The best avocado kale salad recipe, plus other ways to work saturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD 1 / 11
There’s more to the fat story than meets the eye. For many years, fats were deemed the bad guy. We were told to avoid foods with fat at all costs. However, now we know that the type of fat you eat is what's important—and that eating the right kinds can have many benefits. Here's a quick primer:
Saturated fat is found in many animal products like the skin of the chicken, butter, and ice cream. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming less than 10-percent of your total daily calories in saturated fats. That’s about 9 grams of saturated fat for someone who is on a 2,000 calorie diet. So, you don't have to ban it, but eat it in moderation and try to pick saturated fat-foods that also contain good-for-you nutrients, like coconut oil or eggs, to make them worth your while.
A third type of fat—and the one you should definitely include in your diet—is unsaturated fat. You can find them in a variety of foods such as avocados, nuts, olives, and fatty fish (like salmon and tuna). Although these are better fats, they still contain 9 calories per gram, which means portions absolutely matter.
You also want to make sure to pack in plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods like salmon. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)—forms of omega-3's—help fight inflammation and contribute to brain health, heart health, and immunity.
Read on for 10 recipes starring the healthiest fats you can eat.
Nuts, including almonds, are a heart healthy source of unsaturated fat. One ounce of almonds (23 almonds or ¼ cup) contains 162 calories, 14 grams fat, and 6 grams protein. Almonds are also an excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin E, providing close to 40-percent of the recommended daily amount. They also contain flavonoids, linked to cancer prevention and decreased risk of heart disease.
Instead of purchasing salted nuts, add flavor by roasting them with a touch of sweet and savory ingredients.
1 cup raw whole almonds ½ tbsp agave ½ tsp ground cinnamon ⅛ tsp salt Cooking spray or drizzle of canola oil
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 2) Place almonds in a mixing bowl. Drizzle agave or honey over the almonds. Use a spatula to stir and coat the almonds with agave. 3) Mix in cinnamon and salt and stir a with spatula. Try to make sure the almonds are evenly coated. 4) Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, or drizzle with canola oil (spread oil over pan with paper towel). Spread almonds evenly on the pan. 5) Bake for 10 minutes. 6) While still warm, taste the almonds and add a sprinkle of cinnamon if desired. Let cool, and enjoy!
1 pound salmon filet, raw 1/8 tsp salt 1/8 tsp black pepper 1 tbsp olive oil 1 cup orange juice 2 tsp low sodium soy sauce 2 cups Japanese soba noodles, cooked 2 tbsp spring onion or scallions, small, raw 2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 2. Season salmon with salt and pepper, heat olive oil in pan that can be placed in the oven, sear fish skin side down in pan. Finish in oven to desired doneness (~10-15 minutes). 3. Cook noodles according to package directions. 4. Remove fish from pan and place on 4 plates over noodles. Pour orange juice and soy sauce into fish pan. Bring it to a simmer and reduce by half to a syrup consistency. Add orange glaze over salmon and soba noodles. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.
Olives contain heart healthy monounsaturated fat. Fourteen medium green olives (about 1 ounce) contains 41 calories, 4 grams heart healthy monounsaturated fat, and antioxidant vitamins A and E. These delicious fruits (yes, they’re a fruit!) also contain polyphenols, antioxidants shown to help lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease.
Although dark chocolate contains some saturated fat, it is made with a higher percent of cocoa beans which provides an array of important nutrients including vitamins A, B, and E, calcium, iron, and potassium. Cocoa is also packed with several powerful antioxidants including theobromine, shown to help reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure.
Skill level: Beginner Serves: 20 Start to Finish: 12 minutes, plus 2-4 hours drying time Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 2 minutes
1 (12-ounce) bag dark chocolate chips (about 2 cups) ¼ cup dried cherries, cranberries, apricots, or plums ¼ cup chopped pecans, pistachios, almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, or peanuts ⅛ teaspoon fleur de sal (or kosher salt)
1. Melt dark chocolate chips in the microwave on medium heat 2 minutes or until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. 2. Pour melted chocolate onto a piece of parchment paper and smooth to ⅛-inch thickness. Top evenly with cherries, pecans, and fleur de sal. 3. Allow to dry (2-4 hours) then cut or break into bite-sized pieces.
Some recent research has concluded that full fat dairy may not be less beneficial than low and nonfat dairy. Although these were only a handful of studies, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans still recommend low and nonfat dairy foods as your primary way to take in your three recommended daily servings of dairy each day. That doesn’t mean reduced and full fat dairy should be off your table. There are delicious ways you can incorporate small amounts of these foods into your dishes on occasion.
1 high fiber Italian spiced tortilla/wrap 1 medium yellow bell pepper 1 medium tomato 1 ounce fresh mozzarella 4-5 fresh basil leaves
For the yogurt sauce:
1/4 cup reduced fat Greek yogurt 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning Juice and zest of half a lemon Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment or lightly mist with oil. 2. Cut pepper and tortilla into 4 large pieces. Slice tomato and mozzarella (as thin or thick as you’d like). 3. Place pepper slices face down in oven for 10-15 minutes until softened and lightly charred. 4. Place wrap pieces into the oven for 5-10 minutes until golden brown and crisp on the edges. 5. Meanwhile, whisk together ingredients for the yogurt sauce, adding salt and pepper to taste. 6. Time to stack! Gather all of your ingredients and layer one on top of the other. Continue alternating layers until you’re out of ingredients and drizzle the whole thing with yogurt sauce.
