Foods That Make You Feel Fuller Longer

Already deciding whether to get pizza or Mexican for lunch, even though you’re still chewing the last remnants of breakfast? Don’t worry; this is actually quite normal. There are good reasons why you may be getting ravenously hungry only minutes after your last meal.

Discover More Foods That Will Fill You Up (Slideshow)

First, it’s important to understand that if you fill your stomach too quickly, your body won’t have time to recognize and comprehend messages from specific hormones that help control appetite. “Hormones such as insulin, leptin, cortisol, and ghrelin send signals between the stomach and the brain indicating hunger, but also indicating satiety,” explains Dr. Robert Glatter, attending physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, New York. Although you may feel your stomach filling up when you eat, it typically takes around 15-20 minutes to digest food to the point that glucose (sugar) gets into the bloodstream and the hormones begin functioning. “As a result, if you have already eaten most of a meal in about 20 minutes, your brain will not be able to slow your eating because it will receive satiety signals too late,” says Glatter.

What are the best foods to keep us satiated and not ransacking the fridge? “Fiber-rich carbs and lean protein foods are satisfying because they digest slowly, so they remain in the stomach longer and stabilize blood sugar levels, which help reduce sugar cravings,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, registered dietician and the creator of the renowned F-Factor Diet.

Of course, it’s tempting to opt for a convenient quick-fix solution such as a muffin or bag of chips, but foods containing fat aren’t actually satiating. “Fat tastes good, but does not fill you up. Satiation is actually more defined physiologically,” says Glatter.

“The ideal meal to promote satiety should include a small amount of fat, a lean source of protein, and a variety of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.”

Of the three food groups — protein, carbohydrates, and fats — protein is the most satiating. About 25 to 35 percent of protein calories are used as the body converts protein to energy; only five to 15 percent are used when carbohydrates are converted. “Researchers aren’t quite sure, but a specific component in protein serves as a signal to stop eating,” says Glatter. “The mechanism is likely related to protein’s high thermic effect, which is the rate at which these calories are consumed as part of the digestion. It turns out that the digestion and absorption of protein takes more work or calories than the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and fat.”

Carbohydrates are the next most satiating foods. The satiating effect of carbohydrates depends on the type of carbohydrate being consumed. Whole grains (e.g. barley, brown rice, and whole wheat bread) are more satisfying than refined sugars and refined white flour. “Whole grains are more filling because they contain higher amounts of fiber. Unlike other foods, fiber is not digestible. Fiber adds bulk to foods, which helps fill the stomach, slowing the rate at which food is digested. As a result, you feel fuller sooner,” says Dr. Glatter.

Fruits and vegetables contain high percentages of water, air, and fiber, and generally have a lower energy density (the number of calories per gram) than meats, dairy items, and sweets. In other words, you get to eat more of them without the consequences that high-calorie foods can bring. “A number of studies have demonstrated that eating salads can help people eat less without feeling deprived,” explains Glatter. “Eating a salad prior to a meal can increase satiety such that some people will eat up to 10 percent less food during a meal.”

Check out our expert-recommended suggestions for foods to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Black Beans and Pinto Beans

“Legumes such as black beans and pinto beans, in my mind, are such an underrated food. Not only are they packed with plant-based protein, fiber, and phytochemicals, they’re also really easy on the wallet. A 2008 study in the FASEB Journal found that eating at least ½ cup of legumes per day may assist with weight loss and weight maintenance, perhaps due to increased sense of fullness.”

— McKenzie Hall, registered dietician and co-founder of Nourish, which aids with recipe or menu development, nutritional analysis, social media, research briefings, and consumer information.

Chia Seeds

“These tiny nutrition powerhouses contain about 10 grams of fiber per two tablespoons and are an excellent source of important omega-3 fatty acids. They are also a good source of essential nutrients like iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. In addition, chia seeds have hydrophilic properties. This allows them to swell into a gel when combined with liquid. The combination of high fiber (which digests more slowly in the GI tract and keeps blood sugar levels stable) and the hydrophilic properties (which result in them expanding in the stomach to give the feeling of fullness) make this a top-pick food to keep you full. Try them on yogurt, soups, baked goods, in smoothies, or make your own chia gel.”

