Fat Guide: Which to Eat and Which to Avoid

Fats blog post image

We’ve come a long way in terms of how we think about fat in the diet. Now, we know that eating more (in some cases, a lot more) of the right kinds of fat, is supportive for health including cardiovascular health. Yes, even if you’ve been told you have high cholesterol, chances are good that you should eat more of the right kinds of fat! The good fats will protect your body (including heart and blood vessel tissue) against oxidative damage by improving cholesterol quality. Eating more healthy fats, along with exercising and eating antioxidant-rich produce, are the most effective ways at improving cholesterol quality because it  helps to increase both particle size and your HDL-cholesterol (often referred to as the “good” cholesterol).

Eating too little fat, and focusing on low-fat food products is detrimental to our health in many ways including throwing off hormonal balance and interfering with fat-soluble vitamin absorption. This reversal in the recommendations may leave you slightly frustrated because it’s contrary to what you’ve heard for years and still may be hearing from some practitioners. The reality is that we’re coming full circle (though some kicking and screaming 😉 ) and are back to embracing natural sources of fat -and a lot more of it. Say goodbye to flavorless, low-fat meals!

I’ve seen truly remarkable improvements in cholesterol levels in my clients whom I’ve switched over to a higher fat diet. Many have been able to get off of nutrient-depleting statins and other medications with this and other diet and lifestyle modifications. Increasing fat in the diet is also something I do with those trying to lose weight, improve their insulin response/blood sugar levels, are struggling with infertility or hormonal imbalances, and more. The trick is doing it the right way because not all fat is created equal. So here is a simple “Fat Guide” (i.e. which fats to avoid and which fats to eat more of). You’ll notice that what your left with is a very manageable handful of options that can become pantry staples.

Worried about the extra calories in fat? Don’t be. Weight management is more about blood sugar control and the quality of food then it is about calories.

Types of Fats to Avoid: Vegetable Oils & Trans Fats

Refined Vegetable Oils Include:

  • Vegetable oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Canola oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Margarine (and butter-like spreads)
  • Fried foods

Refined vegetable oils are cheap, processed oils that are prevalent in processed and packaged foods. They are pro-inflammatory and should be limited.

Trans Fats Include:

  • Hydrogenated oil
  • Partially hydrogenated oil
  • Mono- and di-glycerides

Trans Fats are commonly found in margarine, shortening, fast foods, baked products, packaged foods, peanut butter and microwave popcorn (and most definitely, movie theater popcorn!)

Instead, Choose:

  • Extra-Virgin Olive oil (cold pressed is best)
  • Coconut oil (virgin, extra virgin or refined)
    • refined coconut oil is still good quality fat and has no coconut taste to it
  • Palm Oil
  • Butter
    • from grass-fed, pastured cows
  • Lard/Tallow
    • from grass-fed, pastured animals

Smart, Natural Fat Sources:

  • Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids
    • Fatty fish (generally, cold water fish)
    • Fish oil supplements
    • Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil
    • Chia Seed
    • Walnuts and Walnut Oil (walnut oil should only be used for drizzling not cooking)
    • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (cold-pressed is best)
  • Fresh, pasture-raised meat
  • Seafood
  • Whole eggs (eat that yolk!)
  • Full-fat dairy products from milk from grass-fed, pastured animals
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut butters
  • Avocados
  • Coconut oil

Download this guide a PDF!

Fat Guide PDF Image

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  1. Unique Miller on April 23, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    This is a great refresher! I often try and tell some of my Dr’s that I need to eat more healthy fats but they can be old school. And it’s challenging when I see friends on low fat diets and I say that eating the yoke is ok 🙂 I always thought palm oil was not good for you? I’ll be sure to keep this information handy. Almond butter is a staple in my morning shakes! Thank you!!!

  2. Gilad Ronen on April 23, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    Yup. Low fat is drek, and will kill you. High fat low carb pretty much saved my life.
    The accursed food pyramid should be erased, it caused too much damage and cost lives.

  3. Nicky @livesimplynutrition.com on April 24, 2016 at 2:41 am

    It is so nice to see other dietitian’s not promoting low-fat everything! Great article, I am all for a generous intake of healthy fat at meals and I swear my clients think I am out of this world sometimes! haha

  4. Abigael on April 26, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    This is somehow new to me. I’ve always thought we should run away from all kinds of fat. Thanks!

  5. Lauren on May 3, 2016 at 2:24 am

    Any recommendations on non homemade mayonnaise that is made with health(ish) oil? I’m currently using Hains since it’s soy free but it’s still safflower oil based.

    • Ayla Withee, MS, RDN, LDN on May 3, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      Good question. The only Mayo I’ve found that uses healthy fats and is soy free is Chosen Foods Avocado oil Mayo. It is a great option of you’re not up for making your own with olive oil. Tastes great. https://chosenfoods.com/products/avocado-oil-mayo

  6. Jocelyn @NatureHealth on July 18, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    i think its helpful to know food to avoid and food to eat . awesome article !!!

  7. eidena on August 9, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    10 Tips or a Achieving a Healthy Body
    1. Do not miss breakfast.

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    5. Drink more amount of water

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    7. Read food labels

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