The 20 Best Full-Fat Foods for Weight Loss
No, we’re not talking about the awful food relatives force us to eat at the holidays. We’re talking about getting the fat on your plate: A report from the Credit Suisse Research Institute found that more and more of us are choosing whole-fat foods over skim, lite, fat-free or other modern monikers of leanness. And while many health organizations like the American Heart Association still want us to cut down on fat—particularly saturated fat—this healthy fats trend may be a healthy rebellion against those decades-old credos, according to recent studies.
In fact, people who eat a lot of high-fat dairy products actually have the lowest incidence of diabetes, according to a 2015 study of 26,930 people in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Those who ate a lot of low-fat dairy products, on the other hand, had the highest incidence. The researchers speculated that while calcium, protein, vitamin D and other nutrients in yogurt are indeed good for us, we need the fat that goes along with them in order to get their protective effects.
So what’s the best way to join the full-fat revolution? Eat This, Not That! polled some of the country’s top nutrition experts and asked for their favorite full-fat fat burners—so you can live healthier and lose your belly!
“I consume grass-fed butter every day because I consider it a health food,” says Cassie Bjork, RD, LD. “It’s an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, and it helps slow down the absorption of sugar and carbohydrates, leading to consistent energy levels and improved brain function. Plus, it tastes great!”
Spread a dab on your whole grain bread with confidence. “You can consume butter daily with confidence” because studies have shown “the saturated fat in it is not linked to heart disease,” says Bjork.
Heavy Cream in Coffee
Bjork requests it with her morning java. “I keep it simple at Starbucks with a plain cup of coffee, and I ask for it with heavy cream–the good stuff that’s kept behind the counter and not out with the milk,” she says. “Heavy cream is a healthy fat that helps keep your blood sugar stable between meals and snacks, which means consistent energy and brain power—not to mention it makes your coffee taste decadent!” Another bonus: “Heavy cream also helps negate any potentially negative side effects of caffeine, like the jitters,” she says. “The other creamer options, like whole, skim and even their new coconut milk—which is basically sugar water—can stimulate the production of your hormone insulin, which promotes weight gain and a host of inflammatory reactions. I have greater focus and brainpower and no cravings when I add heavy cream to my coffee.”
Start your morning with a touch of cream in some fat-blasting tea!
Thanks to the ever-growing Paleo trend, bacon is more popular than ever (if that’s possible)—and we recommend going with old school, full-fat pork. Because although opting for turkey bacon will save you about 13 calories and a gram of fat per slice, it also adds sodium to your plate—which can lead to high blood pressure. Plus, pork offers more protein and heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAS) than its poultry-based counterpart.
Bear in mind that no matter which option you add to your breakfast plate, serving size matters, so don’t pig out. A few slices is all you need.
While full-fat dairy packs more calories, it’s also more filling. That may help explain why a 2013 study review in the European Journal of Nutrition found that people who eat the fatty stuff are less likely to suffer from obesity than those who try and skip the calories with low-fat dairy. The study authors also found no ties between full-fat dairy and heart disease or diabetes. Ironically, some acids in milk fat—ones you don’t get from zero-fat varieties—may crank up your body’s calorie-burning centers, says study coauthor Mario Kratz, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the University of Washington.
Milk isn’t for everyone, especially if you feel bloated after a glass. In fact, if you’re slightly lactose intolerant, you’ll find that some amazing things happen to your body when you give up milk!
If you dress your salads with a squeeze of lemon and some pepper in an attempt to save calories, you may be missing out on some of the vital vitamins in your bowl. According to Iowa and Ohio State University researchers, pairing a little bit of fat with your veggies helps the body absorb cancer-fighting and heart-healthy nutrients like lycopene and beta-carotene. Not to mention, “Fat-free dressings often have added sugars or fillers, so even though you’re getting less fat, you’re not always saving calories,” says Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD.
That doesn’t give you an excuse to load up your salad with globs of dressing. Keep calories in check by sticking to two tablespoons of an olive-oil based dressing like Bolthouse Farms Classic Balsamic Olive Oil Vinaigrette, and be sure to steer clear of varieties that use soybean or vegetable oils. They don’t serve up the same health benefits.
