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6 Healthy High-Fat Foods

The term “high-fat foods” means different things to different people. We often hear “experts” talk about high-fat diets as used by the average American. These “high-fat diets” also include an excessive amount of sugar, especially fructose, and other processed carbohydrates. The average American’s diet also includes the fat and protein found in processed meats, cheeses, spreads and sauces.

The six “healthy high-fat foods” listed below are healthy in the context of a healthy diet, but before you load up on these six foods, check the rest of your diet and get rid of some of the junk. When a diet is free of starchy, sugary foods, it burns fat efficiently. Once you get your body burning fat efficiently, eating higher-fat foods provides energy, satiety and pleasure. If you’re not sure how to get your diet cleaned up, find a weight loss coach and get some help, or download our E-Book, Eat Well. Live Well. If your diet is cleaned up, take advantage of the following six “healthy high-fat foods.”

1. Butter

Slathering butter on top of several slices of whole grain bread isn’t the right choice in pursuing a healthy way of life, but what about mixing it in with your bowl of steamed vegetables, using it to fry your eggs or adding a little on top of your freshly grilled steak?

The days of banishing butter are gone. Most people know how bad transfat-filled margarine is, but some people are still skeptical of adding butter back into their diet after years of thinking it was bad for them. We’ve been led to believe saturated fat was a significant cause of heart disease, but research shows that’s far from the case.

Butter is gaining popularity outside the United States as well. Unfavorable weather and growing momentum behind a low-carb lifestyle resulted in a significant butter shortage in Norway recently. How bad has it become? Two Swedish men were arrested for smuggling more than 500 pounds of butter into Norway during the shortage. The price of butter in Norway was as much as 30 times its normal selling price!

Butter handles heat well, so it’s great for use in a frying pan. It also adds great taste to many meat and vegetable dishes, staples in a healthy diet. When shopping for butter, buy organic if possible. Even better, buy butter from organic and grass-fed cows. If you want to go to a whole new level of your butter experience, give ghee a try. Just be warned; once you taste ghee on your food, you might never go back to basic butter.

2. Egg Yolks

Egg whites provide a convenient, almost tasteless way to add extra protein to a meal, but the real nutrition is found in egg yolks. Egg whites contain more postassium, magnesium and niacin than the yolk. The yolk contains almost all the iron, phosphorus, thiamin, folate, vitamins B6 and B 12 and all the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K as well as all the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. Nutrition expert Chris Masterjohn wrote an extensive article on the benefits of egg yolks, which you can find here.

If you’re still hanging onto worries about the fact that egg yolks contain cholesterol, it’s probably time to rethink this old paradigm. Dietary cholesterol is very important for a healthy metabolism. When blood cholesterol levels are out of range, it’s a sign something is awry in an individual’s metabolism, not a sign they eat too many egg yolks. Cage-free eggs are a step up from conventional eggs. Omega-3 eggs contain a little more omega-3 fatty acids, though they’re not the same omega-3s you get from fish. Eggs from pasture-raised chickens are best.

3. Coconut Oil

Virgin coconut oil is a staple for those following Paleo or lower-carb diets. Coconut oil’s high smoke point makes it great for cooking or frying. Some of the fats found in coconut oil are called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Some research has shown MCTs increase energy expenditure compared to other fat sources, which would help support fat loss efforts. They are also metabolized differently, allowing for their quick use for energy during exercise.

Coconut oil helps increase HDL cholesterol, promoting heart health. It can also support immune health as it has anti-microbial, anti-bacterial properties. You can find in-depth information on coconut oil and other fats at the Weston A Price foundation website. When shopping for coconut oil, look for virgin coconut oil.

4. Avocado

Looking for a way to make a boring old chicken breast a lot more exciting? Slice up some avocado and throw on some salsa for a great-tasting meal. Outside of Mexican foods, avocado is often forgotten about for everyday meals. It goes great with eggs, poultry and thrown on a salad. Of course, you can always make them into guacamole as well. Just skip the chips.

Avocado is another nutrient-dense source of fats. Half an avocado contains about 10 grams of fat and 7 grams of carbohydrate, which are mostly fiber. They’re also loaded with vitamins and minerals.

