Kris Carr

Blog Post

How Healthy Fats Can Boost Weight Loss & Well-Being

Hiya Gorgeous,

I love healthy plant-based fats. There isn’t a salad in town I won’t top with avocado. I add almond butter to my smoothies, flax oil to my salad dressings and I’ve never turned down a square or two of very dark chocolate as a late-night treat. But there was a time in my life when I was really confused about fat. I knew French fries weren’t doing my health (or waistline) any good, but I thought that anything containing fat was a no-no. So, I assumed I could just reach for the fat-free Snackwells instead of the Oreos and go on my merry mad-for-junk-food way. Spoiler alert: I still felt like crap.

Today, I eat a variety of plant-based healthy fats and feel fabulous (we’ll get to the types of fats in just a moment). There are many benefits that come along with eating a diet that includes the right fats. Think glowing skin and shinier, stronger hair for starters. Plus, healthy fats help keep your weight where you want it and support brain health.

But before we all leave our jobs for avocado farming (though that would be fun!), let’s step back and talk about the different kinds of fats. Some are not-so-great for your health and some you just can’t live without. The good news is, if you eat the healthier fats and don’t overdo it on sugars and refined carbs, you’ll probably have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight. Not only will you be unlikely to gain weight, but healthy fats are likely to help you to stay slim!

  • Trans fats (try to avoid these completely): By now it’s common knowledge that these fats have no health benefits and may actually be harmful. While there are some naturally occurring trans fats in dairy products, most of the trans fats in a standard diet are man-made. They’re made by taking healthy vegetable fats and adding hydrogen atoms to them. This saturated version of an otherwise healthy fat is more shelf-stable, which is why trans fats often appear in margarines, fried foods, cookies, cakes and other processed baked goods. Not only do trans fats cause an increase in “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, but they also work to decrease “good” HDL cholesterol (study).
  • Saturated fats (try to eat these sparingly): These fats have generally been thought of as unhealthy, especially when it comes to heart disease risk. Although, not all types of saturated fats impact your health the same way. For example, saturated fats from animal products, such as butter, cheese and fatty meats, tend to increase cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease risk (study), whereas the saturated fats in coconut oil, canned coconut milk (BPA-free cans, please!) and dark chocolate do not tend to have the same negative effect (study). So while adding some plant-based, unprocessed saturated fats to your diet may benefit your health, you probably want to avoid animal-based ones as much as possible.
  • Monounsaturated fats: You’ll find these fats in foods like avocados, nuts and olive oil. They’ve been found to be beneficial in lowering breast cancer risk (study), lowering cholesterol levels (source), improving rheumatoid arthritis symptoms (study) and reducing belly fat (study).
  • Polyunsaturated fats: These fats are found mostly in vegetable oils (corn, sunflower, safflower). Omega-3’s also fall into this category, and they are considered the healthiest and most essential fats on the block. You’ll find omega-3’s in foods like flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts and chia seeds. They are considered essential because your body cannot make them and you must get them in your diet to reap the benefits. These benefits include improving heart health and decreasing risk of stroke (source). The omega-3’s are also important for building brain cells and for a healthy functioning nervous system (source).


Boost Your Health and Promote Weight Loss With Healthy Fats

Before we dive into shedding some unwanted pounds (if that’s your goal), let’s do a fat recap. The trans fats are goners—they don’t serve your health. On the other side of the coin, polyunsaturated essential fats are integral to your health, monounsaturated fats can be beneficial and even saturated plant-based fats have some redeeming qualities.

In order to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight (if desired), it’s important to get healthy fats into your diet while also reducing the amount of simple sugars and white carbs (aka Snickers bars and Wonder Bread). By replacing these sugars and carbs with healthy fats, you may have a much easier time managing your weight (study). Plus, fats trigger satiety and may prevent overeating because your food tastes better. Yum, yum, done.

Here’s a chart that gives you an idea of how much and how often to eat these healthy fats:

healthy fats list

Hopefully you’re feeling more fat savvy and ready to integrate the beneficial ones into your diet. Whether you’re just looking to boost your health (prevention rocks) or shed some weight, fat can be your friend!

