The Best Healthy Fats for Weight Loss

By: Chris Freytag, CPT // May 9, 2024


Incorporating healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats into your diet can help with weight loss while keeping your body nourished and energized!

For so long, we’ve been led to believe that a fat-free or low-fat diet is the way to go. Thanks to recent research, we’ve learned that’s not the case! We need fat in our diets (even when trying to lose weight!), and the key is to choose the right fats—not cut them out completely.

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and the messaging was that fat made you fat. But now in 2024, we know that fat is part of healthy diet. I’m talking about healthy fats—specifically, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats. These good fats help nourish your body while aiding in weight loss, too. (The Mediterranean diet is a perfect example.)

Healthy fats enhance the flavor of different foods, help your body absorb essential vitamins, and give you energy. Most importantly for weight loss, high-fat foods can improve satiety, which helps control your appetite and keep you feeling fuller longer.  

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    Can Healthy Fats Really Help You Lose Weight?

    Believe it or not, the fatty foods we feared for so long can actually provide health benefits—including weight loss. When you include a source of healthy fat in your meal, you are more likely to feel full and satisfied after eating.

    The result? You’re less likely to overeat.

    But the weight loss benefits don’t end there. According to Mark Hyman, M.D., Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine and author of Eat Fat, Get Thin, eating fat can also help balance your hormones, speed up your metabolism, boost energy, shut down cravings, and even reverse heart disease.

    What are the healthy fats?

    There are many healthy fats to choose from and a few fats I would recommend to avoid.

    Eat Monounsaturated Fats (MUFA)

    A quick science lesson from the AHA: Oils that contain monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but start to turn solid when chilled. The most well-known healthy source of monounsaturated fat is olive oil. Others include avocados, nuts, seeds, and yes, dark chocolate.

    Monounsaturated fats are a great addition to a healthy diet—they help lower bad cholesterol levels and manage good cholesterol levels, thus lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke. They also provide vitamin E, an important antioxidant vitamin.

    Eat Polyunsaturated Fats

    When it comes to polyunsaturated fats, Omega 3 fatty acids are deemed the healthy ones with anti-inflammatory properties and you should consume these regularly.

    The DPA and EHA  are found in fatty or oily fish, including anchovies, herring, mackerel, black cod, salmon, sardines, bluefin tuna, whitefish, striped bass and cobia. The ALA is found in flax seeds and walnuts. Omega-3 fatty acids help keep your immune system healthy and may help lower the risk of heart disease in adults. 

    Other polyunsaturated fats known as Omega 6 fatty acids are controversial.

    Omega 6 fatty acids are said to be inflammatory in nature and in today’s world, highly processed. Seed oils like sunflower, safflower, canola and vegetable oils cause cellular inflammation.

    They tend to be in all processed foods like most chips, crackers, cookies, and dressings and in fast food because they are cheap and convenient to use. Many doctors and nutritionists tell you to avoid them in excess.  

    You really have to search for the brands that use healthy oils like olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil and they are out there. I eat brands like Sieta, Lesser Evil, and Jacksons chips and popcorn.

    Eat Saturated Fats

    This type of fat is found in animal-based foods like beef, pork, poultry, full-fat dairy products like eggs, cream, and cheese, and tropical oils like coconut oil and palm oil. This fat is also controversial and has been villainized over the years. 

    In the last decade there has been lots of evidence to uncover and debunk the idea that saturated fat can increase your risk of heart disease. 

    1. Historical Misconceptions: Saturated fats were vilified in the past based on outdated research that linked them to heart disease. However, more recent scientific evidence has challenged this notion, revealing that the relationship between saturated fat intake and heart disease risk is more complex than previously thought.
    2. Context Matters: Not all saturated fats are created equal. While some sources of saturated fats, such as those found in processed meats and fried foods, may be detrimental to health when consumed in excess, others, like those from grass-fed beef, poultry, and butter from pasture-raised cows, offer nutritional benefits.
    3. Nutrient Density: Grass-fed beef, poultry, and butter contain essential nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K2, as well as beneficial fatty acids such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and butyrate. These nutrients play important roles in supporting overall health, including immune function, bone health, and inflammation regulation.

    Well known Doctor Mark Hyman, says saturated fat is not linked to heart disease.  And in fact, review after review of research shows that there seems to be no link between saturated fats and heart disease.

    Avoid Trans Fats

    Trans fats (or trans fatty acids) are unhealthy fats. They’re formed when vegetable oil goes through the hydrogenation process, which causes the fat to harden and become solid at room temperature. Trans fats, also called hydrogenated fats, are often used to keep certain foods fresh for a long time.

    You’ll know you’re about to consume trans fats when you see “partially hydrogenated oils” on the ingredient label.

    Trans fats were banned by the FDA in the United States since 2021, but sadly can still be found in fried foods and may still be present in small amounts in some processed foods. Even though just trace amounts are detected in fast foods and frozen meals, the issue arises when you eat so much of it each day, it will add up.

    Below, I’ve listed my favorite healthy fats for weight loss and their additional health benefits.