5. Full-Fat Dairy

Not everyone can or should be using cow’s dairy, but for those who do, they shouldn’t fear full-fat milk and cheese. We’ve been conditioned for years to buy skim, one percent or two percent milk. Much of the confusion comes from the “saturated fat is bad” mantra that started 50 to 60 years ago.

Contrary to what you may believe, children who drink whole milk weigh less than those who drink low-fat or fat-free milk. Other research shows dairy fat is good for heart health and reducing diabetes risk. The fat found in dairy contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been shown to support fat loss. The amount of CLA found in dairy is influenced by the diet the dairy cows consume so, if possible, buy milk and other dairy products from grass-fed cows. 

6. Bacon

You can’t end an article about healthy high-fat foods without mentioning bacon. When it comes to the taste, who doesn’t like bacon? When it comes to eating it, unfortunately, some people are fearful of eating it.

Bacon seems to be one of the favorite foods for the Paleo and Primal communities, groups of health and fitness enthusiasts committed to eating a diet based on what our ancestors once ate. Of course, we're talking about preservative-free bacon. Processed meats have been associated with health problems, so look for uncured bacon when you buy it. Some bacon has added sugar as well, so check the label. Bacon from pasture-raised pork is best, especially when you can find it from a local farm. If you don't do pork, you can find turkey and beef bacon as well.


The foods mentioned above provide quality protein, natural fat and, in certain cases, quality fiber as well. They also contain significant amounts of vitamins and minerals. That said, even these nutrient-dense, quality whole foods can become far from healthy when they’re combined with today’s processed foods. When cereal, bread, chips and other high-carb processed foods are combined with these foods, it sets the stage for unwanted, negative health effects.

Processed carbohydrates raise insulin levels and stop the body from burning the fat found in the foods above. They can increase inflammation and may actually change the way these foods are metabolized by the body. In the context of a healthy nutrition plan, the foods above have their place, but those who insist on eating the foods found in the Standard American Diet aren’t likely to glean the health benefits of them.

Do you have some other favorites, or favorite ways of making some of the foods above? Share your thoughts, experiences or ask questions below.

Written by Tom Nikkola – Director of Nutrition & Weight Management

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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Reader Comments (6)

Just last week I was at my child's well-check at her pediatrician's office. The doctor asked me what type milk my kids drink. I replied 2% (just as we had weaned ourselves down to skim milk, I am currently "weaning" is back up to whole) I got a stern lecture on how my kids should be drinking only skim or 1% because of the high fat and cholesterol levels. I'm just wondering when this info will become mainstream advice again...

March 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJaime

I get the same lecture every year from my pediatrician's office too. I refuse to go down to skim milk. When I was discussing this with my husband about drinking full fat organic milk. Then I mentioned that the pediatrician talked about heart disease, scarring of arteries. My husband said it is the homogenization of the milk. He had read an article years ago, that said homogenization is was scars heart arteries. I tried organic milk with no homogenization. I loved it. My kids are so use to the other, they did not like it.

Below is the article regarding Homogenization.

Homogenization causes artery damage has been known for quite awhile. This is from the journal Atherosclerosis (1989; 77:251-6).
“Homogenized Cow’s milk transforms healthy butter fat into microscopic spheres of fat containing xanthine oxidase (XO) which is one of the most powerful digestive enzymes there is. The spheres are small enough to pass intact right through the stomach and intestines walls without first being digested. Thus this extremely powerful protein “knife” XO floats throughout the body in the blood and lymph systems. When the XO breaks free from its fat envelope, it attacks the inner wall of whatever vessel it is in. This creates a wound. The wound triggers the arrival of “patching plaster” to seal off the wound. The “patching plaster” is cholesterol. Hardening of the arteries, heart disease, chest pain, heart attack is the results.” (As reported by Paul Pitchford, Healing With Whole Foods, p19)

The reason given for homogenization is to make the big fat droplets smaller for easier digestion. The reason not stated is the fat floats to top and does not look as pleasing to the eye. By homogenizing and releasing xanthine oxidase, it does make digestion simple, but by damaging the fat soluble vitamins it makes them harder to digest and absorb.

