Healthy Fats



Last week I dove into the topic of healthy fats and shared with you just how essential they are to our health. From cellular integrity to our brain function and even our skin health and immune system, we need the right fats to help our body carry out all its amazing processes. 

I also shared with you which fats are best to avoid and hopefully cleared up some of the confusion around ingredients, like vegetable oil, that we’ve been told are healthy but are actually hurting us. 

Today, I’m going to share the best fats for you to eat in Part II of Your Guide to Fats. These fats are full of nutrients and the right kinds of fatty acids to help your whole body feel its best. One key part of leveraging fats to help your health is using the right ones in the right ways, ie. cooking with one kind and preparing a salad dressing with another. 

Here are my favorite healthy fats and tips on how to use them:

Fats to Embrace 

  • For cooking: Nutritive oils with high smoke points. Coconut oil, avocado oil, and grass-fed ghee (clarified butter) are your best bets for cooking, due to their higher smoke points, which means they maintain a stable composition when heated. Using less stable oils with lower smoke points for this purpose, such as walnut oil, will quickly change the structure of it and result in oxidation and toxins that cancel out it’s naturally occurring beneficial compounds. Coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides, which are great for energy production and may even aid weight loss, and avocado oil is a great source of antioxidants like lutein, which supports eye function, along with types of fat that benefit the heart. 

  • For drizzling on veggies, salads, whatever: Organic extra-virgin cold-pressed oils.  Flaxseed oil, walnut oil, hempseed oil, and other nut and seed oils offer tons of health benefits and delicious flavors. They’re rich in unsaturated fats, making them a poor choice for cooking but wonderful for drizzling and topping a wide variety of dishes. Olive oil can be used for cooking at very low heat and is also great for garnishing a dish before serving; it’s particularly great for the heart thanks to its monounsaturated fats, while flax, walnut, and hemp oils all provide anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.

  • To scoop, slather, and eat: Nut butter from almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pecans or seed butter like tahini and sunflower seed butter are delicious sources of good fats that can be eaten with a spoon or used in many different kinds of recipes, as are coconut butter and avocados. Just look for organic ones without any added oils or sweeteners. You can also opt for whole raw nuts and seeds, but again look for those without added oils or sweeteners (and bonus points for eating them sprouted).

  • Grass-fed, pasture-raised animals and wild-caught low-mercury seafood:When animals are given room to roam, forage, and eat a natural diet full of diversity they produce high-quality meat with high-quality fats. And yes, saturated fats are okay! As long as they’re from clean sources they are good for you, and can even improve the quality of LDL cholesterol and increase beneficial HDL cholesterol. Sardines, salmon, mackerel, herring, and black cod are all sources of anti-inflammatory fats, too, without the toxicity other seafood options can carry. 

If you’re wondering just how much fat to eat, here’s a general guideline: 5-7 servings per day, though this depends on your level of activity and individual needs.

For the fats I mentioned above that are best for cooking, a serving is 1-2 tablespoons. When it comes to the oils from nuts and seeds that are great for drizzling, shoot for 1 tablespoon as a serving. One serving of an avocado would be ½ to a whole fruit; a serving of nuts, seeds, olives, and coconut milk is about ¼ cup; a serving of high-quality meat or fish is 4-6 oz. Use these numbers to get an idea of the amount of fat you consume, but always feel out what works best for your unique body. 

I hope this Guide to Fats helps you incorporate many new and delicious healthy fats into your diet.

Wishing you health and happiness, 
Mark Hyman, MD