— Deborah Orlick Levy, registered dietician and Carrington Farms Health and Nutrition Consultant

This article originally published on January 13, 2015.


61. Foods that typically make you feel full and keep you satisfied longer

A. contain more fat than protein.

B. are higher in refined carbohydrates.

C. consist of higher amounts of fiber.

D. are lower in water content.


DIF: 2

REF: 268

MSC: Understanding

62. Oxygen derivatives that can cause the body damage are known as

A. free radicals.

B. antioxidants.

C. phytochemicals.

D. free fatty acids.


DIF: 1

REF: 268

MSC: Remembering

63. The best sources of energy during exercise are

A. proteins.

B. fats.

C. carbohydrates.

D. electrolytes.


DIF: 1

REF: 270

MSC: Remembering

64. Jan is an endurance athlete. Due to her activity level, she needs more calories than the average female. For her to perform at her peak, it is recommended that the majority of her calories come from

A. protein.

B. complex carbohydrates.

C. polyunsaturated fats.

D. monounsaturated fats.


DIF: 3

REF: 270

MSC: Applying

65. Excessive protein should be avoided during a pre-game or pre-workout meal because

A. it takes longer to digest.

B. it can lead to decreased urination.

C. it can cause a surge in insulin.

D. it can lead to an accelerated heartbeat.


DIF: 2

REF: 270-271

MSC: Understanding

True or False

1. Poor diet is one of the biggest contributors to diabetes.


DIF: 1

REF: 238

MSC: Remembering

2. A majority of college students are dissatisfied with their body shape and size.


DIF: 1

REF: 240, 242

MSC: Remembering

3. Active adults need about 1,200 to 1,500 calories of food energy per day.


DIF: 1

REF: 243

MSC: Remembering

4. Protein molecules are chains of subunits called amino acids.


DIF: 1

REF: 243

MSC: Remembering

5. Weight loss resulting from the Atkins Diet is primarily a result of the high protein intake.


DIF: 2

REF: 244

MSC: Understanding

Most people know what hunger feels like yet struggle to control it. Another approach to managing appetite is to focus on the flip side of hunger: fullness. It’s all about keeping some food in your stomach as long as possible because when your stomach is empty, biological signals of survival kick in to stimulate hunger. So when fullness is sustained, hunger is reduced — a win-win when it comes to healthy eating.

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Fullness is not always all about the number of calories. Oftentimes, it’s about volume — the amount of food consumed for the same number of calories. Studies continue to show people eat for the amount of food, not calories.

Check out the five food categories that can boost your sense of fullness, keeping you satisfied longer: water, air, fiber, protein and fat. All except the protein boost fullness by keeping food in your stomach longer. Protein boosts fullness through a stomach-brain connection, which signals your brain that you are full.

When it comes to fullness, one size does not fit all. Try them out to see what combination works best for you. Many of the foods are “double duty” and contain two fullness boosters.


Water is a go-to temporary stomach filler, any time of day. When paired with fiber (naturally found in fruits and vegetables), it’s a one-two punch for fullness. Hunger is often confused with thirst — and drinking a big glass of water can often fix the perceived sense of hunger. Many fruits and vegetables are more than 90 percent water.

• watermelon

• cucumbers

• tomatoes

• carrots

• grapefruit

• cauliflower

• broccoli

• red peppers

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Air pumps up the volume for foods and dilutes the calories. Because the volume of the food is much greater, that larger volume fills up your stomach. Look for words like “puffed” and “popped.” For about 100 calories, you can eat two cups of puffed rice or wheat, compared to one cup of oat or rice cereal.

• popcorn (air-popped or microwave, plain)

• puffed wheat or puffed rice cereal

• rice cakes

RELATED: 5 tips to deal with hunger


Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is not digested by the body. It is processed “as is” and eliminated. While most often associated with bowel health, when eaten, fiber alone provides fullness. It also swells in your stomach when combined with water and food exits more slowly from your stomach — keeping you fuller longer. Aim for at least 20 grams daily (about five servings), and stick with foods, not supplements. Here are some fiber boosters, up to half of your daily fiber needs in one serving.

