Top 6 Healthiest Vegan Fat Sources

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Healthy vegan foods such as dry fruits, coco powder, coconut, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds are placed on a table.

Vegan fat sources | Types | RDA of fats | Benefits

Vegan foods are generally considered to be healthy. But, they are believed to be lacking in healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids.

Increasing scientific evidence proves that eating vegan doesn’t mean you need to miss out on healthy fats. There are plenty of vegan fat sources that can provide essential fatty acids and other important nutrients to your body.

Here are the top 6 vegan fat sources that are sure to provide you with the necessary nutrition.

Vegan fat sources

Given below are some of the vegan fat sources which are very beneficial for health. The daily recommended intake has been suggested for each of the fat sources mentioned below.

1. Nuts

Nuts and seeds are packed with healthy fats. They are also rich in minerals, proteins, and fiber.

Nuts like walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, and cashews are great sources of healthy fats.

For instance, almonds are a good source of monounsaturated fats. One ounce of almonds [1]Harvard T.H. Chan: Almonds will provide you with 14 grams of fat (80% monounsaturated, 15% polyunsaturated, and 5% saturated).

Walnuts are known for being loaded with essential fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and vegetable omega-3 fatty acid, the precursor of two longer-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 PUFA). There are studies [2]PubMed: Does regular walnut consumption lead to weight gain? that indicate that regular consumption of walnuts does not necessarily increase the risk of weight gain.

How Much to Eat:  5 ounces per week

2. Seeds

Chia, sesame, flax, sunflower, and hemp seeds are also excellent sources of healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids. Vegans can easily add them to their diet and reach their daily requirement of healthy fats.

For instance, chia seeds are the richest source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids [3]Harvard T.H. Chan: Chia Seeds. Additionally, they contain all nine essential amino acids that the human body cannot produce independently. 

A single serving size of dried chia seeds(2.5 tablespoons) contains 9 grams of fat, 8 of which are heart-healthy fats.

How Much to Eat:  5 ounces per week

3. Avocado  

Avocados are exceptional fruits in terms of fat content. While eating one avocado per day may not be suitable for everyone, it’s a great addition to any vegan meal.

Avocado is a powerhouse of healthy fats, like monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and oleic acid [4]Harvard T.H. Chan: Avocados . This helps reduce heart diseases, lowers bad cholesterol, and increases good cholesterol.

Moreover, avocados help the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are essential for our bodies’ proper functioning.

How Much to Eat: 4 cups per week

4. Plant oils

Olive oil:  is one of the most popular and widely used sources of healthy fats in vegan diets. Oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat, constitutes 70-80% [5]National Library of Medicine: High dietary oleic acid in olive oil‐supplemented diet enhanced omega‐3 fatty acid in blood plasma of rats of olive oil’s composition. 

However, there is a distinction between cold-pressed and extra-virgin olive oils versus ‘pomace’ olive oil. The former is much healthier because they contain less saturated fat. You can usually tell them apart by their color. Pomace oils are lighter in color. In supermarkets, they’re often labeled as “light olive oil.”

Coconut oil: Coconut oil is an excellent source of healthy fats, including medium-chain fatty acids(MCAs). It is also known to have antibacterial properties.

Rapeseed oil: Another popular plant-based oil rich in omega 3 is cold-pressed rapeseed oil. However, it is important to remember that heating the oil damages its properties.

How Much to Eat: 1 ounce per day

5. Chocolate

Dark chocolate has cocoa butter, which is high in saturated fat. 

One-third of chocolate’s fat content is made up of stearic acid, which is a type of saturated fat. However, it does not raise LDL cholesterol like most other types of saturated fats. Instead, the liver converts stearic acid into oleic acid: a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.

How Much to Eat: 1 ounce per day

6. Tofu

Tofu is another excellent source of healthy fats on a vegan diet. It is made from soybeans, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, tofu mostly contains unsaturated fats.

