Bring on the (pasture-raised) bacon
You don’t have to fear fat.
This macronutrient helps keep you fuller longer and it’s linked to everything from reduced belly fat to improved heart health to surperior cognitive function—depending on the type.
And it’s not just the poly- and monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts—or the omega-3s found in fatty fish like sardines and salmon—that can be good for you.
Many doctors and nutritionists say that saturated fat has a place in a healthy diet, and that whole, unprocessed foods containing high amounts of it can actually improve cholesterol quality, cognitive function, and metabolism.
It’s not just the fat itself that’s good for you, though—naturally fatty whole foods tend to be loaded with other health-promoting nutrients like vitamin K2 and choline that are hard to find elsewhere.
So eat more fat—just make sure it’s the right kind. Here are 10 fatty, nutrient-packed options that nutritionists love.
“Nutritionally, butter is actually a much healthier fat than most people realize, especially if it comes from grass-fed cows,” says Laura Schoenfeld, M.P.H., R.D.
The dairy fat from pastured cows contains higher levels of fat-soluble vitamins, particularly vitamin K2, which helps your body utilize calcium appropriately, meaning it deposits it into your bones and removes it from your arteries where it can do serious damage, she says.
Saturated fat is also a much safer fat to consume than the omega-6-rich polyunsaturated fats that come from industrial vegetable and seed oils. Plus, butter makes vegetables taste amazing and helps us better absorb their nutrients, she says.
Skip the egg white omelet and embrace the yolks. This is another highly misunderstood fat-rich food that’s an incredible source of vitamin A, choline, B vitamins, and selenium, says Schoenfeld.
“Egg yolks from pastured chickens contain higher levels of vitamin D and carotenoids—antioxidants that give those yolks their deep orange color. Plus, the yolk is what gives eggs their awesome flavor. I often recommend eating two to three eggs per day for those who tolerate them,” she says.
“High quality bacon is chock-full of a very important nutrient called choline, which has been shown to help fight off the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic mental impairments,” says Ali Miller, R.D.
Bacon also delivers a good dose of the various B vitamins, along with zinc. These nutrients aid in production of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain, and can help reduce anxiety, she adds.
The important priority is choosing a locally sourced, pasture-raised product, Miller says. This will provide your body with more nourishment.
“Combining your clean bacon with loads of fiber- and antioxidant-rich vegetables, fruits, and whole grains is a great way to promote health and satisfy your palate,” she adds.
“Cocoa butter, also called theobroma oil, is the fat from the cocoa bean that is often used in natural skincare products,” Miller says.
But it’s just as good for eating—it has a rich creaminess and works well in energy bars, smoothies, and blended into coffee with grass-fed butter as a unique spin on “Bulletproof coffee.”
“As far as nutrition goes, cocoa butter provides antioxidants and omega-9 fatty acids, which aid in hormone balance and immune function support,” Miller says.
Avocado is rich in omega-9 fats (oleic acid) and supports healthy skin and hormone balance while promoting digestive health as a rich form of fiber, says Miller.
It’s a great workout recovery food, too, providing electrolytes like potassium, and can help improve your stress response, thanks to B vitamins like folate, she says.
“I bite into a bar every day after lunch,” says Jennifer McDaniel, M.S., R.D.N. “My family has a history of heart disease, and research shows that certain types of chocolate can protect my precious ticker. It takes about 200 milligrams (mg) of flavonol antioxidants to improve blood flow and really promote heart health.”
A couple ways to hit 200 mg: 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder or 1.75 ounces of dark chocolate that’s at least 70 to 80 percent cocoa. Just be sure to buy natural, non-alkalized cocoa powder, as the processing of alkalized cocoa significantly reduces flavanol content, says McDaniel.
And stick to dark chocolate bars that list cocoa solids as the first ingredient—not sugar.
“I usually add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to my morning oats then have 150 calories worth of dark chocolate after lunch,” she says.
NUTS AND NUT BUTTERS
“Nuts are my go-to travel snack when I need a healthy shot of sustainable energy,” says McDaniel.
Just one serving (about 150 to 200 calories) can keep you full for hours, she says.
While nuts are dense in calories, they are also dense in nutrients. They’re packed with fiber, protein, antioxidants, and a variety of vitamins and minerals and have been shown to reduce blood pressure, keep the heart healthy, and decrease the effects of metabolic syndrome.
Plus, eating one serving of nuts a day, walnuts in particular, has been shown to play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s, boosting memory, and reducing depression, she says.
FLAX AND CHIA SEEDS
These superseeds are plant-based sources of omega-3s. While the best way to get omega-3s should be fish, these can still support anti-inflammatory efforts throughout the body, says McDaniel.
“They also contain compounds called lignans, which may help lower cholesterol, and loads of heart-healthy fiber. I love to add a tablespoon of flaxseed, chia seeds, or both to my morning oatmeal or smoothies,” she says.
If you don’t eat a lot of meat, full-fat dairy products like burrata cheese on tomatoes, full-fat yogurt as a snack with fruit, and half-and-half in your coffee are all good ways to sneak in good saturated fats, says McDaniel.
Plus, despite popular belief, some recent studies have failed to find a link between increased risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, or stroke with dairy fats. This may have to do with other nutrients within dairy that these fats interact with, says McDaniel.
For instance, dairy foods are rich in micronutrients such as vitamin D and potassium—two nutrients important for optimal heart health, blood pressure, and insulin sensitivity. The higher fat content also helps keep you full.
“My favorite plant-based fat is definitely coconut butter, which is a blend of coconut meat puree and coconut oil,” says Katie Shields, R.D.N.
It’s packed with the same nutrients of regular coconut oil, including medium-chain triglycerides.
The coconut meat combined with the oil creates a product with a creamier texture that makes it perfect for spreading on toast or stirring into oatmeal, she says.