Fat Is Not the Enemy! (If You’re Smart)

By now, we know that the low-fat craze was a health disaster. We all stopped eating many of our favorite high-fat foods and ended up heftier in the process, courtesy of an onslaught of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Thankfully, fat is no longer considered a dietary boogeyman, and you have a fat chance (pun intended) of achieving optimal health and performance without the right kinds in your diet. Get it from these five foods.

Avocado

In contrast to other fruits that are mostly carbs, avocado is packed with fat—about 81 percent of its calories come from fat, mostly of the cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated variety. Studies also show that adding avocado to meals can stamp out overeating later on—its high amounts of fat and fiber bolster satiety. What’s more, when added to salads, avocado has been shown to improve the absorption of fat-soluble antioxidants in vegetables including cancer-fighting lycopene in tomatoes.

Eat more: Beyond guac, work avocado into smoothies, tacos, scrambled eggs and even chocolate pudding (seriously, Google it!).

Pickled herring

The swimmer contains a boatload of EPA and DHA, the most potent forms of omega-3 fats you can buy at the supermarket. Beyond the trumpeted heart and brain benefits, research suggests higher intakes of these mega-healthy omegas can help lessen muscle pain associated with spirited training sessions. The small gifts from the sea are also a great source of protein to help build stronger muscles. Look for jars of pickled herring or tins of kippered fish (butterflied and smoked herring) in European specialty markets and many supermarkets.

Eat more: Wake up your lunch routine with a Danish-inspired smørrebrød—top a slice of toasted rye bread with a slick of butter, pickled herring, pickled beets, capers and fresh dill.

Walnuts

Among nuts, walnuts are the best source of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically alpha linoleic acid, a plant-based omega fat with heart-boosting powers. A recent study linked a handful per day to better cholesterol numbers as well as improved blood vessel functioning. In fact, Harvard researchers found that replacing about 5 percent of the saturated fat calories in a diet from sources like red meat and butter with polyunsaturated calories from items such as walnuts can slash heart disease risk by 9 percent.

Eat more: Forget pricey pine nuts—make your next batch of pesto with walnuts. Also sprinkle them onto oatmeal
and salads.

Almond flour

Not all flour is a carb bomb. Made by finely grinding up whole almonds, almond flour is fatty in a good way. Namely, it provides a healthy dose of monounsaturated fat to show your hard-working heart some love. You also get about three times the amount of protein as that found in typical wheat flour as well as notable levels of vitamin E, an antioxidant that may improve bone health. Keep an eye out for brands of almond flour like Bob’s Red Mill in natural-food stores or the health-food section of supermarkets.

Eat more: When making pancakes and muffins, swap about 25 percent of the regular flour with the almond version for a nutty edge. Stir it into a pot of simmering oatmeal or use as coating for chicken and fish.

Funky cheese

When you do eat saturated fat, make it count. Research shows that the ripening process that produces oozy, molded cheeses like brie, Roquefort and Camembert boosts anti-inflammatory compounds. What’s more, a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that subjects who consumed about 2.5 ounces of regular-fat cheese daily for three months experienced no differences in health measures such as LDL “bad” cholesterol levels, blood sugar control or waistline girth compared to when consuming the same amount of reduced-fat cheese. And because “real” cheese like Stilton, Gruyere and pecorino Romano provide more robust flavor, you’ll be satisfied with less.

Eat more: For a satisfying snack or post-training treat, top whole-grain crackers with some stinky cheese.