Fat is one of three macronutrients that contribute to a complete diet. Fat gives us energy and healthy skin, supports brain and neurological functioning, lessens joint pain, and helps us absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K.
There are numerous reasons to include more fat in your diet. But beware––there is a gaping difference between the fat found in a bag of hydrogenated oil-soaked cheese doodles and the omega-3 fatty acids in soaked chia seeds and other wholesome foods. The latter isn’t only the better option––it should be the only option.
Of course, we all like to enjoy a treat once in a while, and sometimes those treats come wrapped in plastic and foil, or from a giant vat of lard (think fast-food French fries). But when it comes to trans fats and many saturated fats, which is what you find in commercially processed foods, you're better off avoiding them altogether. Animal fats and plant-based sources of saturated fat are okay in moderation.
Are Plant-based Fats Better?
Good fat versus bad fat isn't only a matter of plant versus animal. Good fats are primarily polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, and we get both of them from both plants and animals. However, animal fats are typically higher in saturated fats than in monos or polys. Also, there is evidence to support that plant-based fats are generally the better fat--keep reading.
A 2018 study by the American Heart Association found that consuming more monounsaturated fatty acids from animal sources (MUFA-A) was associated with a higher mortality rate, with heart disease as the primary cause. Plant-based sources of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA-P), however, were associated with lower mortality (source). The study also revealed a significantly lower mortality rate when plant fats (not animal fats) replaced saturated fat and trans fats.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are found in many plants and some fatty fish such as salmon and tuna. Some plants contain saturated fats, but in a lower ratio to healthier unsaturated fats. There are a few exceptions though––coconut, palm, and palm kernel oil are heavy in saturated fat so minimal consumption is best. You don't want to avoid them completely because they have several health benefits.
When considering any new diet or food, environmental sustainability is an essential consideration. Caring for our health is a holistic endeavor that requires greater awareness and responsibility with regards to how our food is grown and harvested, and the impact that has on the natural environment.
How Much Fat Should I Eat A Day?
That depends on what your nutritional goals are. While a low-fat diet sounds ideal for weight loss, high-fat, low-carb has more positive health implications and can provide a more efficient energy source. But let’s look at the numbers for both.
Low Fat Diet
In an average low-fat diet, about 30% of calories or less come from fat:
1,500 calorie diet: 50 grams of fat per day.
2,000 calorie diet: 67 grams of fat per day.
2,500 calorie diet: 83 grams of fat per day.
High-Fat, Low-Carb, Keto Diet
An average high-fat keto diet contains about 50-75% of calories from fat:
1,500 calories: 83–125 grams of fat per day.
2,000 calories: 111–167 grams of fat per day.
2,500 calories: 139–208 grams of fat per day.
*Amounts are approximate and based on info provided by healthline.
The following are the five best sources of plant-based fats. They’re satiating, great tasting, and excellent additions to the keto diet.
Related article: Keto Diet For The Carb Lover
Good Sources Of Plant-based Fats
Fat content, 1 avocado: 30 grams
Avocados are an excellent source of monounsaturated oleic acid, and more than two-thirds of the calories of an avocado come from this healthy omega-9 fat. They’re highly satiating because of their fiber content, which makes them a good weight loss food too. They raise good HDL cholesterol, are loaded with antioxidants, and help fight inflammation.
Smash one out to make avocado-mango-ginger salsa, slice over your favorite salad, or simply halve, take out the pit, sprinkle some sea salt, and grab a spoon.
Nuts & Nut Butters
Fat content, 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter: 16 grams
Fat content, 2 tbsp smooth almond butter: 18 grams
Similar to avocados, about 70% of the calories in peanut butter come from fat. It’s good news for those on the keto diet, provided it’s 100% natural, without sugars, flavors, or other additives. The same goes for almond butter. Choose a raw or roasted organic version for cleaner nutrition and taste.
Nuts butters are also a great source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Almond butter is particularly high in vitamin E, magnesium, and calcium and may help reduce belly fat (see Forbes for a summary of the study).
If you prefer to eat nuts in their whole state, a 30 gram serving (about 20 almonds) contains approximately 14 grams of fat, primarily monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids.
Seeds & Seed Butters
Fat content, 1 ounce of pumpkin seeds (85 seeds): 13 grams
Fat content, 1 tbsp of ground flaxseed: 3 grams
Fat content, 1 ounce of chia seeds: 9 grams
The above three seeds––pumpkin, flax, and chia––are some of the world’s most nutritious seeds.
The calories in pumpkin seeds come primarily from polyunsaturated fat and protein. They also contain large amounts of important minerals, particularly magnesium. Pumpkin seeds become a thick, slightly squashy-tasting green that is a great fatty addition to your morning health smoothie, if you can get past the color!
Flaxseed is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)––an essential fatty acid that your body does not produce. They are difficult for some people to digest, so freshly ground is a good way to reap the most benefit from them.
Chia seeds are a low-cal, high-nutrient superfood ("chia" means strength). More than half of their fat content is omega-3, and they serve up a great dose of fiber too (11 grams in the same serving size). Chia seeds, like other seeds, contain digestive inhibitors called phytates, so they require soaking to make their nutrients more bioavailable.
Fat content, 1 tbsp of olive oil: 14 grams (primarily monounsaturated)
Fat content, 1 tbsp of coconut oil: 14 grams (primarily saturated)
Fat content, 1 tbsp of sesame oil: 14 grams (poly and monounsaturated)
All three oils contain the same quantity of fat, but fat type is what’s important here. Extra virgin olive oil is the least refined type of olive oil. Although it has a high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio (10:1), it comes from healthy monounsaturated fat.
Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), and is a well-known addition to buttered coffee, aka Bulletproof coffee and popular nootropic. MCTs go straight to your liver where they become a quick source of energy that can be converted into ketones, making coconut oil effective for weight loss.
Sesame oil is rich in omega-6 fatty acids (polyunsaturated fat) and monounsaturated fat, which makes it a healthy oil to consume, best raw. It’s also rich in antioxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties, and can be used topically for massage and to treat wounds.
A note on cooking with oil: High heat cooking can damage many oils as the fatty acids oxidize. However, monounsaturated fats are more resistant to heat, which makes olive oil fairly safe to cook with.
Fat content, 1 ounce: 15 grams
Major nom nom here! Cacao nibs are one of the most delicious and mood-boosting ways to get your fat on. Unlike cacao powder, which is stripped of its fatty butter, cacao nibs are simply a chopped version of raw cacao beans so they retain all their fat. They’re higher in saturated fat than unsaturated, so moderation is key, but they’re high in iron, magnesium, and potassium too.
Add cacao nibs to smoothies, sprinkled on a yogurt-granola bowl, or use in place of baking chocolate.
For The Love Of Fat...
Remember the fine print on fat––avoid trans fat, moderate saturated fat and opt for plant-based sources of it, and boost up your mono- and polyunsaturated varieties. Consuming your fats raw is better to avoid oxidation of fatty acids.
From our kitchen to yours, enjoy happy-fat––cleaner, plant-based sources of this macronutrient!