Your turn: What’s your favorite go-to healthy fat and how do you use it in your diet? I wanna know!

Peace & cashews,

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  1. Chantal says:

    Love the chart! I always wondered how much of the good fats I was supposed to eat. I’m pleasantly surprised at how much we are ”allowed” to eat… Now, I’m gonna go eat some nut butter on my toast for breakfast! 🙂 Thanks for the great info Kris! xo

  2. Great post Kris! Eating more healthy fats has improved my skin and hair, and helps me maintain my weight without almost no effort! My favorite fat source is avocado…love, love, love! Also coconut oil, avocado oil (awesome for roasting veggies), and raw nuts. And I personally chose to consume some ethically raised animal protein (pastured eggs and beef) after over 30 years as a vegetarian. It is so hard to change people’s thinking on fat…every believes that fat makes you fat. But I find the opposite to be true. I talk about this a lot in my blog, but you reach a much larger audience. So thanks for spreading the word!!!

  3. Laura says:

    My favorite healthy fats include a tablespoon of virgin organic coconut oil in the morning before my juice and after my glass of water. It just makes my morning feel totally great! Xoxo, Laura

  4. Roxanne says:

    My Daughter basically followed your diet and has lost over 60 pounds. She looks and feels amazing. She hasn’t been physically ill and has had her medications decreased. We both own everything you’ve written and have shared it with many friends and family.

  5. Marisol says:

    Great info Kris! Thanks so much. How can we know how much almond milk we can have a day? I drink mine home made (1.5 cups almonds/2lts water). In your chart we can get 1tbsp nuts, but also 2 tbsp walnuts (which for me those are nuts too-but they are under different type of fat so I’m a bit confused here).
    Thank you!

    • Kris says:

      Hi Marisol: I love that you make your own almond milk! Sorry for the confusion. We’ve updated the recommendations. It’s actually 1 ounce (not 1 Tbsp) nuts and 3 servings per day. So for your almond milk, that would be ¾ cup or half of your recipe. Walnuts could fall into that category, but they’ve been highlighted in the Polyunsaturated Fats list because they’re a good source of Omega-3s. The chart is different for that category because you don’t need full servings to meet your Omega-3 needs. Hope that helps! xo, Kris

  6. Karen says:

    Love your work and love eating some plant fats. But I found the following misleading: “not all types of saturated fats impact your health the same way. For example, saturated fats from animal products, such as butter, cheese and fatty meats, tend to increase cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease risk (study), whereas the saturated fats in coconut oil, canned coconut milk (BPA-free cans, please!) and dark chocolate do not tend to have the same negative effect (study). So while adding some plant-based, unprocessed saturated fats to your diet may benefit your health, you probably want to avoid animal-based ones as much as possible.” The second study cited actually states the following: “Coconut oil generally raised total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol to a greater extent than cis unsaturated plant oils, but to a lesser extent than butter. The effect of coconut consumption on the ratio of total cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol was often not examined. Observational evidence suggests that consumption of coconut flesh or squeezed coconut in the context of traditional dietary patterns does not lead to adverse cardiovascular outcomes. However, due to large differences in dietary and lifestyle patterns, these findings cannot be applied to a typical Western diet. Overall, the weight of the evidence from intervention studies to date suggests that replacing coconut oil with cis unsaturated fats would alter blood lipid profiles in a manner consistent with a reduction in risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”

    In the context of a very healthy plant-based diet and lifestyle like that you describe in your blog and books, some saturated plant fats are likely to be absolutely fine for many people. But this doesn’t mean that adding saturated plant fats provides benefits. It may be that most people will do well despite eating saturated plant fat, because the rest of their diet and lifestyle is so health-promoting. It really depends what you’re replacing – if you’re replacing animal saturated fat with coconut oil, then yes, the current research suggests this could be a mildly positive change, but if you’re replacing no saturated fat with coconut oil, then this may be a neutral or negative change.

