For a well-functioning body, it is important that we eat a balanced diet of healthy fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates. When it comes to a vegan diet, there are a number of nutrient dense foods that are removed from the diet such as fish, grass fed meat, eggs and fermented diary such as kefir. That being said, you can still obtain all the important macronutrients, minerals and vitamins needed from consuming a plant based diet and knowing the best sources is important. Healthy fats are not only packed with energy and nutrients, they are important for satiety, hormone production, brain function, healthy skin and more loads more. They are also a great source of plant based protein making them a key source of nourishment for vegans.
Here are my top 5 healthy sources of fats...
Nuts – such as cashews, almonds and walnuts
Nuts are one of the healthiest foods let alone healthiest sources of fats. They are particularly beneficial for vegans as they are a source of protein, with ¼ cup providing approximately 5g protein. They also contain fibre, which keeps you feeling fuller for longer, reduces cholesterol, keeps your microbes happy and bowels flowing. Another way to enjoy the beautiful benefits of nuts is in the form of nut butters. These are great spread on sliced fruit, veggies or used in dressings for a creamier texture. Just make sure you look out for no added sugar, artificial flavours, hydrogenated oils and minimal added salt.
Chia seeds are originally from Mexico, consumed by the Aztec warriors to give them high energy and endurance. A 2 tablespoons serving of chia seeds provides you with approx. 8.5g fat, mostly in the form of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. This is particularly important as there are few sources of omega-3 fatty acids, fatty fish being a key one so for vegans who don’t consume fish, chia is an important source. Furthermore, omega-3 fats are an essential fatty acid which means we need to obtain them through our diet as our body is unable to manufacture it itself. Omega- 3 fats are also important for the absorption of fat soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E and K. The same serving size will also provide 4.5g protein and a whopping 10.5g fibre! When consumed the chia seeds create a gelatin-like substance in the stomach due to its high soluble fibre content. Not only does this keep you feeling full and suppresses appetite, but it acts as a prebiotic. Chia are also a wonderful non-dairy source of calcium as well as potassium and magnesium.
Coconut is a high source of saturated fat in the form of medium-chain triglyceride, which function differently to the long-chain fatty acids found in animal products. Medium-chain triglycerides are sent directly to the liver ready to be used as energy rather than be stored. In addition to their metabolism-boosting properties, medium-chain triglycerides may curb hunger more effectively than other forms of fat, leading to more appetite satiety and thus consuming fewer calories later. Coconut fat also contains anti-microbial properties thanks to the capric and lauric fatty acids, supporting the immune system. Enjoy these benefits in a number of forms such as shredded, ground to a flour, oil, milk and yoghurt keeping the dietary options interesting.
Aside from being absolutely delicious, avocado has an impressive nutrient profile. They are 80% fat, in the form of heart healthy monounsaturated fats, specifically oleic acid, which is also the main fat in olive oil. Oleic acid is not only anti-inflammatory but it lowers LDL cholesterol and increases the healthy HDL cholesterol, reducing your risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. Avo is also a great source of vitamin K, important for bone health, folate particularly important for pregnant women and vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant and boosts immune health. Avocados also boast twice the potassium of banana!
Olive oil is a key part of the Mediterranean diet, which is regarded by many as the healthiest way of eating. Thousands of research studies have been done on the Mediterranean diet, many of which associate it with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease. Aside from the same benefits of avocado, due to the mono-unsaturated fats, olive oil is a rich source of phenols, which are potent antioxidants. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals in the body, lowering inflammation. Chronic inflammation is believed to be among the leading drivers of chronic diseases.
Adding these forms of fats to your diet daily is an easy task. Simply throw some nuts or avocado onto your salads, chia seeds are great in smoothies giving them a thick shake consistency, olive oil drizzled on veggies ensures you absorb all their fat soluble nutrients and coconut oil is great for baking and high heat cooking.
Where you can, combining two or more of these fats in the one meal means even greater nutritional benefits. That’s why Tinkernick snack bars are a wonderful option, containing coconut, chia and nuts jam-packed in a perfect pocket sized bar. Perfect for vegans and anyone looking for a delicious, all natural on the go snack.