The signs are everywhere—news reports suggest that sales of real butter are at a 40-year high, cultured butter has suddenly become popular, burger joints are celebrating fats as an essential ingredient, and more high-fat dairy products are hitting grocery shelves. Many believe that this is the year that Americans get over their fat phobia.

The trends may say one thing, but is fat really that good for your health? We ask a few experts to examine the new ‘fat is good‘ phenomenon.

The Comeback
“Fat is making a comeback after many years of very low, or low-fat foods and diets being the norm. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAC report) has really relaxed in saying that low-fat diets are healthy,” says Liz Weinandy, RD at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. She adds that research shows the Mediterranean diet, which includes lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and a healthy dose of fat—mostly in the form of olive oil—is one of the healthiest diets in the world.

Daphne Olivier, a registered, licensed dietitian in a private practice in Louisiana believes that the medical community is now learning that saturated fat is not as harmful as once thought, which is why palm oil, coconut oil, and even butter are being looked at as healthy fats to include in a diet.

“Dietary fat is enjoying a resurgence on the back of the Paleo movement and low-carb enthusiasts,” says Joe Leech, a dietitian and health writer from Sydney. Proponents of the Paleo diet avoid added sugar, cereals, grains, starchy vegetables or legumes, and these items are replaced by fat. “High-fat foods such as eggs, meat, seafood, full-fat dairy (which is non-Paleo), avocado, coconut milk or cream, butter and other animal fats are now considered healthy. The most popular high-fat foods in the health industry right now are avocado and avocado oil, coconut and coconut oil, and good old-fashioned butter.”

Cooking with more fats and oils, rather than less, is one of the big factors to this comeback.

The Lowdown On Good Fat
The more processing that happens with a fat, the fewer its benefits. Some healthy fats include olives, avocados, and coconut. The oils that come from these foods are cold pressed and nourishing unlike corn oil, soybean oil, and the vegetable oil, which come from naturally low-fat foods. These require significant processing to extract the fat.

The roles of fat in a diet are plentiful. Olivier explains, “It is a storage form. Energy, muscles (heart and skeletal) get their energy from fatty acids, the liver converts fat stores into glucose to be used as energy, fat helps prevent drops in blood sugar, helps in the functioning of a healthy brain and nerve function. Plus, it is a building block for hormones, preserves body heat and maintains the body temperature,” she says.

Weinandy cautions that a high-fat diet might work well for one person, but not another. The right amount of fat differs from person to person depending on weight, weight goals, age, and lifestyle.

How To Get The Right Fat
Currently, the recommendation for fat intake is 20 to 35 percent of total calories for most adults; for weight loss the number stands at 30 percent.

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat. Avocados, nuts and fatty fish like salmon all contain very healthy fats. Fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel are the best sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts and seeds, added to salads, smoothies and stir-fries with extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil as a salad dressing are simple ways to add good fat to cooking. “The fat in olives, nuts and avocados is monounsaturated, which can improve cholesterol levels. Omega-3 fats in some fish are especially good for the brains, and help reduce chronic, low grade inflammation throughout the body,” says Weinandy.

“Omega-3 fats from fatty fish are anti-inflammatory. Monounsaturated fats have been linked to reduced inflammation, especially oleic acid, and are believed to be responsible for many of the health properties of olive oil and avocados. Nuts and peanuts are also good sources of monounsaturated fats,” says Leech.

It is best to stick to healthy plant fats, as a start to adding fat to your diet. So go ahead, introduce safflower oil, flax oil, coconut oil and peanut oil, walnuts and olives in your meals. Eventually, you can have fatty fish and dairy too.

Head to our Food section for healthy recipes and the latest food trends.
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Read More:
Top Fat Burning Foods
Science Says: A High-fat Diet Can Alter Your Behavior
High Protein Diet: Pros And Cons

An alumnus of Asian College of Journalism, and Cardiff University, Wales, Yoshita Sengupta has more than five years of experience in writing for various news outlets. As Founder and Director of Underscore, a content solutions agency, she writes for multiple digital and print news outlets and consults brands. When not working for Underscore, she works with social entrepreneurs and homeless communities, which includes running a library for street children.