    • Kris says:

      Thanks for your comment, Karen. Coconut oil probably deserves a blog of its own, which is why I double checked with our Crazy Sexy RD, Jen Reilly on your comment. Here’s what she had to say: “Studies show coconut oil as a great butter alternative because even though it is 86% saturated fat (compared to butter’s 64%), it does not have the same negative affect. An area we didn’t get into in this blog is that coconut oil may actually be one of the few foods that can increase “good” HDL cholesterol (a cholesterol which is very stubborn to change, and one that is very much genetically determined). Here is an interesting study on that that you may enjoy:

      • Karen says:

        Thank you, Kris and Jen, I did enjoy it! Not an easy study to do. I notice intake of dietary cholesterol was higher in the control group at baseline and at 3 months compared to the coconut oil group (table V) – seems like that could affect results. Hopefully future studies with bigger control groups and more uniform dietary makeup will make things clearer. Will be interesting to see what future studies suggest, and even more interesting to see what effect coconut oil would have on arteries themselves, rather than biomarkers.

      • As Karen points out, this is actually what the study cited in favor of coconut oil concludes : ” Overall, the weight of the evidence from intervention studies to date suggests that replacing coconut oil with cis unsaturated fats would alter blood lipid profiles in a manner consistent with a reduction in risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”

    • Patty Cormier says:

      I can’t agree more. I jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon and my cholesterol skyrocketed. That was the only difference in my diet. But according to Dr. Mark Hyman, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have higher cholesterol and he (and other studies show) believes heart disease is caused by inflammation from too much sugar. I hope I got that right.

  7. Thank you for the great information and chart. This is very helpful.
    I almost always have mixed nuts (raw when possible) available to snack on, put chia seeds, hempseeds and flaxseeds into my smoothies. I make banana and egg pancakes (1 banana & 2 eggs) and found that adding 1tsp-1tbsp chai seeds then let the mixture sit for a few minutes before cooking, made the pancakes more fluffy.
    Keep up the great work you are doing. Have a blessed 2016

  8. Alison says:

    Great post! Can you comment on your view on oils? so much is being said about the integrity of olive oil. and in generally, oils are processed fats- not in their natural state. do you have any thoughts about this line of thinking that strays from any use of oil? thanks!

    • Kris says:

      Good question, Alison! Yes, oils are almost always processed, but it’s challenging to eat a diet that avoids oils altogether. The big question is usually about which olive oil is best. I generally use extra virgin olive oil that has been cold pressed. Extra virgin means that chemicals aren’t added during processing. Cold pressed means that heat hasn’t been added as the olives are pressed to release the oils, which I like because heat tends to change the flavor of the oil. Perhaps we’ll do an “Oils Review” blog at some point! xo

  9. Hi Kris – thanks for the great information. I make homemade coconut milk with 1 cup shredded coconut to 4 cups water and then strained through a nut milk bag. How does the homemade version compare to the canned as far how much is a healthy serving? I know the canned version is much thicker and creamier. And also, after I chill my homemade coconut milk I skim off the fat layer that floats to the top and use that in place of butter, spread on my multigrain toast or muffins, so yummy! Thanks again.

    • Kris says:

      Hi Jen! One-quarter cup coconut milk (from the can) has about the same amount of fat as 1/3 cup of shredded coconut. What you’re filtering out when you strain your milk is mostly fiber, but also includes some fat. I checked with our Crazy Sexy RD, Jen Reilly, and she would consider about 1/3 of your recipe as equivalent to 1 serving (probably a bit more than a cup). Hope that helps! xo

  10. Lawrence Kelly says:

    Great Information, TKS.? so much!

  11. Kim Swanson says:

    Thanks for the article. But your information on saturated fats is way out dated and has been debunked! Good grass fed butter, dairy and cheese is actually supplying you with the much needed Vitamin K2 (MK4) which helps to clear out your arteries. Heart disease and heart attacks did not become the number one killers until the fat free diet was introduced. Look at the French. They have been eating these foods and they have some of the lowest rates of heart attack and heart disease. The was a steady done in the Neatherlands that revealed heart attacks and heart disease was cut by 50% and they lived 7 years longer on average form eating animal protein rich in K2(MK4) The key, the saturated fat has to be grass fed in order for the vitamin K2 (MK4) to be made, and then passed on to us humans. Cholesterol is neither good nor bad. It can be a problem if the LDL is oxidized. That is the important missing piece, and what should be tested, by taking a lipoprotein(a) test. Please do some research on K2. There are some pretty impressive studies that this maybe the missing key nutrient in our diets, you can not get it from vegetables, or other fats. This vital nutrient has all but disappeared from our diet. Dr. Westin Price figured it out in the 1930’s, the rest of us are just now fully understanding what he discovered, and how it has impacted our health.

