The word is out: Fat ï¿½ or at least ï¿½good fatï¿½ ï¿½ is not something you should banish from your diet. Monounsaturated fat, a staple in the Mediterranean diet, is the ï¿½good fatï¿½ that may actually help you lose weight, whittle your middle, keep blood sugar levels in check, lower harmful LDL-cholesterol and much more.
The word is out: Fat â€” or at least "good fat" â€” is not something you should banish from your diet. Monounsaturated fat, a staple in the Mediterranean diet, is the "good fat" that may actually help you lose weight, whittle your middle, keep blood sugar levels in check, lower harmful LDL-cholesterol and much more. We've dug through all of the fat facts to come up with 18 good-for-you sources of monounsaturated fats. Read on to find out if any of your favorite foods made the list.
1. Pine Nuts (1 Ounce): Approximately 5.3 Grams of Good Fat
Most commonly associated with pesto, pine nuts are also delicious when added to meat, fish, salads, vegetable dishes, or baked into bread. With 5 grams of monounsaturated fat per one-ounce serving, pine nuts help to lower bad LDL cholesterol and prevent heart disease and strokes. They're also rich in ironâ€”great news for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet. Looking to shed a few pounds? Pine nuts may help, since they contain pinolenic acid, a specific fatty acid that helps you to eat less by suppressing your appetite. Try toasting pine nutes and enjoying on top of your favorite salads.
Read more: Meet the Women Who Are Changing Health and Wellness
2. Olive Oil (1 Tablespoon): Approximately 9.85 Grams of Good Fat
Just one tablespoon of olive oil contains about 10 grams of monounsaturated fat, and only 2 grams of saturated fat. Due to its high monounsaturated content, olive oil is a terrific option for boosting heart health. Use regular olive oil to sautÃ© a variety of colorful veggies or you can even bake with it. Extra virgin olive oil is made from the first pressing of the olives and contains the highest antioxidant levels, but these also start degrading sooner when exposed to heat. To make the most out of your olive oil, use the extra-virgin kind for drizzling and homemade salad dressings.
3. Peanut Butter (1 Tablespoon): Approximately 3.3 Grams of Good Fat
Sometimes there's nothing more comforting than a PB&J sandwich. Besides being absolutely scrumptious, this kid-friendly classic is also good for your heart. With close to 4 grams of monounsaturated fat per 1-tablespoon serving, peanut butter also provides a hearty dose of fiber, as well as other important vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown that people who regularly include nuts or peanut butter in their diets are less likely to develop heart disease or type 2 diabetes -- compared to those individuals who rarely eat nuts. Spread natural, unsalted peanut butter on crunchy apple slices or add it to a smoothie.
Related: 10 Unexpected Peanut Butter Treats
4. Lamb (3 Ounces): Approximately 3.3 Grams of Good Fat
Here's a food you might not have expected to see on this list: lamb. On average, a 3-ounce serving of lean lamb contains 3 grams of monounsaturated fat and about the same amount of the essential omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) as a tablespoon of olive oil. Lean cuts of lamb include those from the leg, loin and rack. On average, lamb is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12, niacin, zinc and selenium. Lamb is perfect for grilling or as an entrÃ©e or side dish anytime of the year. Plus, you can include it in soups, salads â€“ and even on pizza!
5. Avocado (1/5th Medium Avocado): Approximately 3 Grams of Good Fat
They're delicious, creamy and luscious, so what's not to love about avocados? A one-ounce serving contains approximately 3 grams of fat, and 75 percent of that fat comes from the "good" monos and polys. Avocados also contain nearly 20 different vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytonutrients including vitamin E, folic acid, fiber and carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin. Avocados have been shown to act as a nutrient-booster, so you can absorb more of the fat-soluble beneficial carotenoids in plant foods. In addition to your favorite guacamole, try fresh avocados on salads, sandwiches or toast, on top of your tomato or veggie soup.
