When it comes to maintaining a healthy diet, fat is often overlooked. While it’s true that some fats aren’t good for us or should be consumed in small amounts (trans and saturated fats), other fats (unsaturated fats) are essential for good overall health, especially if you’re on a vegan diet.
Fat is the body’s most efficient energy source and will keep you feeling satiated longer than a high-carb food will. Fat also promotes heart and brain health, supports healthy cell membranes, and helps keep the body warm. All good things—as long as you’re consuming the good fats, not the bad ones.
Fatty fish, eggs, and yogurt are common sources of healthy fats, but don’t worry—you still have plenty of options if you’re on a vegan diet.
Avocados are a true superstar in the healthy fats world. While most fruits are heavy on the carbs, avocados are loaded with healthy fats (and are a good source of fiber, too). So keep enjoying that avocado toast or guacamole, and feel free to add it to salads, sandwiches, and dressings. You really can’t go wrong with avocado.
A chunk of dark chocolate is the best kind of treat: so tasty you forget it’s nutritious. The healthy fats in dark chocolate account for about 65% of the calories, calories that satisfy your sweet tooth and provide helpful nutrients. In addition to healthy fats, dark chocolate also contains fiber, antioxidants, and magnesium. Just make sure the chocolate is made with at least 70% cocoa and has no dairy ingredients added.
Olive oil is a staple in diets all around the world, and just about everyone agrees that it’s good for you, thanks to its high healthy fat content. It’s an excellent oil for cooking, drizzled over roasted vegetables, and in salad dressings. Opt for extra virgin olive oil when you can, since it typically is higher quality and has better flavor.
If you want to add a pop of flavor to a salad, pizza, or even a sandwich or pasta dish, give olives a try! With the same healthy fats found in olive oil, olives can be a fun way to spice up a meal. Just don’t overdo it, as olives are also high in sodium, especially canned olives.
Nuts, especially almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, and pistachios, are reliably healthy snacks. Loaded with healthy fats, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals, they make a satisfying snack when you’re out and about and add a nice crunch to salads.
Seeds, including flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds, aren’t typically thought of as fatty foods, but they actually contain a good amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid. An ounce of chia seeds, for example, contains 11 grams of healthy fat, and can easily be sprinkled on yogurt and oatmeal, or added to smoothies and puddings to boost your healthy fat intake. Roasted pumpkin seeds make a nice snack on their own, and sunflower seeds work well in salads.
Peanut butter, and other nut butters like almond butter and cashew butter, is a tasty source of healthy fats. Pick a peanut butter brand that doesn’t have a lot of added sugars or hydrogenated oils, and then enjoy the possibilities! Peanut butter can be enjoyed with anything from toast to celery sticks to smoothies.
While not considered a high-fat food, soybeans do contain a notable amount of healthy fats (9 grams per 3.5 ounces). You’ll also get a good amount of protein, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals, making them a good addition to salads and soups. In general, most soy products, including tofu, are a good go-to source for both healthy fats and protein.
Coconut, in all its forms (oil, milk, shredded, etc.) contains medium-chain triglycerides (MTCs). These fats are easily metabolized by the body and can provide a quick source of energy. Coconut oil can be a good addition to the things you already make, especially the sweet dishes.
The fat you want to keep around
Incorporating some of these vegan-friendly healthy fats into your diet will have a positive impact on your health. Be sure you’re balancing these foods with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to ensure you are hitting all the nutrition groups to support optimal health.