All fats are not created equal. Some fats - the saturated kind - seem to raise bad cholesterol. Other fats - the unsaturated kind - seem to lower bad cholesterol. While a low-fat diet can help lower cholesterol, not all high fat foods should be avoided. The following foods are high in fat - but the fats they contain, with the exception of chocolate, are mostly unsaturated. These yummy foods are also chock-full of other nutrients that can add a healthy boost to your daily eating plan.

  1. Nuts & Seeds:  Almonds, along with other nuts and seeds, are high in vitamin E, magnesium, and potassium. Walnuts are particularly high in omega 3 fatty acids, which seem to help lower the risk of heart disease. Nuts and seeds are an integral part of the DASH diet plan, which has been shown to lower blood pressure in most people.
  2. Salmon: Salmon and other fatty fishes such as herring and mackerel are full of omega-3 fatty acids. While omega 3's can help prevent blood clots and lower blood pressure, many Americans don't get enough of these essential fats. The American Heart Association recommends two 3-ounce servings of fish per week for better heart health.
  3. Avocadoes: A whole avocado packs a powerful nutritional punch, providing a third of your day's need for potassium along with some fiber, beta-carotene, and vitamin E to boot. But you may want to limit yourself to a smaller serving since a whole one packs in 30 grams of total fat - almost half of the daily limit! Add ¼ to 1/3 of an avocado to your salad for a little flair, make guacamole, or just eat it as a snack.
  4. Canola Oil: While all vegetable oils are low in saturated fat, canola oil is the lowest. It's also one of the highest in omega-3 fatty acids making this the cooking oil of choice. Use canola oil when you don't want any additional strong flavors in your food. Olive oil is a good choice for those times you may want a stronger flavored oil.
  5. Dark Chocolate: This is the one food on the list that is high in saturated fat - but the type of saturated fat that dominates in dark chocolate does not seem to be a big culprit in raising cholesterol. While dark chocolate is not exactly a health food, it's not all that bad for you either. Not only is it not particularly harmful for cholesterol levels, it also contains healthy disease fighting flavenoids. Fruits and vegetables are even better sources of these flavenoids plus they're fat and sugar free! But let's face it, chocolate tastes better. So, look for dark chocolate that is sold in small, individually wrapped pieces to help keep portions in control. Read the label to keep track of the calories and fat chocolate contributes to your diet.

 The one place where all fats are created equal is calories. But moderately high fat diets seem to help some people with weight loss by keeping them more satisfied with their diet.   

Beth Kitchin PhD RD
Assistant Professor
UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences