Healthy Fats List: 12 Healthful Sources

Opt for these foods on our healthy fats list and lower your risk of disease.

| January/February 2014

  • Avocado oil is an excellent source of highly nutritious monounsaturated fats.
    Photo By Thomas Gibson
  • Oils that are unfiltered, first-pressed (extra virgin) or cold extracted retain more nutrients.
    Photo By Thomas Gibson

The oleic acid in dark chocolate can improve our cholesterol profiles. The butyric acid in butter from pastured animals and the capric acid in coconuts have antiviral properties. Hemp seed oil has an excellent omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Plainly, it’s a good idea to incorporate a variety of health-promoting fats into our diets.

When choosing oils, opt for unfiltered, first-pressed (extra-virgin) and cold-extracted versions whenever possible. These are extracted without heat, hot water or solvents, and are left unfiltered to retain all the nutrients. 

To extend them as long as possible, store butter, lard and nut oils in the refrigerator or freezer (depending how soon you will use them) and other oils in cool, dark conditions. Exposing fats to heat, oxygen and light is the fastest way to age them. Smell and taste fats and oils before using them to make sure they have not become rancid.

Healthy Fats List

Here are a few sources of healthy fats:

• Avocados and avocado oil
• Dark chocolate
• Microalgae such as spirulina and chlorella
• Coconut and coconut oil
• Oily fish, especially anchovies, Atlantic herring and mackerel, Alaskan wild salmon, sablefish, sardines, shellfish and oysters
• Flax seeds and flax seed oil
• Fats from pastured animals: butter and ghee (clarified butter) and suet (from cows); lard (from pigs); schmaltz (from chickens); duck fat, etc.
• Meat, eggs and dairy from pastured animals
• Nuts and nut oils, especially hazelnuts, macadamias and walnuts
• Olive oil
• Palm oil
• Seeds and seed oils, such as sesame, hemp and pumpkin (except sunflower oil, which is especially high in omega-6 fatty acids)

NOTE: Canola oil is not on this list. To learn more about how this genetically modified plant oil is highly processed, read The Great Con-Ola and The Real Story on Canola Oil (Can-Ugly Oil).

Canola Oil Concerns

Although it is widely promoted as a healthy fat, canola oil is not. Born of the need to produce a cheap oil high in monounsaturated fats, canola is inspired by rapeseed oil, which is popular in China and India. When it came to the West, the name was changed to the more palatable canola, for “Canadian oil.” Nutritionist Mary Enig has studied the issue extensively. “Like all modern vegetable oils,” she says, “canola oil goes through the process of caustic refining, bleaching and degumming—all of which involve high temperatures of questionable safety.” In addition, canola’s volatile omega-3 fatty acids can become rancid, so canola is deodorized, which turns some of the omega-3s into trans fats. Nutrition scientist and author Jonny Bowden believes canola oil is “an overhyped, unhealthy oil whose success is completely due to brilliant marketing on the part of the oil industry.”

Read more about this matter at All About Fats.

Get The Good Stuff

According to Jonny Bowden, nutrition scientist and author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, these are the most important things to know about dietary fat sources.

• Monounsaturated fats are good for us.

• Omega-3s are very, very good for us.

• Omega-6s are good for us in balanced (usually small) amounts and from sources that haven’t been processed and refined.

• Some saturated fat is good for us.

• Reused (or reheated) vegetable oils (such as those used to cook fast food) are really, really bad.

• Trans fats are metabolic poison. The acceptance level in the diet is zero.

• In all cases, unrefined, cold-pressed oils beat the refined kind.



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