeds, hydrogenated (vegetable) oils, nut oils.
We need a blend of all three—in the right amounts.
BENEFITS OF FAT
When we do eat healthy fat, here’s what we get from it:
Optimal Brain Function (& Prevents Brain Fog)
Decreases Inflammation in the Body
Revving Digestion (eases up bloating and constipation)
Absorbs Vitamins & Minerals
Produces & Supports Hormone Health
Boosts Your Metabolism
Makes Your Skin & Hair Strong & Shiny
Satisfies Cravings & Staves off Hunger
Blood Sugar Balance Between Meals
It Tastes REALLY Good
Energy: Fat is the densest source of energy we consume. From a “calorie counting” standpoint, there are 9 calories for every 1 gram of fat, as opposed to 4 calories for every gram of protein or carbohydrate. Calories are not a bad thing. Calories are simply energy, and fat gives you lots of energy.
Optimal Brain Function. Your brain is composed of 60-percent fat and cholesterol, and for peak functioning, you need to eat fats to develop, sustain and promote brain power.
Cholesterol: Contrary to popular belief that cholesterol is ‘bad’ for you, your body actually neeeeeeeds cholesterol to function. If you had no cholesterol in your body you would cease to exist: No cells, no bone structure, no muscles, no hormones, no sex, no reproductive system, no digestion, no brain function, no memory, no nerve endings, no movement, no human life – nothing without cholesterol. Higher cholesterol levels are also linked to improve memory and cognitive skills and protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, while low blood cholesterol is associated with poor cognitive performance.
Revving Digestion. Healthy fats help transport your food through your system, and keep your digestion humming along as it should. Think of it as that “slippery” substance that moves your food along. Fat helps your gallbladder produce bile, which is essential for elimination and proper digestion.
Helps Absorb All Your Vitamins & Nutrients. You’ve probably heard Vitamin A for good vision and healthy skin, Vitamin E helps with wound healing, and Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting. However in order to actually absorb any vitamins in the first place, your body needs healthy fats. Fats also help transport your vitamins to where they are needed in the body.
Produces and Supports Hormones. Our hormones are built from fat. Chances are if your hormones are out of whack, your fatty acids are out of whack too, leading to: Low libido, amenorrhea, irregular cycles, poor strength gains and recovery from exercise, moodiness and off-mood, and infertility.
Boosts your Metabolism. Healthy fats in your diet help trigger hormones that release fat, and eliminate toxins that make it hard for your body to otherwise have a fiery metabolism or shed unwanted pounds.
Healthy Skin, Hair & Tissues. Dry skin, dry eyes, brittle nails, dry hair—all are directly attributed to fatty acid deficiencies. Have acne or easily breakout? How is your fat intake (versus your sugar and processed food consumption)? Fats help your skin keep aglow.
Satiation & Staving Off Cravings and Hunger. Fats help you feel satisfied. What do you think is a longer lasting source of energy: Eggs over easy, fried in bacon fat with creamy avocado on top, or a bowl of dry pebble-like cereal in a splash of skim milk with sliced strawberries?
Stronger Immunity. Saturated fats (i.e. butter, coconut oil, and red palm oil) contain the fatty acids lauric and myristic acid that are anti-microbial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal, with the ability to decrease infection rates by killing bacteria such as harmful candida yeast.
It Tastes Good (Like Really Good). No questions about it, fat makes everything taste better. Drizzle the olive oil on your asparagus, grab a spoonful of coconut butter, sautee potatoes in duck fat or ghee, dip baby carrots in guacamole, toss olives or pecans on your salad, crust your fish with coconut flakes, add full-fat organic creamer to your coffee—the options are limitless.
WHY FAT IS “BAD”
There are two sides to every story.
While most fats are amazingly healthy and beneficial for you, there are a handful of outliers that do not do a body good, including:
Processed fats and oils (vegetable oils, hydrogenated oils, processed foods)
Rancid fats (bad olive oil, fish oil, highly-heated fats), and
(Too many) Omega-6 fats (found in processed foods, farmed fish, and high consumption of nuts and seeds—pumpkin, hemp, peanuts, peanut oil)
Since these fats are either highly processed, inflammatory or the fatty acids are already destroyed, our body has a hard time breaking them down, leading to more inflammation in the body, as well as digestive distress.
What fats are good to eat?
Add one to two servings of the following to your daily plate:
21 BEST HEALTHY FATS
Animal & Organ Meats, Organic (fatty, whole cuts; no need to always buy lean)
Coconut (Oil, Butter, Milk, Flakes)
Eggs, Pastured, Whole
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Cold-Pressed (for drizzling or sautés, not high-heat cooking)
Fatty Fish, Sardines, Salmon (Wild-caught)
Flax/ Flax Seeds (drizzle, not high-heat cooking)
Grass-fed Dairy (Whole; Cheese, Milk, Yogurt)
Mayo, (made with Avocado Oil or Olive Oil)
Nut & Seed Oils (moderation, don’t cook with)
Nutbutter, natural & raw
Raw Nuts & Seeds (Almonds, Macadamia, Pumpkin Seeds, Hemp, Chia, Walnuts)
5 FATS TO AVOID
Conventional vegetable and/or seed oils like soybean, canola, and generic vegetable oils are terrible for inflammation in the body.
They only become more rancid and inflammatory when used with high-heat cooking. Most restaurants in America would rather use them because they are cheaper by large amounts. Likewise, most processed foods in America use them instead of healthier fats, too. And they were probably cooked in it at some point.
Avoid these 5 rancid, hydrogenated and processed fats to avoid their inflammatory effects, (similar to sugar in the body)…
Canola Oil (hydrogenated and in many processed foods)
Olive Oil (Avoid if: expired after one-year, with no expiration date listed, cold-processed or ‘rancid’—if you smell a pungent smell, it’s probably no good)
Vegetable Oil (Crisco)
BONUS: HEALTHY FAT- PALEO MAYO
Traditional mayo sold on store shelves gets a bad rep. Often produced with hydrogenated oil (like canola oil or poor-quality olive oil) and added-sugar, mayo is far from our healthy fats hit list.
Try this easy 3-minute Paleo Mayo recipe to whip up a spread for your tuna salad, turkey lettuce wrap or homemade spinach dip in a snap.
- 1 small clove garlic
- 2 organic egg yolks (at room temperature, VERY IMPORTANT)
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- big pinch salt
- 1 cup MCT oil or avocado oil
- Put first 5 ingredients in a small food processor and blend.
- Slowly drizzle in oil until all well combined.
- Season to taste with more salt. Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week.
The final word on fats
What did we learn here?
Fat–the healthy kind–does a body good.
(And paleo mayo makes everything taste great).