12 Healthiest, High-Fat Foods You Should Be Eating
Registered dietitians and nutritionists identify healthy high-fat foods, from avocados to dark chocolate, to reap the most health benefits.
Choosing healthy fats
Yes, it’s true. Eating (certain) foods high in fat can actually be good for your health. But remember, not all fats are created equal. Enter: “good” fats and “bad” fats.
Foods with good healthy fats are considered to be monounsaturated (nuts, avocado, etc.) and polyunsaturated (salmon, trout, etc.) fats that promote good heart health. Meanwhile, saturated (poultry skin, lard, etc.) and trans fats (fried foods, baked goods, etc.) are seen as bad fats because they can increase cholesterol levels and lead to heart problems, among other health conditions. (Here are the subtle signs you’re eating too much bad fat.) Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t have foods with bad fats, but you should eat them in moderation.
So, how can you tell which foods contain high healthy fats? We spoke with registered dietitians and nutritionists who help us identify foods with good fats to reap their health benefits.
“If you’re like me, you think peanut butter is important stuff,” says Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, author of The Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook. “It’s a heart-healthy food that seems decadent but is actually healthy and satisfying.” White suggests choosing a nut butter with a minimal ingredient list—so just peanuts and salt, when possible. “Slathered onto a banana, peanut butter is a great pre-workout snack, and it can also be combined with rice vinegar, garlic, and low-sodium soy sauce to make a dipping sauce for grilled chicken or sautéed tofu,” she says. The nut butter is also delicious mixed into a blueberry peanut butter smoothie, peanut butter energy bites, or a peanut butter sweet potato spread.
“I love them, and they love you,” says Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN, a clinical professor of nutrition at Boston University and host of the health and wellness podcast SpotOn! “While black olives are about 90 percent fat, it’s the healthy fat! I add them to salad because they also add fiber.” Black olives also taste great in a vegetarian rice bowl, a Tex-Mex dip, or an olive loaf. (Add the 15 foods anti-aging experts eat every day to balance your meals out.)
“Nearly all the fat in avocado is the monounsaturated type, which is heart-healthy,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN, in Boston. “Avocado is naturally low in sodium and rich in potassium, so it helps with blood pressure control. It also supplies several B vitamins, as well as vitamin E and vitamin K.” Include avocado in a healthy avocado smoothie, avocado deviled eggs, or avocado pesto pasta. Eat these brain-boosting foods to stay sharp.
This seafood is known for the EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids it provides. “Salmon combines lean protein with healthy fat,” notes Heather Steele, RD at Reasor’s Foods in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “Omega-3s can help with inflammation and also with reducing your risk of chronic disease.” Enjoy salmon in baked salmon cakes, a cauliflower rice bowl, or salmon zucchini linguini. There’s a reason salmon is one of the Mediterranean foods all-stars always keep in their kitchens.
Yup, cheese is on the list of beneficial high-fat foods. “Few foods are more satisfying and delicious than cheese—especially a full-fat, naturally aged one,” says Regan Jones, RDN, in Augusta, Georgia, and host of the podcast This Unmillennial Life. “The richness pairs so well with fruits and veggies, two food groups most of us need to eat more of. Plus, as a rich source of calcium and protein, cheese actually offers a nutrient boost to any meal.” Pair cheese with prune jam, add to feta-stuffed tomatoes, or enjoy a fruit pizza with cream cheese. Remember to eat cheese in moderation—i.e., a 1-ounce portion or less.
“This is my favorite heart-healthy fat,” says Bonnie Nasar, RDN, in Freehold, New Jersey. “It is a staple of the Mediterranean diet. Extra-virgin olive oil can be drizzled onto salads and cooked vegetables—and even used in baked goods.” Also add olive oil to a lupini bean salad, a pita appetizer, or vegetarian lentils. (See the quick, healthy meals doctors make every day.)
One of the top high-fat foods, eggs, are full of good-for-you nutrients, including the eye-helping carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. “I cook seven or so at a time and eat a hard-cooked one with breakfast or lunch,” says Judy Barbe, RD, in Casper, Wyoming. “Eggs are easy and economical, and their protein and fat make them a go-to food.” Enjoy eggs on their own—or add them to a breakfast Panini or ratatouille—or use as a topper for protein French toast.
Good news. Dark chocolate is one of the top high-fat foods. “Most of us don’t think of chocolate as a health food, but it provides that perfect little treat when eaten in moderation,” says Cassidy McCandless, RDN for Quincy Medical Group in Quincy, Illinois. “Dark chocolate also provides trace nutrients like copper and selenium, while being an excellent source of antioxidants.” Enjoy it in homemade fondue, salted chocolate chunk cookies, or dark chocolate peanut butter cups. Check out more healthy desserts that can actually help you lose weight.
“One of my favorite fats is full-fat Greek yogurt,” says Leanne Ray, MS, RDN in Denver. “Regular Greek yogurt is so much more satisfying to me than the non-fat variety, so it holds me over for hours when I eat it for breakfast. I also love Greek yogurt for its hefty amount of protein and calcium.” Have Greek yogurt in a Greek yogurt parfait, high-protein overnight oats, or yogurt-marinated chicken.
Here’s another oil to eat more of. “This is a healthy fat that has a light, neutral flavor and a high smoke point up to 485°F,” says Toby Amidor, RD, in New York City, who recommends Thrive Algae Oil. “It has the highest level of monounsaturated fat of any cooking oil—one Tablespoon provides 13 grams of monounsaturated fat, the same amount you’d find in an avocado,” says Amidor, a nutrition partner with Thrive Algae Oil. “Algae oil is also a sustainable cooking oil, with a low carbon and water footprint.” Swap it out for the olive, canola, or vegetable oil in a honey orange dressing, a maple-Dijon dressing, or basil pesto.
“I add ground flax seeds to my baking because I love knowing that I’m getting an added boost of fiber and anti-inflammatory ALA omega-3s,” says Jean LaMantia, RD, in Toronto. “Worried about phytoestrogens in flax? Don’t be. In research, these compounds have been shown to be protective against hormone-positive cancers, such as breast cancer.” Add flax seeds to blueberry muffins, nutty flax bars, or a superfood salad recipe. (Check out healthy meal ideas you can make in 20 minutes.)
“A combination of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and protein make cashews a filling snack option,” says Cassidy Reeser, RDN, in Atlanta. “Cashews are also a good source of magnesium, which plays an important role in heart and bone health. The high-fat content of cashews makes them great for blending into creamy sauces or vegan cheeses.” Also add cashews to a cauliflower smoothie, Tandoori tacos, or vegan cheesecake.
- American Heart Association: "Saturated Fat"
- Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, author of The Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook
- Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN, LDN, FAND, a clinical professor of nutrition at Boston University and host of the health and wellness podcast SpotOn!
- Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN, in Boston
- Regan Jones, RDN, in Augusta, Georgia, and host of the podcast This Unmillennial Life
- Bonnie Nasar, RDN, in Freehold, New Jersey
- Judy Barbe, RD, in Casper, Wyoming
- Cassidy McCandless, MS, RDN for Quincy Medical Group in Quincy, Illinois
- Leanne Ray, MS, RDN in Denver
- Toby Amidor, MS, RD, in New York City
- Jean LaMantia, RD, in Toronto
- Cassidy Reeser, RDN, in Atlanta