    • Kris says:

      Hi Kim! Here’s what our Crazy Sexy RD, Jen Reilly wanted to share in response to your comment: “Thank you for bringing up some important points about diet and heart disease. There is certainly a difference in type of saturated fat from animal products from cows given a grass-fed vs. a grain, soy, or corn-based diet. And, Vitamin K2 is also something that researchers are beginning to explore in more detail, and although they have only started to skim the surface, Vitamin K2 does appear to have a role in preventing coronary heart disease. Vitamin K1 is found in plants and can actually be converted in the body to Vitamin K2. Great sources of Vitamin K2 include fermented foods (such as tempeh and miso) and animal products. We will keep eyes peeled as more conclusive research emerges. Thanks for bringing it up!”

  12. Patty Cormier says:

    I’ve been confused by fats recently because after years of consuming healthy fats, I’ve been listening to the high carb low fat vegans who follow The Starch Solution (no oil of any kind!) or 80/10/10 and have become worried I’m having too much.

  13. Becca Carnes says:

    Such great info!! We ( as in my little boy and I ;)) love Avocado… on everything! Smoothies are great for adding in Hemp and Flax seeds. And Coconut oil spread on muffins or toast is heaven to me LOL
    Thank you for all you do! Love your website and books XO

  14. Geri Teeter says:

    Hi Kris,
    I would like Jen’s and your take on the Forks Over Knives, McDougall, Esselstyn, and Barnard diet plans that dictate little or no added fat. I’ve been reading about health and nutrition from many sources for many years (including yours) and am a current student of IIN, and it seems the more I read, the more confusing it becomes because every school of thought makes a valid case. I personally wholeheartedly believe in a whole foods plant based diet with no animal products because of my love of animals, and using healthy fats, including a moderate amount of certain oils makes food taste better and is more satiating. IIN teaches bio-individuality, but I am going to teach strictly the plant based way once I set up my website and blog, but the fat and oil debate versus little to none has me stumped after reading information from the above mentioned diet plans. Thanks!

    • Kris says:

      Hi Geri, Thanks so much for your question. You’re right, it’s hard to know which plant-based diet plan is best! Our Crazy Sexy RD has combed through nutrition research and also taken into account the importance of satiation and diet flexibility when helping me make recommendations. We still encourage what’s considered a low-fat diet (~30% of calories coming from fat), but we also emphasize very few processed foods, carbs that are minimally processed and high in fiber, very little added sugar, and healthy plant fats. The research shows that this approach is no worse for heart disease risk, and it may even be better. Plus, healthy fats are important for your skin and brain. There does tend to be a fear that being more liberal with fats in a plant-based diet may make calorie intake too high, but we have found the opposite to be true. And I know personally that if I cut out fat, I tend to give in to sugar cravings more easily, which in the long run isn’t good for maintaining a healthy weight, inflammation, heart health, or cancer risk. I hope that helps. Best of luck with your website and blog! xo

  15. Alisa says:

    That small amounts of dietary fat may pass cell membranes via osmosis isn’t in question. Without the presence of insulin you can not store dietary fat in adipose tissue. My “theory” is still correct. The less insulin, the less fat storage, thus dietary fat can not be stored as fat.

  16. John Grant says:

    I agree with a lot of the points you made in this article. I appreciate the work you have put into this and hope you continue writing on this subject.

  17. Ema Watson says:

    First of all, thanks for sharing your blog with us. I really like it very much. Actually, I am 25 years old and I had skin pigmentation problem from very long time. The doctor has advised me to eat healthily for my skin problem, right now I ma using “CysteamineCream” for my skin treatment, you can also use this and I definitely going to follow your advice. Please keep sharing like this kind of blog with us.

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  19. thuochanoi says:

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