Many people believe that foods high in fat are bad for you. And for certain foods, that’s absolutely true. Saturated fats and trans fats should be avoided, and excess consumption can increase your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
However, there are also a number of fats that are very good for you. For example, one of the primary components of the Mediterranean Diet (consistently ranked one of the top diets by US News & World Report) is healthy fats.
What Is A Healthy Fat?
The term healthy fat usually refers to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They help reduce “bad” cholesterol, called LDL cholesterol, which clogs your arteries. There is also research showing that healthy fats can help regulate blood sugar levels, thus decreasing the risk for type 2 diabetes.
These are simply fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond. Monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but turn solid when chilled. An example that almost everyone has in his or her pantry is olive oil.
In addition to reducing LDL cholesterol levels, monounsaturated fats also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your health. Oils rich in monounsaturated fats also contribute vitamin E to the diet, an antioxidant vitamin most seniors could use more of.
Different than monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats have MORE THAN one unsaturated carbon bond. They are usually liquid at room temp, but turn solid when chilled.
Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fats. These fatty acids are necessary for proper brain function and cell growth.
Omega-3 fats help:
- Reduce the risk for an irregular heartbeat
- Slightly lower your blood pressure
- Slow the build-up of plaque
Omega-6 fats help:
- Control your blood sugar
- Lower your blood pressure
How Much Should You Eat?
The latest Dietary Guidelines For Americans recommends getting no more than 30% of your daily calories from fat. Most of those fat calories should be mono or poly unsaturated, as opposed to saturated or trans fats. Saturated fats shouldn’t make up more than 6% of your daily calories intake.
All fats, whether healthy or unhealthy, contain 9 calories per gram. Eating any type of fat is excess can lead to weight gain for seniors because they’re twice as calorie-dense as carbs and protein.
7 Healthy High Fat Foods For Seniors
Here are 7 high fat foods that are extremely healthy for seniors:
1. Fatty Fish
Especially salmon, trout, sardines, and herring.
Fatty fish like the ones mentioned above are very high in omega-3 fatty acids, plus they’re a great source of protein. If you don’t care for the taste of fish, taking a fish oil supplement can be beneficial.
2. Chia Seeds
This may be surprising, but chia seeds are 80% fat. They contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, and all of the carbs contained in a chia seed are fiber that can aid digestion.
You can find chia seeds at most grocery stores in the health food aisle, and they can be added or smoothies or oatmeal.
3. Full-Fat Yogurt
Many yogurts you’ll find in the grocery store are low in fat, but high in sugar. Instead of reaching for those, look for high-fat whole milk yogurt. It’s loaded with probiotics, which can help maintain healthy amount of good bacteria in your body.
Healthy nuts include walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, and numerous others.
They are high in healthy fats and fiber, while being a great source of protein. In addition, many nuts have high amounts of vitamin E and magnesium, both of which are essential nutrients.
5. Dark Chocolate
This superfood is one of the healthiest desserts out there. It’s also very high in good fats.
Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants, which research has shown can help reduce risks for various diseases like cancer. Studies also show that people who eat dark chocolate 5 or more times per week are less than half as likely to die from heart disease, compared to people who don't eat dark chocolate
When buying, look for dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cocoa.
Real cheese, not the heavily processed kind, is actually very nutritious. It’s a great source of calcium, which can help seniors strengthen their bones. Plus, it contains vitamin B12, phosphorus, and protein.
Seniors with compromised immune systems may want to avoid soft cheeses like Brie, bleu cheese, and goat cheese, which can sometimes harbor harmful bacteria.
Different than almost all other fruits, which are carb-based, avocados are mostly fat. They are high in a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid and contain 40% more potassium than bananas. Like most monounsaturated fats, eating avocados helps lower LDL cholesterol and raises HDL (the “good”) cholesterol.
Avocados are good for most seniors, except those needing a low potassium diet (aka a kidney diet).