• large whole artichoke (or five water-packed hearts)

• one cup blackberries or raspberries (fresh or frozen)

• one and a half cups of split pea soup

• two tablespoons chia seeds

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Protein boosts fullness through an action on the brain. There are many two-way nerve signals between the digestive track and brain. When eaten, nerve signals from the stomach send a message boosting fullness. When protein foods are in your stomach, your brain gets the signal that increases your biological fullness. Aim for at least 10-15 grams per serving.

• 6-8 ounces plain low- or non-fat Greek yogurt

• one hard boiled egg

• single serve ready-to-eat water packed tuna pouch (or can)

• 1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese

• single serve protein shake (around 150 calories) with 15-30 grams of protein per container

RELATED: Plant-based protein: 5 sources to add to your diet

Healthy fats

Fat is the most satisfying of all nutrients for taste, flavor, and fullness. Stick with heart-healthy fats to slow the rate of stomach emptying, keeping you fuller longer. Whether alone or with other foods already in your stomach, keeping the food there longer boosts fullness. When it comes to fat, portion control is key – and a little goes a long way.

• pistachio nuts in the shell (around 35)

• handful of almonds (around 15)

• handful of walnuts (around 9)

• single serve full fat string cheese

• two tablespoons ground flax seeds

Remember the goal is “fuller” — not stuffed — as the endpoint. It’s important to accept contentment as the healthy feeling — being content and satisfied, event though you could eat more. Use my three-point scale for this. Aim for level 2 of fullness, where 1 is actively hungry (headache, rumbling stomach) and 3 is stuffed (can’t eat another bite).

Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D, is NBC News Health and Nutrition Editor.

20 Healthy Fats to Make You Thin

What’s that, you say? But people who eat fat are fat. Well, no, not necessarily. Let us explain: Our bodies need dietary fat (which is why many fats are called “essential”) in order to lose weight and function properly. The right kinds of fats help increase satiety, maximize your metabolism, protect against heart disease, speed nutrients through your body, and improve your fat-soluble vitamin uptake. Not to mention, most unprocessed, high-fat foods also come packaged with many of those important nutrients, from vitamins and minerals to free-radical fighting antioxidants.

The fact that many Americans still haven’t shaken off the decades-long notion that fat—and particularly saturated fat—is bad for you, isn’t even the biggest issue we face in adopting more fats into our diets. Many of us struggle to determine which fats we should be eating because the U.S. Dietary Guidelines (and nutrition labels) are both generalizing and misleading.

According to the guidelines, reducing saturated fat could lower the risk of heart disease if those fats are replaced with a type of “good fat” known as polyunsaturated fat. The only problem is that both heart-healthy omega-3s and inflammation-inducing, fat-storing omega-6s are included in that type of fat, and most Americans are already getting 20 times the amount of omega-6s than we really need, according to an analysis by researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The reality is, not all fats are created equal. Some are downright bad (like trans fats in margarines), some are misunderstood (like the saturated fat, lauric acid), and some fats are health heroes (like omega-3s). And, don’t get us wrong, eating foods that are packed with the wrong kinds of fat will make you fat, but with all the omegas, and monos, and polys out there, it can be kind of confusing which are which. To make things easier for you, we here at Eat This, Not That! found the best foods with good fats that you can add to your diet. But before you go off on a high-fat binge, remember that—like all food—even these healthy fats should be consumed in moderation.

Fats You Should Eat

Ideally, you’ll want to consume minimally-processed foods that are full of heart-healthy, polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (ALA, DHA, and EPA), monounsaturated fats (OEA), and the trans fat conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), as well as some medium-chain saturated fats like stearic acid and lauric acid. On the other hand, stick to foods that have low levels of omega-6 fatty acids and other saturated fats (palmitic acid), and zero manmade trans fats (partially hydrogenated oil). According to the Dietary Guidelines, an easy way to do this (besides following this list) is to lessen consumption of the top sources of saturated fats like pizza, burgers, meats, and processed snacks and sweets.


Grass-Fed Beef

Red meat provides us with healthy fats, in particular, conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA—the trans fat that actually helps improve heart health and reduce belly fat—and stearic acid, a saturated fat that actually reduces LDL cholesterol. But grass-fed beef is even better than what you’ve traditionally been grabbing. In fact, a study in Nutrition Journal found that grass-fed beef is higher in CLA, stearic acid, and omega-3 fatty acid (because grass contains ALA and corn does not), and lower in unhealthy palmitic acid, than conventionally raised beef. And when it comes to your waistline, grass-fed beef is naturally leaner and has fewer calories than conventional meat.