Related: No-Cook Chocolate Pudding With a Secret Ingredient
6. Hazelnuts (1 Ounce): Approximately 12.9 Grams of Good Fat
With nearly 13 grams of monounsaturated fat per ounce, hazelnuts may help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Besides being a heart-healthy choice, hazelnuts are also rich in manganese and copper, vital minerals for iron absorption and bone formation, respectively. TIP: To intensify the unique flavor of hazelnuts, and to better develop their color, try roasting the kernels on a baking sheet. Arrange kernels in a single layer, and bake at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes. To remove the skins, simply wrap the warm hazelnuts in a dish towel, and let them sit for 15-20 minutes.
7. Flaxseed Oil (1 Tablespoon): Approximately 2.5 Grams of Good Fat
A rich source of soluble fiber, with almost 3 grams of monounsaturated fat per tablespoon, studies suggest that flaxseed oil may benefit individuals with heart disease and aid in cancer prevention. Use this slightly nutty tasting oil to make salad dressings, add to soups and smoothies for an extra boost of nutrition, or stir into your favorite pasta sauce for an added dose of good-for-you fat. Since flaxseed oil turns rancid rather quickly, be sure to refrigerate it after opening, and avoid exposure to light. When purchasing flax seed oil, look for the cold-pressed variety, since it has been processed at a minimum temperature to preserve its integrity.
8. Pork (3 Ounces): Approximately 2.09 Grams of Good Fat
Pork is rich in monounsaturated fat, and ounce-for-ounce, pork tenderloin contains less fat than a chicken breast. That's good news, considering the fact that Americans eat more than 50 pounds of pork per person each year. In fact, a recent study of overweight adults found that regular consumption of fresh, lean pork served to improve body composition and cardiovascular risk factors. In addition to being a lean source of protein and providing healthy fat, pork also contains iron and potassium. Mix things up and give pork a try with our easy weeknight slow cooker recipe for Chili-Rubbed Shredded Pork.
Related: Chili-Rubbed Shredded Pork Recipe
9. Dark Chocolate (1 Ounce): Approximately 3.5 Grams of Good Fat
With almost 3.5 grams of healthy monounsaturated fat per ounce, this is a treat that's truly heart smart. Look for dark chocolate with high cacao content (preferably 70 percent or higher), since more cacao means greater health benefits and less added sugars. Recent research shows that eating high-cacao dark chocolate may improve blood vessel function. Three ways you can get a double blast of antioxidants: 1. Melt 70-percent dark chocolate over berries, 2. Enjoy a square of dark chocolate with a cup of green tea, or 3. If you're feeling extra-indulgent, try a small square of dark chocolate with a glass of antioxidant-rich red wine.
10. Pistachios (1 Ounce): Approximately 6.7 Grams of Good Fat
About 90 percent of the fat in pistachios is healthy unsaturated fat, and research shows that when individuals with elevated cholesterol ate pistachios as a daily snack, their blood levels of antioxidants increased and harmful LDL-cholesterol levels declined, compared to those who did not eat pistachios. A serving of pistachios has 7grams of monounsaturated fats, 4 grams of polyunsaturated fats and just 1.5 grams of saturated fat. Because nuts are calorie-rich, keep portions in mind: There are 49 pistachios in a one-ounce serving, and 30 pistachios contain about 100 calories. Enjoying pistachios as a snack instead of carb-rich options like crackers or pretzels is a smart swap. Pistachios provide more fiber and may also keep you feeling fuller longer.
11. Olives (10 Large Olives): Approximately 3.4 Grams of Good Fat
Whether you are partial to green, black, purple or brown â€” all olive varieties are rich in monounsaturated fat. In fact, recent research shows that the monounsaturated fat found in olives can help to decrease blood pressure. As an added benefit, olives are also loaded with antioxidants, which may offer protection against heart disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions. Consider whipping up an olive tapenade as a sandwich spread or baguette topper, sprinkling chopped olives into a salad or adding olives to a tasty marinade for chicken or fish.
12. Walnuts (1 Ounce): Approximately 2.53 Grams of Good Fat
With nearly 3 grams of healthy monounsaturated fat per one-ounce serving, walnuts are also nutritional dynamos, packing a powerful punch of protein, fiber, magnesium, and phosphorus â€” all important nutrients for optimal health. For a crunchy and tasty snack, try these Parmesan Herbed Walnuts.
