Fitwirr

Healthiest foods

Not too long ago, fat was the Satan incarnate. Just thinking of the word 'fat' made people fat.

When people accidentally ate fatty foods, they could just feel themselves getting fat, especially if it was eaten over dinner with a glass (or a couple) of wine and some chocolate cake.

Some moderate drinking probably won't hurt. Unless, of course, you're more lightweight than a kitten.

Nutrition is very interesting and frustrating.

It’s interesting because the notion that food is a powerful drug is very real, as evidenced by preventable, chronic diseases and food addictions.

It’s frustrating because there is so much conflicting information, some from the same source. One of the biggest thorns in my sides is the perpetuation that fat makes you fat.

Even very educated and intelligent people still prescribe to this belief.

Now the point of this post is not to set the record straight, but to show a list of healthy foods that despite being fatty, are healthy and can be used by most to support either health or physique goals using scientific evidence and common sense.

I wholeheartedly recommend the foods listed to all of my clients. Every single one of them has benefited from better health and performance as a result of incorporation.

Before we move on, know that a few of the fatty foods listed below are high in saturated fats.

Without getting into too much detail, saturated fats are not the devil authorities make them out to be—quite the contrary.

Too much back and forth has put a serious strain on whole food sources containing saturated fats, but various studies show they are not independently associated with poor health (1, 2, 3).

So, here they are, 6 fatty foods that are suprisingly healthy and should be part of your diet.

1. Coconut

Coconut nutrition

Coconuts are loaded with health-boosting fats, vitamins, and minerals.

The venerable coconut is all the rage these days. Is this a good thing? I believe it is.

The coconut has many beneficial properties for both health and physique conscious individuals.

The problem is that most people don’t have the inclination or the desire to crack open a coconut. So the easier way to get the benefits is through coconut oil.

Coconut oil is the richest source of saturated fats of recorded foods on the planet, clocking in at over 90%.

However, over 60% of those fats are in the form of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).

MCTs are not metabolized the same way as regular fats, like those found in animal meats, and have unique properties such as being possible aides in weight loss, appetite suppression, and even cancer prevention (4, 5, 6).

Coconuts are eaten by various civilizations for their proposed health promoting properties.

To name a few, they are antimicrobial, antifungal, act as antioxidants, protect the liver from damage, and stimulate the immune system (7).

Interestingly, coconut oil, which is high in saturated fat, also seems to protect the heart (8).

Oxymoron, anyone? And for the more “experienced” folks, research suggests that eating coconuts on a regular basis may stave off the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (9).

Eat delicious coconut and stay mentally sharp—who can ask for more?

Wait, there is more. Because coconut oil is high in saturated fat, it’s suitable for cooking since the smoke point is also very high.

You won’t have to worry about this oil going rancid like olive oil when pan-frying your vegetables.

Coconut Nutrition Facts:

  • Serving size 1 tbsp 
  • Calories 120 
  • Total fat 14g
  • Saturated fat 12 g
  • Polyunsaturated fat 0.2 g
  • Monounsaturated fat 0.8 g

For healthy folks, eating 2 to 3 tablespoons of coconut oil seems to be beneficial.

2. Avocado

Avocado benefits

Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats, vitamins, and minerals. Eat them and guac' around.

You know what’s funny? Guac. Saying guac is pretty funny. Guac, guac, guac.

On a more serious note, avocado—the main fruit ingredient in guacamole—is still enjoying its reign as a star ‘superfood’ (whatever that may mean). There’s a ton of hype behind the ‘cado so let’s take a look at why.

Even though it’s considered a fruit, avocados are low in sugar and high in fat content, around 77% of its calories are from fat.

Around 70% of the fat profile is from monounsaturated fat, the same one found in the modest olive (10).

Researchers believe this profile with a high oleic fatty acid content, along with its other beneficial compounds, is what helps the ‘cado be a health boosting food (11, 12, 13, 14).

They contain unique phenolic and bioactive compounds that have been shown to be beneficial for cardiovascular health by influencing blood lipids (15, 16).

The fatty acids in the avocado also have another cool skill: they allow better absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and compounds, such as vitamin A.

In other words, the avocado increases health density of meals (17).

