Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are both healthful fats. They can aid hormone function, memory, and the absorption of specific nutrients.

Including healthful fats in a meal also creates a sense of fullness, slows down the digestion of carbohydrates, and adds flavor to food.

Read on to discover the best sources of these fats and learn the difference between healthful and unhealthful fats.

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Fatty fish contain large amounts of unsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in heart and brain health. The American Heart Association recommends that people eat 2 servings of fatty fish each week. Around 3 oz of cooked fish equates to one serving.

Options include:

  • tuna
  • herring
  • mackerel
  • salmon
  • sardines
  • trout

Both fresh and canned fish products are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Canned tuna, mackerel, and other products can help those with limited access to fresh produce get ample omega-3 in their diet.

For example, one 3-oz serving of fresh mackerel contains approximately 11.8 g of fat and 15.8 g of protein.

Discover other health benefits of oily fish here.

Although they are small in size, chia seeds are rich in several nutrients. A 1 ounce (oz), or 28.35 g, serving of chia seeds contains 8.5 g of fat, much of which is omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are, in fact, one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3.

Omega-3 may help relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and reduce triglycerides in the blood, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Research also suggests that supplementing a healthful diet with chia seeds may lower blood pressure in people with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Chia seeds also provide antioxidants, fiber, protein, iron, and calcium.

Learn more about the health benefits of chia seeds here.

Eating just 100 g of 70–85% dark chocolate provides 42.6 g of fat, as well as other nutrients, such as potassium and calcium. This amount also contains 228 milligrams (mg) of magnesium.

Dark chocolate also contains flavonoid antioxidants, which can have cognitive and cardiovascular benefits.

However, 24.5 g of this fat content is saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends people limit their daily intake of saturated fat to less than 7% of total daily calories.

In addition, 100 g of 70–85% dark chocolate can also contain 24 g of added sugar, so it is important to enjoy this food in moderation.

Learn more about the health benefits of dark chocolate here.

Eggs are a popular source of protein, especially for vegetarians. One 50 g hard-boiled egg boasts 5.3 g of fat, 1.6 of which are saturated, and just 78 kcal.

Egg yolk contains vitamin D and choline, a B vitamin that supports the function of the liver, brain, nerves, and muscles. The yolk also contains other phytonutrients, including lutein.

A 2018 study carried out on Chinese adults, for example, reported that up to 1 egg a day might lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Learn more about the health benefits of eggs here.

Half a medium avocado, which is typically around 100 grams (g), contains approximately 14.7 g of fat and 160 calories (kcal). It is high in a monounsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid, which is believed to provide several health benefits.

Oleic acid has anti-inflammatory properties and may play a role in cancer prevention.

Avocados are also high in fiber, with half a medium avocado providing 6.7 g of the recommended 22–28 g for females and 28–34 g for males per day. Avocados also contain a substance called lutein, which may be necessary for eye health and are a rich source of potassium.

Discover 12 health benefits of avocado here.

Flaxseed provide omega-3 fatty acids and a healthful dose of fiber simultaneously. Flaxseed contain 27.3 g of dietary fiber and 42.2 g of fat per 100 g. The majority of these fats are unsaturated. A single tablespoon (tbsp) of ground flaxseed contains 1.91 g of fiber and 2.95 g of fat.

The fiber content can increase the feeling of fullness and may reduce cholesterol. Flaxseed are also rich in lignans, a plant compound with antioxidant effects.

Research suggests that flaxseed can help lower cholesterol, prevent high blood pressure, and regulate heart rhythm.

Discover the health benefits of flaxseed here.

Nuts have many benefits, according to several studies. They are rich in healthful fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytosterols that may help prevent cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

A 5-year study of more than 373,000 people, published in the “European Journal of Nutrition,” reported that people who eat nuts regularly are less likely to gain weight or become overweight or obese in the long term.

There is approximately 14.1 g of fat in 1 oz of almonds, 19 g in Brazil nuts, and 18.5 g in walnuts. It is best to eat various unsalted nuts to reap the benefits, as each type of nut has a slightly different nutrient profile.

Discover the 6 healthiest nuts here.

A person can use nut butter to enjoy the benefits of nuts and seeds in a spreadable form. Each serving provides a healthful amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

However, these butters can be high in calories, so it is important to check the nutritional details of individual products before adding them to a balanced diet.

For example, some peanut butters can contain more than 580 kcal per 100 g, while almond butters can contain more than 600 kcal per 100 g. This equates to roughly 188 kcal per 2 tbsp serving of peanut butter, and 206 kcal per 2 tbsp serving of almond butter.

Learn more about the differences between popular nut butters here.

A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olives provide around 10.9 g of fat per 100 g, mainly monounsaturated.

Research reports that a compound in olives called oleuropein may help prevent diabetes. Researchers found that oleuropein helped the body secrete more insulin while also preventing the cytotoxic actions of a molecule called amylin amyloid that contributes to diabetes development.

Learn more about the nutritional content of olives here.

Olive oil is full of monounsaturated fats that are good for heart health. It also contains vitamin E, vitamin K, and potent antioxidants. On average, 1 tbsp of olive oil contains 124 kcal and 14 g of fat.

Research suggests olive oil consumption and replacing margarine, butter, mayonnaise, and dairy fat with an equivalent amount of olive oil is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and total cardiovascular disease.

Learn more about the health benefits of olive oil here.

Tofu is a complete plant protein and a good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. A 100 g serving of firm tofu provides just over 4 g of fat. This amount of tofu also provides around 10% of a person’s daily calcium intake, along with around 11 g of protein.

Learn more about tofu here.

Full-fat natural yogurt contains good probiotic bacteria to support gut function. Regularly eating yogurt may reduce a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

However, there is debate about the benefits of full fat yogurt in comparison to low fat options. Significant research suggests that full fat dairy products can play an important role in healthful diets, while the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends prioritizing low fat dairy products.

Learn everything you need to know about yogurt here.

Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are healthful fats that can:

MUFAs and PUFAs also fight inflammation.

The two most well-known PUFAs are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are essential fats that people must get from the food they eat because the body cannot make them.

As a general rule, healthful fats — such as olive oil — are liquid at room temperature.

By contrast, people often consider saturated fats and trans fats unhealthful fats. Foods rich in these substances, such as butter and lard, are often solid at room temperature.

Trans fats

Artificial trans fats, which often appear on labels as partially hydrogenated oils, are also unhealthful. They trigger inflammation that may increase the risk of:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • diabetes
  • many other health conditions.

Even just a 2% increase of calories from trans fats daily is associated with a 23% increase in cardiovascular risk.

The following foods contain trans fats:

  • fried foods
  • frozen foods, such as pizzas and pies
  • baked goods
  • some margarines
  • highly processed snack foods

Fat is one of the three essential macronutrients the body needs, along with carbohydrates and protein. A balanced diet should include healthful monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Some of the best sources of these fatty acids include avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. People should also be sure to limit the amount of saturated fat in the diet to less than 10% of total calories.