Coconut is high in saturated fat, but more than half of that comes from lauric acid, a unique medium-chain triglyceride that battles bacteria, improves cholesterol scores, and, as a Journal of Nutrition study found, increases the 24-hour energy expenditure in humans by as much as 5 percent. And get this: A study published in Lipids found that dietary supplementation of coconut oil actually reduced abdominal fat. Sprinkle unsweetened flakes over yogurt or use coconut oil in a stir-fry to start whittling your waist. Need more reasons to get coconut in your diet? Check out these benefits of coconut oil.



Leading the charge of the healthy fat brigade are avocados. This wonder fruit is essentially Mother Nature’s butter. It’s rich, creamy, and—unlike butter—an acceptable food to eat all on its own. While you should still limit yourself to a quarter or half of an avocado per meal, 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, according to a Food Function study. They also give you two things butter doesn’t: protein and fiber.


Dark Chocolate

Good news for all you chocoholics! Chocolate can help flatten your belly—dark chocolate, that is. Dark chocolate contains the highest percentage of pure cocoa butter, a source of digestion-slowing saturated fat called stearic acid. Because dark chocolate takes more time to process, it staves off hunger and helps you lose weight.

Besides the healthy fats, dark chocolate comes packed with antioxidants, principally polyphenols including flavonoids such as epicatechin, catechin and notably the procyanidins, which can help fight off free-radicals and improve blood flow to the brain (which might make you smarter!). A recent study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that a few ounces of dark chocolate a day is all you need to reap the benefits.



Go nuts! Polyunsaturated fats in nuts 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 (they also have more omega-3 fatty acids than any other nut). 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.

And it’s not just walnuts, a study from the International Journal Of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders found that even when two groups of participants consumed the same amount of calories, the group which had more calories from fatty almonds lost the most weight. When it comes down to it, all nuts will be great sources of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega-3 fats, just in varying amounts. If you’re looking to slim down, read our essential guide to the best nuts for weight loss.


Nut Butter

It’s easy to see the similarities between nuts and nut butters, but you’d be surprised to note that not all nut butters will be good sources of healthy fats. It’s important to check out the nutrition labels on jars of regular and reduced-fat nut butters. You’ll see a few differences: While the reduced-fat butters have—surprise!—less fat, they also have more sugar and salt. Not so good when you’re trading healthy monounsaturated fats that help lower your sensitivity to insulin for insulin-raising sugars. Make sure you go natural and minimalist. Non-natural nut butters can contain the bad trans fat: partially hydrogenated oils.


Whole Eggs

We mean the yolks, not shells. If you’re one of the people who still isn’t sure if you should eat the yolk, here’s your answer: yes! While the whites are all protein, leaving the yolk to contain the fat and cholesterol, there’s no need to worry. The fat in yolks is mostly monounsaturated, and a study by University of Connecticut researchers found that the overall fat profile in egg yolks ultimately helps to reduce LDL (“bad” cholesterol). Not only will it improve your cholesterol, eggs are 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.


Greek 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. Just make sure you go Greek. Whole-milk, Greek yogurts tend to have more protein and fat and less sugar than their leaner versions, which makes for the perfect hunger-squashing team: protein takes longer to break down and fat makes you feel satisfied, so you’ll fly through your morning without an urge to snack.

The majority of yogurt’s fat comes from saturated fats, but it also contains monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and naturally-occurring trans fatty acids. Because the overall fatty acid profile is reasonably balanced, it will have no overall effect on cholesterol levels because they both increase LDL but also increase HDL, according to The Journal of the American College of Nutrition.


Wild Salmon

Salmon might not get as bad of a rap for being high in fat, but its health benefits are worth repeating. By adding this fish fillet into your diet just twice a week, you’ll get the full amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids recommended by the American Heart Association. Omega-3s reduce the risk of arrhythmia, decrease triglyceride levels, and can actually slightly lower blood pressure. When you’re at the fish counter, make sure to pick up the right kind—while pink salmon is the second best fish for nutrition and health benefits, farmed Atlantic salmon is one of the worst.