When not acting as a sidekick, the avocado can be a main player in the game of nutrient density, containing at least 20% of your daily value of:

  • Potassium 
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B6
  • Folate
  • Copper
  • Vitamin K
  • Pantothenic acid
  • Fiber

It’s high in carbohydrate content (low in sugar), but most of it comes from fiber, the stuff that helps you with ‘number twos’.

Half of a Hass avocado (68g) has 8g of carbohydrates, 5g coming from fiber.

If we do the math, this comes out to 3g of net carbohydrates.

Not particular to just the avocado, fiber has been shown in research to improve cholesterol levels, risk of diabetes and chronic disease, and improves satiety and weight loss (18, 19, 20)—just the avocado is a more delicious way of getting fiber.

Finally, you will be hard-pressed to find someone who believes the avocado is unhealthy, even if it’s high in fat.

Therefore, you will also find most people who eat avocados generally make better diet choices and have a higher quality diet than the average American (21).

So the avocado also helps in making better food choices? Score.

The caloric value of the avocado varies greatly depending on the size, country of origin, and source. But an avocado typically contains:

  • 320 kcals
  • 17 grams of carbohydrates
  • 14 grams coming from fiber.

If eating an avocado a day works into your eating plan, have at it. Otherwise, half an avocado a day is a great start.

3. Extra virgin olive oil

olive oil nutrition

EVOO is high in monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and does well as a salad dressing. Maybe even a crown.

Next up is the modest olive. Like the cartoon character on Popeye’s, olive oil is full of goodness.

Unlike other oils, olive oil is extracted from the olive using pressure, so it’s not subject to the damaging most other oils experience through high temperature processing.

As such, most of the nutrients are preserved in high-quality olive oils (not the Crisco kind).

What makes the olive oil special?

The Mediterranean region probably knew instinctively, but the olive has unique beneficial bioactive ingredients, known as phenols (like the avocado).

A few benefits linked to them in research show reductions in inflammation by neutralizing free radicals, incidence of coronary heart disease, and cancer risk (22, 23, 24). And because olive oil acts as an antioxidant, it reduces oxidation of lipoproteins, which in turn may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (25).

Like this list’s brethren, the avocado, olive oil is very high in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat.

The downside? Because of its low smoke point, extra virgin olive oil is not suitable for cooking.

It’s best used as a salad dressing with an acidic medium such as lemon juice or vinegar over a nice bed of greens and tomatoes.

Oilive oil Nutrition Fact:

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil contains:

  • 119 Calories
  • 13.5g Fat
  • 0g Carbs
  • og Protein

4. Egg

Egg nutrition profile

Eggs contain crucial vitamins and minerals. One of nature's best sources of "high quality protein" and fats.

Just don't chuck the yolk.

Ah, the egg. You know those prisoners serving time in the pound because they were wrongfully accused?

The egg is him.

Sure, there may be parts to the egg that isn’t agreeable to everyone, but every food is like that. At the same time, the egg has been the victim of much faulty accusations, and the yolk is thrown out more often than a good habit.

Egg yolks are the richest source of cholesterol, topping the charts at over 200mg per egg.

That’s more than two-thirds of the recommended daily value for healthy Americans as put forth by the U.S. government.

If you listen to Big Bro, you shouldn’t eat more than 1 egg per day.

Conventional wisdom states since increased levels of cholesterol is associated with increased risk of heart disease, then eating cholesterol should increase risk, as well.

But there’s a problem.

It’s not actually true, and as far back as 2004, the American Heart Association has taken out the recommendation of limiting eggs (26, 27).

Let’s hope this comment from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Human Health and Services (DHHS) can put the final nail in the coffin:

“Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” Oh, the blasphemy.

This isn’t surprising given that eggs eaten within a generally healthy diet pose no threat to most healthy individuals (28, 29, 30). And even in adults with increased cholesterol levels, research shows eating eggs have no detrimental effects on vascular health (31, 32). But it only took 40 years for the research to translate into practice.

Whole eggs are one of nature’s top nutrient rich foods, supplying 18 vitamin and minerals.

Of note, eggs supply zinc, selenium, and the slew of B-vitamins, which are often deficient in the diet of Americans.

Eggs also represent the richest dietary source of choline, which is critical for women and pregnancy (33).

You have probably heard eggs are a good source of protein, and they are. One large egg provides 6g of protein—3g is found in the white and the other 3g is in the yolk.