One reason milk is homogenized is for a longer shelf life. To homogenize milk it has to be put through a mechanical process. It is passed through pipes and fine filers at high pressure and a speed of 600 feet per second. The fat portion of the milk is broken up into very small globules. As a fine mist they become suspended in the liquid and do not rise to the top.

When milk is not homogenized, the fat and the xanthine oxidase (XO), which is a naturally occurring substance in the milk, are digested in the stomach and small intestine. They are naturally converted into smaller molecules, which get used by the body or are excreted. Xanthine oxidase is an enzyme found in the liver. If any foreign XO enters the bloodstream it attacks specific targets within the arteries. Lesions in the artery walls are a result from this attack. Scar tissue and calcified plaques are a result of the healing phase. Atherosclerosis develops, and arteries lose their elasticity as this process continues.

The damage caused by this process takes a long time to show up. All milk in the dairy section is homogenized. Products that have homogenized milk as the base would be cheese, butter, yogurt, buttermilk, and ice cream. Cholesterol is not the problem; processed food is.

Cholesterol is a problem when it gets caught on the artery wall, and this only happens when there is something to get caught on. On a biochemical level processing food signals a self-destructive mechanism in the body. Tampering with Mother Nature is not a good ideal.
Heart disease has skyrocketed in the last fifty years, yet cholesterol was in foods for a long period before this dramatic rise. The cholesterol is not the problem, it is when it tries to fix the damaged arteries, and eventually causes the obstruction called blocked arteries. Homogenization causes artery damage that we blame on cholesterol.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTania

Love to see butter on your list but must take issue with the comment that "butter handles heat well." With a smoke point of 350 degrees, butter does NOT handle heat well. Add a touch of olive oil to your butter and you'll raise the smoke point a bit. Or use ghee. I believe (although I'm not positive) that it's the milk solids in butter that cause the low smoke point, and there are no milk solids in ghee.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeg J.

Thank you Tom Nikkola for posting such an intelligent and accurate article on dietary fat! I myself follow this line of thinking and came to this same conclusion through my own research years ago. However I am surprisingly shocked to see it posted here by a large corporation as it is still not accepted by "conventional wisdom". Such forward thinking makes me proud to be a member of Lifetime Fitness. Do all Lifetime nutritionists follow this advice? I hope so! We need more of you out there educating the public on the real truth about dietary fat!

March 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

This article is awesome. One note, there's no such thing as uncured bacon. If you want pork belly, buy pork belly. Any packaged bacon that says it is uncured most likely has been dosed in high amounts of celery powder or "natural flavor" to preserve it. Celery has a high amount of nitrates. I, personally, do not fear nitrates as much as I fear sugar cured meats. Research sugar curing and AGEs (advanced glycation end-products). Finding bacon that hasn't been cured with sugar is also extremely difficult, but not impossible.

March 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris

@ Meg: Thanks for the comment. You're correct, ghee is better at higher temperatures, as is coconut oil.

@ Jennifer: Thank you. It's funny how "conventional wisdom" is not always wisdom, isn't it? Yes, you should be hearing the same kind of message from all of our dietitians, as we go through a pretty drawn out selection process to make sure they're the right fit. I can't guarantee it, but I would hope so.

@Chris: Thank you! I'll look into this more, but from the reading I've done, celery used for preserving food isn't the same as synthetic preservatives, or even sodium nitrite which may contain some heavy metals. It's just celery. If you have some information to point at, I'd love to take a look. "Uncured" typically means free of synthetic nitrites. Fresh meat is always best, but the uncured options can be a healthier option than the heavily processed cured meats.
Good point on the sugar as well. While a gram or two per serving might be ok, if the product says "maple sugar smoked..." that's a different story. Most of the all natural, uncured bacon doesn't provide even a gram of sugar per serving. Salt would probably be better for preservation than anything, but of course the taste wouldn't be the same. Are you saying too much sugar in the diet creates AGEs (totally agree)? Or are you saying you've read a small amount of sugar used to preserve the meat causes problems in the meat? If so, please pass along some resources I can check out. I'll be interested to review.

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTom Nikkola

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