4% Fat Yogurt
Packed with protein, crammed with calcium, and popping with probiotics, yogurt has all the makings of one of the best foods you can eat for weight loss and general health. And no, eating full fat won’t make you fat: Whole-milk yogurts tend to have more protein and less sugar than their leaner versions. Customers have noticed: “We still sell plenty of nonfat and low-fat dairy products, but the growth has come from whole-fat dairy products,” says Errol Schweizer, executive grocery coordinator at Whole Foods Market Inc., recently told the Wall Street Journal.
They really do lead to weight loss if you know exactly which ones to buy. Consult our essential list of best full-fat yogurts for weight loss to get the low-down on all the dairy-based good fats!
Regular Ice Cream
Because you don’t want to feel like a “cow,” it’s easy to think “skinny” ice creams are the cure. However, many of them have a dirty little secret lurking in their containers: propylene glycol, better known as antifreeze. If that wasn’t enough to convince you to put down your spoon, consider this: When fat is taken out of food, sugar is often added in its place. So while a small serving of full-fat ice cream will satisfy your craving and hunger with satiating fat, a sugar-spiked low-fat scoop will lead to an inevitable crash and more munchies.
Enjoy a scoop of an Eat This, Not That!-approved brand like Breyer’s Natural Vanilla, made with just seven pronounceable ingredients like fresh cream and sugar.
Yeah, we know: grass-fed beef is a little pricey. But its higher ratio of good-for-you healthy fats make it well worth the cost: A study in Nutrition Journal found that grass-fed meat contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce the risk of heart disease. And when it comes to your waistline, grass-fed beef is naturally leaner and has fewer calories than conventional meat. Consider this: A 7-ounce conventional strip steak, trimmed of fat, will run you 386 calories and 16 grams of fat. But a 7-ounce grass-fed strip steak is only 234 calories and five grams of fat—you’ll save more than 150 calories and your steak will taste better.
Enjoy your beef, guilt-free, by reading this FREE and easy guide: how to lose 10 pounds eating burgers!
Low-fat mayo not only tastes a bit fake, it’s also filled with unhealthy ingredients like added sugars, vegetable oils and artificial preservatives, explains Stephanie Middleberg, RD. “These ingredients have little nutritional value and decrease the body’s ability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Regularly eating things like low-fat mayo can lead to inflammation, GI issues, heart disease and increased cravings that lead to weight gain.”
Stick with regular mayo, like Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise, and spread it on your sandwich sparingly.
Natural Peanut Butter
Check out the nutrition labels on jars of regular and reduced-fat peanut butter. You’ll see a few differences: While the reduced-fat PB has—surprise!—less fat, it also has more sugar and salt. Now consider that the fat in PB is the healthful, monounsaturated kind that research shows lowers your sensitivity to insulin. “You’re really just trading healthy fat for sugar,” says Manuel Villacorta, M.S., R.D. “The only type of peanut butter I’ll eat is the natural variety,’ adds Anne Mauney, MPH, RD, a Washington D.C. area Registered Dietitian. “Non-natural nut butters usually contain partially hydrogenated oils, which is a type of trans-fat!”
Choose a natural or organic nut butter instead. The ingredient list should just be the nuts and maybe a little salt,” says Mauney.
Coconut is high in saturated fat, but more than half of that comes from lauric acid, a unique lipid that battles bacteria and improves cholesterol scores. And get this: A study published in Lipids found that dietary supplementation of coconut oil actually reduced abdominal obesity. Of the participants, half were given two tablespoons of coconut oil daily and the other half were given soybean oil, and although both groups experienced overall weight loss, only the coconut oil consumers’ waistlines shrunk as much as 1.1 inches.
Sprinkle unsweetened flakes over yogurt or use coconut milk in a stir-fry to start whittling your waist.
Olive oil is rich in cancer-fighting polyphenols and heart-strengthening monounsaturated fats, and when it comes to looking lean, it’s backed by some pretty strong facts. A recent study from the journal Obesity found that an olive-oil-rich diet resulted in higher levels of adiponectin than did a high-carb or high-protein diet. Adiponectin is a hormone responsible for breaking down fats in the body, and the more you have of it, the lower your BMI tends to be.
Reap the benefits by making olive oil your cooking fat of choice and using it in dressings and sauces. As one of our top-rated good fats, olive oil is as versatile as it is nutritious.
