What is "Healthy" Fat?

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Last September, nutritionist Jess Godfrey spoke to WellcomeMD’s Richmond practice about the importance of eating a well-balanced diet, or as she refers to it, eating the rainbow. In addition to answering patient questions, Jess highlighted a few key diet staples. Over the next couple weeks, we’ll be featuring blogs on the nutritious foods that Jess recommends, and explaining how and why you should include them in your diet. This week’s feature is focused on dispelling popular beliefs about fatty foods and detailing which types of fat you might want to include in your diet.

Nuts

For decades, people have avoided nuts because they’re high in fat, but Jess argues that they’re actually one of the better foods we can eat. Nuts are high in calories, but they are the good calories that come from fat and protein. When you eat nuts, you’re also getting fiber, protein, and antioxidants all from one filling snack. Additionally, some nuts, like almonds, have zinc and magnesium. Jess encourages shoppers to go to the bulk aisles in grocery stores and make homemade trail mix.

When you eat nuts, you reduce your risk of having a heart attack by 30% and experience greater reductions in blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and inflammation than you would from eating low-fat foods. For those for whom nuts are a stomach irritant, Jess suggests leaving them to soak overnight and then roasting them in order to reduce the compound that can cause digestion issues.

Avocados

When it comes to healthy foods, one of Jess’ favorites is the avocado. Avocados can act as butter in a baked good or sub for eggs in mayonnaise. Technically avocados are defined as fruits, but in reality, over 75% of their calories actually come from fat – mostly monounsaturated fat, putting them in a similar category as olives.

The addition of avocados to an already well-balanced diet has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, improve blood levels of LDL cholesterol, and lower levels of oxidative stress in the bloodstream following consumption of a meal. In one particular research study, participants in two groups all consumed a diet with the same overall balance including 34% of fat in both groups. One group got an avocado a day and the other group didn't have any avocado. Naturally, the group that ate avocado had the best heart-related results in terms of blood chemicals.

In avocados, you’ll find all the B vitamins except for B12, substantial amounts of vitamin C, vitamin D, phosphorus, manganese, and copper. An avocado has about 10 grams of fiber, and has more potassium than bananas. Looking to switch up the menu? Jess suggests cooking avocados – but be sure to add them to your dish towards the end, because if you cook them too long, they will have a bitter taste.