    1. Olive Oil

    Olive oil is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, vitamin K, and antioxidants. Research suggests that olive oil can lower your risk of heart disease and total cardiovascular disease.

    Grab some extra virgin olive oil for cooking, or drizzle it over salads, veggies, pasta, and more.

    2. Avocados

    Avocados are so rich and creamy, it’s hard to believe they could be so good for you! Packed with healthy monounsaturated fats, avocados are rich in oleic acid, which can ward off feelings of hunger. They’re rich in vitamins C, E, K, and B6, along with omega-3 fatty acids that help keep your heart healthy.

    Even more surprising is that one serving of a medium avocado (half the fruit) has more potassium than a medium banana.

    For an added dose of protein and fiber in the morning, simply mash up half an avocado and spread it on whole-grain toast.

    And you can also use it as an oil. Avocado oil is great for cooking and I often use interchange it with olive oil.

    3. Nuts

    Not only have nuts been linked to a lower BMI, but they’re a monounsaturated fat chocked-full of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy fats, too. Almonds, for example, are a good source of protein and fiber, and serve as a great snack between meals to energize and keep hunger pangs at bay.

    Eating nuts regularly has also been associated with a lower risk of heart disease, better, and weight loss prevention. Be careful, though—nuts can be high in calories, so remember that a little goes a long way. Almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts, and pecans are among the best for reaching weight loss goals.

    If you need a little more inspiration, check out my list of best weight loss snacks!

    4. Seeds

    They may be small, but they’re mighty! Packed with healthy monounsaturated fats, protein, and a variety of micronutrients, they’re a great topping to salads and a beneficial additive to smoothies, salads, and so much more.

    At the top of the list are chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and flaxseed. Chia seeds, for example, are great for weight loss as they are full of fiber, omega-3 fats, magnesium, potassium, and iron. They’re also fairly low in fat, with only 5 grams per 2 tablespoons.

    That said, seed oils should be avoided. Processed products like canola, corn, soybean, sunflower oils are highly processed and contain omega-6 fatty acids, which can cause inflammation.

    5. Coconut Oil

    While many still debate its place in our diets, research has shown that the saturated fat found in coconut oil does not negatively impact cholesterol. Instead, the overall effect raised HDL levels (good cholesterol) and lowered triglycerides.

    Coconut oil is also known to help lower insulin levels, offer antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral benefits, and protect against heart disease.

    6. Fatty Fish

    The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish per week. The reason? All of those omega-3 fatty acids! Omega-3s play a vital role in your brain and heart health, and research shows they can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

    Omega-3s are also beneficial in reducing the risk of arrhythmia, decreasing triglyceride levels, and fighting inflammation, which can slow metabolism.

    The best fatty fish options include:

    • Salmon
    • Anchovies
    • Herring
    • Mackerel
    • Black cod
    • Sardines
    • Bluefin tuna
    • Whitefish
    • Cobia
    • Striped bass

    7. Nut Butter

    One of our childhood staples—peanut butter—is packed with monounsaturated fat, which helps lower bad LDL cholesterol and, in turn, lowers the risk of heart disease.

    Almond and cashew butter are also good sources of healthy fats. Nut butter can keep you feeling full and curb your cravings, but be sure not to overindulge—it’s packed with calories, too. (Less is more in this case!)

    And be sure that any nut butter you eat is home made. It is easy to make nut butters. Pour nuts into a food processor and let it go until it becomes liquid. It’s that easy. Processed nut butters are typically filled with additives and sugars.

    8. Eggs

    There’s another reason to love eggs! Although most foods high in monounsaturated fats are plant-based, some animal-based foods like eggs provide them as well. When it comes to weight loss, the combo of protein and healthy fats in eggs keeps you feeling full longer—especially if you pair your eggs with a source of fiber (like fruit or whole wheat toast).

    Keep in mind that the egg yolk is where you’ll find the healthy fats in an egg, so be sure to include it in your meal! 

    How Much Fat Should I Eat?

    When you eat more fat, you’re likely to eat fewer energy-boosting carbohydrates and less muscle-building protein. The key is to keep the quality of your food choices high and to eat fats, carbs, and protein in balance.

    A diet full of nutrients that boost your energy, build strong muscles, and keep your body satisfied is likely to be a diet that you can stick to for life.

    While fat provides plenty of health benefits, nutrition experts still recommend that you watch your fat intake when you are trying to slim down. The reason? Each gram of fat provides nine calories as compared to just four calories provided by each gram of carbohydrate or protein.

    To learn more, check out my beginner’s guide to counting macros.

    Takeaway

    The bottom line? Don’t be afraid to add fat to your diet! Incorporating good fats for weight loss can help you feel fuller and satisfied longer and reduce your cravings for unhealthy, processed foods. 

    Choosing healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, eggs, fatty fish, and nut butter provides essential nutrients and supports your body’s natural functions.

    Remember, however, that moderation is key when it comes to fat intake! It’s important to balance healthy fats with other nutrients and maintain a well-rounded diet in order to maximize their benefits and help you lose weight.

    Expert Advice, Food, Nutrition


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