Making your own granola is a great way to help control the ingredients. In this recipe, there are many sources of healthy fats including flax seeds, pecans, and coconut oil. Flax seeds are another source of omega-3 fats and lignans, that provide a powerful antioxidant punch.
2 cups gluten free rolled oats 2 tablespoons uncooked quinoa 2 tablespoons flax seeds 1 cup pecans ½ cup pumpkin seeds ¾ cup dried banana (30 banana chips) Zest of 2 small tangerines 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon cinnamon ¼ cup maple syrup 2 tablespoons brown sugar ¼ cup melted coconut oil (if solid, put in the microwave for 30 seconds)
1. Preheat oven to 300ºF/ 150ºC. 2. Measure oats, quinoa, flax, pecans, pumpkin seeds, dried banana, tangerine zest, salt and cinnamon into a big bowl. 3. Add the maple syrup, sugar, and oil and stir until well blended. 4. Spread out the mix on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 5. Bake for 40 minutes or until the oats are golden brown and fragrant, and gently stir with a spatula every 10 minutes. 6. Let the granola cool completely in the baking tray and store it in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks
Although coconut is a source of saturated fat, the type of saturated fat it contains is controversial. Many pro-coconut advocates say it’s healthy because it contains medium-chained triglycerides while are easily absorbed by the body. However, there is strong evidence that suggests that some of the specific fatty acids in coconut have been shown to raise your bad (LDL) and good (HDL) cholesterol, along with your total cholesterol (which isn’t very healthy).
Regardless on which side you stand, there’s no denying that coconut in its many forms adds tremendous flavor to dishes. But remember, a small amount goes a long way.
1 tablespoon coconut oil 1 cup quinoa, well rinsed 1¾ cups of water ½ teaspoon salt ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes Zest of one lime ¼ cup cilantro minced ¼ cup currants, or other dried fruit chopped such as cranberries or raisins ½ cup red pepper, small dice
2 tablespoons lime juice 2 tablespoons canola or grape seed oil (choose a mild oil) ½ teaspoon honey ¼ teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1. Heat the coconut oil in small pot. Add the rinsed quinoa and let it toast, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes until the quinoa is coated and starts to stick to the pot. Then add 1 ¾ cup water, ½ teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Take the pot off the heat, gently fluff with a fork, add lime zest and coconut flakes, and let sit partially covered for another 10 minutes. 2. Transfer quinoa to a bowl, and let it cool to room temperature. To cool the quinoa more quickly, spread on a baking sheet with a fork. 3. Add the remaining ingredients: cilantro, currants and red pepper. Drizzle with dressing and toss gently. Taste, and add more lime, salt, or pepper, to your taste.
Nut butters are another way to add flavor through the power of healthy fat. Cashew, peanut, and almond butter are some of the more popular flavors you’ll find. Just be aware that each nut butter contains a hefty amount of calories so aim for about 1 tablespoon per serving for snacks and 2 tablespoon per serving for meals.
Eggs are another fat that have a bad reputation. Although many people toss the yolk, that’s where all the good stuff is! The yolk contains vitamins B12 and D and riboflavin, along with choline and selenium. The American Heart Association recently updated their guidelines and recommend that one whole egg can absolutely be part of a healthy eating plan, if eaten in place of other high cholesterol foods like meat, poultry, and dairy.
¼ cup diced onion (I used sweet yellow onions) Cooking spray 10 eggs ½ cup 1% low fat milk ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon black pepper 1 cup shredded part skim mozzarella, divided 1 cup sliced tomatoes 10 to 15 fresh basil leaves
1. Preheat your oven to 375. 2. Add the eggs, milk, salt and pepper to a medium bowl, and beat until combined. Stir in half of the cheese into the egg mixture, and set aside. 3. Spray a 10 inch non-stick skillet with cooking spray, and preheat over medium low heat. Add the diced onions, and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Place the tomato slices in the pan. Pour egg mixture over the tomatoes and onion. 4. Cook on the stovetop on medium/low heat until the edges start to set, about 4 minutes. Use the spatula to loosen and pull the edges inward, allowing more liquid eggs to move to the hot pan. Repeat this several times. (I went around the pan about 3 times). Remove the pan from the heat. 5. Place the basil leaves on the top, and sprinkle with the other half of the cheese. 6. Place the skillet in the oven until the center sets. Mine took 15 minutes. 7. Remove the skillet from the oven, and let it sit about 5 minutes to cool slightly. 8. Use the spatula to transfer to a serving dish, if desired. (This is when you will high five yourself for using nonstick!) 9. Use a knife to cut the frittata into eight servings. I make a giant plus sign (cuts into fourths), and then cut each of those pieces in half. Serve immediately. Save leftovers in the refrigerator for up to a week.
This delicious fruit is high in monounsaturated fat and is free of sodium and cholesterol. Avocados contain 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (plant compounds shown to help fight and prevent disease). They also contain the antioxidant lutein, shown to help keep eyes healthy.
Avocado is primarily composed of fat, so portion control is still important. One serving, which will give you a nice dose of these 20 nutrients, is 1 ounce or 1/5th an avocado.
2 cups finely chopped fresh kale ½ Hass ripe (soft) avocado 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar ½ cup toasted pine nuts (or walnuts), roughly chopped Pinch of Kosher salt
1. Scoop out avocado onto chopped kale. 2. Using your fingers, massage avocado into kale so that it’s completely coated. It's ok to leave some avocado in chunks. 3. Dish salad onto plate and drizzle with vinegar, sprinkle with nuts and a dash of salt. Enjoy!