Related: Parmesan Herbed Walnuts Recipe
13. Canola Oil (1 Tablespoon): Approximately 8.8 Grams of Good Fat
Great versatility, light taste and a dynamite nutrition profile make canola oil an excellent option for cooking. Lower in artery-clogging saturated fat than any common vegetable oil typically found in a supermarket, just one tablespoon of canola oil contains almost 9 grams of monounsaturated fat. Since canola oil has a high heat tolerance, it can be used in a variety of different cooking mediums, including baking, stir-frying, and grilling. It's important to choose organic and expeller pressed (mechanically extracted at a temperature of 120F vs. chemically to avoid chemical residues), if possible.
14. Sunflower Seeds (1 Ounce): Approximately 3.07 Grams of Good Fat
Sunflower seeds are a true nutritional powerhouse packed with healthy fats, protein, fiber, minerals and phytochemicals. And since almost 90 percent of the fat in sunflower seeds is good, unsaturated fat, they are a terrific choice for individuals suffering from high cholesterol or high triglycerides. Just one ounce of sunflower seeds provides 76 percent of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin E. Sprinkle sunflower seeds on top of a salad or simply roast in the oven for five minutes, until lightly browned. One of the best ways to use sunflower seeds is in omelets for a hearty, nutrient-packed breakfast. This Sunflower Garden Omelet (see hyperlink below) is an all-time favorite.
Related: Sunflower Garden Omelet Recipe
15. Almonds (1 Ounce): Approximately 8.9 Grams of Good Fat
Reaching for a small handful of almonds will supply you with a tasty, protein-packed snack that contains 9 grams of monounsaturated fat per one-ounce serving â€” that's about 23 whole almonds. This nutrient-dense nut is also a terrific source of vitamin E, magnesium and manganese, as well as a good source of fiber, copper, phosphorus, and riboflavin. A one-ounce serving of almonds has a similar amount of antioxidants to one cup of green tea or 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli. For a creative recipe idea using almonds, try making this simple Orange Almond Cilantro Salsa.
Related: Orange, Almond and Cilantro Salsa Recipe
16. Sesame Seeds (1 Ounce): Approximately 3 Grams of Good Fat
A delicacy in Asian cuisine, just one ounce of sesame seeds supplies 3 grams of heart smart monounsaturated fat, not to mention 35 percent of the recommended daily requirements for calcium. In addition to being a top source of monounsaturated fat, sesame seeds also contain two strains of beneficial fiber, sesamin and sesamolin, which have been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effect. Sesame seeds are a terrific source of zinc, an essential mineral for producing collagen. Add protein-rich sesame seeds to baked chicken, fish or salads for a nice, nutty flavor and texture, use them to make homemade tahini, or incorporate sesame seeds into a unique spice blend, like this Middle Eastern Za'atar.
17. Duck Breast (3 Ounces): Approximately 4.6 Grams of Good Fat
Although not as common as beef or chicken, duck is becoming increasingly popular, for good reasons. Since it's mainly comprised of monounsaturated fat (nearly 5 grams per three-ounce serving), duck is a terrific option if you are looking to add a new cut of lean meat into your dinner repertoire. A source of high quality protein, duck is loaded with B vitamins, which are important for proper metabolic function. Duck is also rich in selenium, a necessary trace mineral for boosting immunity and supporting enzyme activity. Duck is delicious pan-roasted or grilled, and it often pairs nicely with fruit, like cranberries or oranges.
Related: Duck and Vegetable Stir-Fry Recipe
18. Bacon (3 Ounces): Approximately 18.3 Grams
With a three-ounce serving of cooked bacon containing 18.3 grams of good fats, it might be time to "bring home the bacon," literally. In fact, the type of monounsaturated fat found in bacon, oleic acid, is actually the same type of monounsaturated fat found in olive oil. Still, many varieties of bacon are highly processed, so look for brands manufactured without preservatives. When choosing bacon, look for the natural uncured variety (such as Trader Joe's or Niman Ranch Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon), as they won't contain nitrates. Cured bacon contains nitrates, which have been linked with cancer.
What Do You Think?
What are your go-to sources of "good" fats? Did any of the foods on our list surprise you? Will you be adding any of the foods from this slideshow to your diet? Leave a comment below, and let us know.