Isoflavones [6]PubMed: Soy isoflavones lower serum total and LDL cholesterol in humans: a meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials from soybean have been demonstrated to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels. Thus eating tofu regularly can help to maintain cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of heart disease.

How Much to Eat: 5 ounces per week

Types of fats

Fats are essential for the human body, but not all fats are created equal. There are four distinct types [7]American Heart Association: Dietary Fats of fat: 

  1. Saturated fats
  2. Monounsaturated fats
  3. Polyunsaturated fats
  4. Trans fats

Each of these can have different effects on your health. Understanding the differences between these fats is important to make informed dietary choices and ensuring a balanced diet.

1. Saturated fats 

Saturated fats are found naturally in animal products like meat and dairy, coconut oil, and palm oil. Saturated fatty acids [8]ScienceDirect: Saturated Fatty Acid are relatively solid at room temperature because they contain very few double bonds between their carbon molecules. 

Eating too much-saturated fat can increase your risk of developing high cholesterol levels, which could lead to heart disease or stroke. However, small amounts of saturated fat can benefit some people who need more energy or are trying to gain weight. 

2. Monounsaturated fats 

Monounsaturated fats come from plant-based sources like olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds. They contain one double bond between their carbon molecules, making them liquid at room temperature; however, they start to turn solid when chilled.

Monounsaturated fatty acids can help lower your bad cholesterol levels [9]American Heart Association: Monounsaturated Fat while increasing your good cholesterol levels. This reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.

3. Polyunsaturated fats 

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are also referred to as essential fatty acids (EFA). They are essential for the healthy functioning of the human body, but our bodies cannot produce them on their own. Therefore, they must be obtained from the food we eat.

Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which come from vegetable oils (like sunflower or corn oil). These fats contain multiple double bonds between their carbon molecules, so they remain liquid even when refrigerated.

These fats can help reduce inflammation in the body and are essential for maintaining healthy cell membranes and hormone [10]ScienceDirect: Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid production.

4. Trans fats 

Trans fats (unhealthy fats) are created by adding hydrogen atoms to vegetable oils in order to make them more stable. This process is known as hydrogenation. 

Trans fats tend to be solid at room temperature and provide no nutritional benefit whatsoever. In fact, if consumed regularly, trans fats increase bad cholesterol levels in the body. This increases the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke. 

As such, it’s best to avoid foods with trans fat whenever possible; if you see “partially hydrogenated” on an ingredient label, know that this means it contains trans fat.

How much fat do you need?

The amount of fat you need depends on several factors, including your age, gender, activity level, and overall health. 

The recommended daily allowance for saturated fats according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Heart Association are as follows:

American Heart Association [11]American Heart Association: Summary of American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations Revision 2006U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) [12]U.S. Department of Agriculture: DIETARY GUIDELINES
FOR AMERICANS
2020-2025
>7% of calories from saturated fats>10% of calories from saturated fats

Importance of healthy fats in a vegan diet

Vegan diets can be low in certain healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, vegans should make an effort to include sources of plant-based omega-3s.  After all, these healthy fats come with several health benefits. 

Here are some benefits of healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat):

  1. Fats are essential macronutrients that our bodies need in order to function properly. They help us absorb a category of nutrients called fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce your risk of heart disease and strokes.
  3. Healthy fats are essential for better brain health and help to improve cognitive functioning.
  4. Omega-3 fatty acids also help in reducing joint pain and stiffness associated with conditions such as arthritis [13]National Library of Medicine: The Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Rheumatoid Arthritis.
  5. Essential fatty acids, such as omega-3s and omega-6s, are the building blocks of healthy cell membranes. These polyunsaturated fats also help produce the skin’s natural oil barrier, which is critical in keeping skin hydrated, plumper, and younger-looking.

Conclusion

Making wise dietary choices is important to ensure optimal health on a vegan diet. Understanding different types of healthy fats is an important aspect of this process. A healthy fat intake can help achieve a vegan diet that is varied, balanced, and nutritious.

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