As in, keep the yolks. The bestselling book Zero Belly Diet features protein as fundamental to the plan, and eggs happen to be one of the easiest and most versatile delivery systems in the universe. Not only that, they’re also the number-one dietary source of a nutrient called choline. Choline, which is found also in lean meats, seafood and collard greens, attacks the gene mechanism that triggers your body to store fat around your liver. One Zero Belly Diet recipe—a breakfast hash with sweet potatoes and fresh farm eggs, found in Zero Belly Cookbook—became test panelist Morgan Minor’s go-to breakfast, and after just 3 weeks on the program, the female firefighter lost 11 pounds and 4 inches from her waist!
The more eggs you eat, the less egg-shaped you get. But don’t buy into unregulated supermarket-egg nutrition claims like “omega-3 enriched” or “free-range.” If you’re looking for the most natural eggs, hit up a local farmer.
Avocado & Avocado Oil
This wonder fruit is essentially Mother Nature’s butter. Although you should limit yourself to a quarter or half of an avocado, you have no reason to fear its fats. Avocados pack in healthy monounsaturated fats that contain oleic acid, which can actually help quiet feelings of hunger. They also give you two things butter doesn’t: protein and fiber. And made from pressed avocados, avocado oil is also rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that may help improve cholesterol.
Enjoy an Australian staple, the avocado smash. Mash half or quarter of an avocado with a squeeze of lemon, a dash of hot sauce, and some salt and pepper before slathering it on your whole-grain toast in the morning and you’ll easily stay full until lunchtime.
Good news for your sweet tooth: Chocolate can help you flatten your belly. Dark chocolate, that is. But to truly take advantage, don’t wait until dessert: A Nutrition and Diabetes journal study found that when men ate 3.5 ounces of chocolate two hours before a meal, those who had dark chocolate took in 17 percent fewer calories than those that ate milk chocolate. The researchers believe that this is because dark chocolate contains pure cocoa butter, a source of digestion-slowing stearic acid (one of the good fats). Milk chocolate’s cocoa butter content, on the other hand, is tempered with added butter fat and, as a result, passes more quickly through your GI tract.
Walnuts and Walnut Oil
Certain dietary fats come with red flags. And the absolutely worst match for your apple-shaped figure: saturated fats. While unsaturated fat can help reduce abdominal fat, saturated fat can increase waist size, a study published in the journal Diabetes found. Saturated fats, like the kind you’ll find in baked goods and red meat, “turn on” certain genes that increase the storage of fat in the belly, researchers say. Polyunsaturated fats, on the other hand, activate genes that reduce fat storage and improve insulin metabolism. At about 13 grams per one-ounce serving, walnuts are one of the best dietary sources.
Sprinkle a handful on your morning oats or entree salad for belly-busting benefits. A small Pennsylvania State study found that a diet rich in walnuts and walnut oil may help the body respond better to stress and can also help keep diastolic blood pressure levels down.
Salmon doesn’t get as bad of a rap as it used to when it comes to fat, but its health benefits are worth repeating. Adding a filet of this fish into your diet just twice a week to get the amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids recommended by the American Heart Association. Healthy people aren’t the only ones reaping the rewards of their dinner choices, though. Even those already at a high risk of cardiovascular disease can get a leg up by serving salmon a couple times a week. Omega-3s reduce the risk of arrhythmia, decrease triglyceride levels, and can actually slightly lower blood pressure.
Add some flaked salmon on a salad with some chopped avocado for a double down on those health benefits. And be sure to avoid the common mistakes people make when ordering salmon!
Tuna or to-not? That is the question. As a primo source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), canned light tuna is one of the best and most affordable fish for weight loss, especially from your belly! One study in the Journal of Lipid Research showed that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation had the profound ability to turn off abdominal fat genes. And while you’ll find two types of fatty acids in cold water fish and fish oils—DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)—researchers say DHA can be 40 to 70 percent more effective than EPA at down regulating fat genes in the abdomen, preventing belly fat cells from expanding in size.
But what about the mercury? Mercury levels in tuna vary by species; generally speaking, the larger and leaner the fish, the higher the mercury level. Bluefin and albacore rank among the most toxic. But canned chunk light tuna, harvested from the smallest fish, is considered a “low mercury fish” and can—and should!—be enjoyed two to three times a week (or up to 12 ounces), according to the FDA’s most recent guidelines.