Yes, the egg yolk has half of the protein in the egg.

In addition to protein quantity, eggs lead the pack in protein quality. Supplying all of the essential amino acids, eggs score consistently top marks in research studies evaluating dietary protein quality (34).

Nutrition Profile:

  • 1 large egg contains 70 calories
  • 4.5 grams of fat
  • 6 grams of protein.

Research has shown that eating up to 4 eggs per day has no adverse effect on health and even promotes protein synthesis and improved cholesterol levels.

5. Nuts

Nuts nutrition profile

"Nuts" come in all shapes and sizes. High in fats, moderate in fiber and low in protein.

Nuts are a fat source, not a protein.

Next up are nuts.

There are a great number of nuts, but the most common ones you will find are macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, pecans, Brazil nuts, peanuts (technically legumes), pine nuts, etc.

Being a plant food, nuts are high in health-boosting nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fat, and unique compounds like phenols, phytosterols, and tocopherols (35), which owes to their potent antioxidant properties.

They are modest sources of fiber and protein.

Crucial minerals found in nuts are magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

These minerals play key roles in the prevention of osteoporosis, hypertension, kidney disease, and insulin resistance (36).

Studies are abound on the benefits of nut consumption.

If you haven’t noticed by now, the Mediterranean framework is a huge proponent of nut consumption, and epidemiological studies associate nuts with better cardiovascular health, decreased inflammation, stroke, diabetes, heart failure, and various cancers (37, 38, 39).

Each type of nut also carry their own fatty acid profile, some more beneficial than others.

Nutrition profile:

  • A ¼ cup of nuts is a serving size and typically provides anywhere from 160-200 calories per cup.
  • Eating a serving of nuts per day can provide a nutritional boost to your eating plan.

My favorite nuts in order:

Macadamia (highest in monounsaturated fats) Hazelnut (very high in monounsaturated fats) Almond (high in monounsaturated fats) Pistachio (moderate in monounsaturated fats)

6. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats. Humans can't make them, so you have to eat healthy food to get them.

If this article is the first time you’ve heard of omega-3 fatty acids, you’re late to the party.

No worries, though, as this party has no end in sight. On one hand, omega-3 fatty acids have been the subject of much scrutiny because they have so much hype behind them.

The amount of back and forth in literature is staggering, with both good and poor outcomes as they relate to the health benefits of omega-3’s.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a polyunsaturated fat, which is a type of fat that has more than one double bond.

It’s an essential fatty acid that we must get through our diet since mammals lack the enzyme to synthesize an omega-3 fatty acid (40).

A lack of omega-3 fatty acids could lead to fatty acid deficiency, and we don’t like things with the word ‘deficiency’ in them.

We also don’t like the word ‘imbalance’, but that’s what some studies are suggesting is contributing to the global epidemic of sickness.

An imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the other essential polyunsaturated fat, is thought to promote aberrant inflammation in the body, which contributes to cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammatory diseases, insulin resistance, hypertension, and autoimmune diseases (41, 42, 43, 44).

In addition to possibly decreasing the risk of the above chronic diseases, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown in research to aid in pain reduction by acting similarly to ibuprofen, relieve mood disorders, and improve body composition through better insulin sensitivity (45, 46, 47).

Now while omega-3 fatty acids seem like the cure-all for human dysfunction, research on supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids shows mixed results.

For example, several studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveal that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids do not seem to impart significant protective effects on subjects with cardiovascular disease, the preventable ailment that claims the most Americans (48, 49, 50, 51).

What the above studies do seem to show is eating fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids—salmon, sardines, herring, tuna—is better than popping some pills or slurping some liquid.

This is probably because hardly any nutrient operates in vacuum.

When you eat the fish, you eat the fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, protein, and whatever else. Again, eating fish is another intrinsic characteristic of the Mediterranean/Asian dietary framework.

Action Step:

  • Eat between two to six 4-ounce servings of fatty fish per week—wild salmon, tuna, herring, sardines
  • Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include chia seeds (also high in fiber), flaxseed (make sure they’re ground so it’s easier for your body to digest and absorb the fatty acids), walnuts (consider walnuts are high in calories/fat), fortified eggs, and some sea vegetables.
  • If you can’t eat fish, supplementing with omega-3 will probably be better than not having any at all.

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