Fat isn’t a diet enemy – this macronutrient is essential for maintaining good heart health, reducing inflammation, and maintaining optimal body function and you can get all the healthy fats you need from nuts, seeds, and even fruit.
What are fats?
We can break down all of the foods we eat into three macronutrients – fat, carbohydrates, and protein. We need all three in our diets, as they all perform different functions to keep our bodies running like well-oiled machines.
Types of fats:
Not all fatty acids are created equal – there are three different types of fat we consume.
You do not need to avoid saturated fat altogether. Still, in larger doses, it can negatively affect your cholesterol levels and put you at a potentially higher risk for developing heart disease.
Most sources of saturated fats are animal-based, so it’s easy to keep intake low while following a vegan diet. There are a couple of sources of vegan saturated fat, like coconut oil. Still, this plant-based saturated fat does not contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels in the same way as animal sources do.
These are the MVP of the fat world and are considered the healthiest of the different fat types. There are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, both of which offer incredible health benefits.
Foods containing unsaturated fat can lower bad cholesterol, maintain crucial body cells, and have an antioxidative effect on the body.
Trans fats naturally occur in minimal amounts in some animal products. Artificial trans fats, on the other hand, are fats made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil to solidify them. Trans fats are dangerous for our health, increasing bad cholesterol and heart disease risks.
What are healthy fats?
As we now know, not all fat types are healthy fats. Here’s an ideal breakdown of a vegan’s dietary fat intake:
- Never eat artificial trans fats, and keep natural trans fats to a minimum.
- Eat saturated fat in moderation, with less than 10% of your daily caloric intake from this type of fat.
- The rest of your fat intake should come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated sources.
There are plenty of pros and cons to being a vegetarian; a whole, plant-based diet is already naturally lower in saturated fats, mostly from animals. Vegans will have an easier time balancing their fat levels by concentrating on including high-calorie vegan foods to increase unsaturated fats.
Here are the healthiest sources of plant-based fat to look out for:
Tofu & Soybeans
Some of the vegan’s best food options with healthy fats are soy-based. Soy is high in omega-3 fatty acids and a great source of other vitamins and minerals, like calcium and B vitamins.
All soy-based products, like tofu or soy milk, offer the same benefits as soybeans themselves, as well as a whack of plant-based protein, which is always helpful for vegan dieters.
Amazingly, avocados are 19% fat (mostly monounsaturated, to be specific). This is what gives them that creamy, buttery texture that we love (especially when spread on toast – the dreamiest Sunday brunch option). But this isn’t the only perk of this unusually fatty fruit – avocados are also a rich source of vitamin K, which is useful for absorbing protein, and potassium, which is important in lowering blood pressure.
Nuts are one of the best sources of fat in a vegan diet. Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and pecans are the best nuts as they’re rich in unsaturated fats and great sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and other minerals. Brazil nuts and cashews are also great sources of fat, but they have a higher concentration of saturated fats. Either way, including nuts in your diet, is a great idea.
Nuts are ideally designed for snacking. You can simply munch on them by the handful, or try creamy, chunky nut butter.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fondly known as EVOO among health enthusiasts worldwide, this superfood is rich in polyunsaturated – omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
One tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil has 14 grams of fat. Moreover, 73% of its fats are composed of monosaturated oleic acid which, as studies have suggested, has anti-inflammatory and even ANTI-CANCEROUS PROPERTIES.
EVOO’s high concentration of monosaturated fats also makes it resistant to high temperatures and thus ideal for cooking.
While all seeds are nutritious and great plant-based sources of fat, chia seeds have rightfully earned their place in the superfood hall of fame. 2 tbsp of chia seeds contains approximately 8.5g of fat and most of it is in the form of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential fats which the body cannot produce. Hence, they needed to be consumed throughout your diet. Fatty fish is generally considered a key source of omega-3, but if you’re following a plant-based diet, chia seeds are a fantastic alternative.
Coconut and coconut oil are rich in saturated fats, yes. But unlike most sources of saturated fats, this tropical nut comprises medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which the liver can easily break down and convert into energy or ketones.
MCTs, help to curb hunger, keep you satiated for longer, and hence reduce calorie consumption.
Try out a creamy, sweet, and fragrant lentil curry that celebrates the goodness and distinctly delicious, mildly sweet, and nutty flavours of coconut.
Eating chocolate might be the tastiest way for vegans to increase their healthy fat consumption. The best chocolate to eat is pure cacao nibs, crumbled pieces of the cacao plant’s dried beans.
Cacao is high in monounsaturated fat and antioxidants, so use these morsels in smoothies or baking. You can also eat a square or two of the darkest vegan chocolate bar you can find, which will contain the highest levels of cacao.