Olive Oil

This Mediterranean oil is rich in cancer-fighting polyphenols and heart-strengthening monounsaturated fats, including oleic acid. This fat’s help in getting you lean is backed by some pretty strong facts: A recent study from 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. Another reason for you to use this lipid in your dressings and sauces: extra virgin olive oil may increase blood levels of serotonin, a hormone associated with satiety.

11 & 12

Heavy Cream and Milk

Got fat? 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 and fat 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, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington.

So pour some heavy cream in your next cup o’ joe. “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!” says nutritionist Cassie Bjork, RD, LD.


Canola Oil

Canola oil, derived from the seeds of a plant in the broccoli family, has a near-perfect 2.5:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. According to a study review published in Experimental Biology and Medicine, people who achieve a dietary ratio similar to this have been able to battle cancer, arthritis, and asthma more effectively. The neutral oil is also rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid that may play a role in weight maintenance, according to a recent study.



Out of all the fish in the sea, tuna is one of the highest sources of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid. 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 regulating fat genes in the abdomen, preventing belly fat cells from expanding in size.



Cheese is an excellent source of protein, calcium, 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. It may also help lower your risk of diabetes: 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 had the highest incidence. The researchers speculated that while calcium, protein, vitamin D and other nutrients in cheese are indeed good for us, we need the fat that goes along with them in order to get their protective effects. Just make sure it’s real, full-fat cheese and not wood chips.

16 & 17

Flax and Chia Seeds

Flax seeds and chia seeds contain a fat called ALA, an essential omega-3 fatty acid that can aid weight maintenance and may reduce heart disease risks by promoting blood vessel health and reducing inflammation. A recent review in the journal Nutrients found that omega-3s can both enhance fat-burning and decrease hunger levels while a report in Nutrition in Clinical Practice found that at a sufficiently high intake, omega-3s improve our ability to metabolize fat by altering the way certain “fat genes” function.



Out of all lean meats, duck has the highest level of a muscle-building form of polyunsaturated fat called arachidonic acid, or AA. Supplementation of arachidonic acid has been shown to increase lean body mass, strength and anaerobic power in men. In a study at the University of Tampa, men who took AA gained 3.4 pounds more lean muscle mass than those who took a placebo. Keep bumping up the burn with these best foods for a toned body.



This blue-green alga, available in powders and supplements, is full of healthy omega-3s like EPA and DHA. Research shows that these forms of omega-3s are more active in the body than ALA at controlling inflammation and belly fat. Not only is spirulina a great source of heart-healthy fats, but it’s also super-rich in protein, a great source of probiotics, and may even be able to help flatten your belly during exercise.

Nine moderately athletic men took either spirulina capsules or a placebo for four weeks in a study printed in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Afterward, the men who had taken spirulina supplements were able to run 30 percent longer than the men who had taken a placebo and burned 11% more fat during a run! Fueling up before your run? Check out our exclusive report, Eat This, Not That! For Runners.



You read that right. Even bacon has healthy fats! We recommend going with old school, full-fat pork. While 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 are all you need.

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Choosing Healthy Fats

Think all fat is bad for you? Here’s everything you need to know about dietary fat, including how to make healthier choices without sacrificing taste.

Fat is a type of nutrient, and just like protein and carbohydrates, your body needs some fat for energy, to absorb vitamins, and to protect your heart and brain health. For years we’ve been told that eating fat will add inches to your waistline, raise cholesterol, and cause a myriad of health problems. But now we know that not all fat is the same.

“Bad” fats, such as artificial trans fats and saturated fats, are guilty of the unhealthy things all fats have been blamed for—weight gain, clogged arteries, an increased risk of certain diseases and so forth. But “good” fats such as unsaturated fats and omega-3s have the opposite effect. In fact, healthy fats play a huge role in helping you manage your moods, stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, and even control your weight.

By understanding the difference between good and bad fats and how to include more healthy fat in your diet, you can improve your mood, boost your energy and well-being, and even lose weight.

Dietary fat and cholesterol

Dietary fat also plays a major role in your cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a fatty, wax-like substance that your body needs to function properly. In and of itself, cholesterol isn’t bad. But when you get too much of it, it can have a negative impact on your health. As with dietary fat, there are good and bad types of cholesterol.

  • HDL cholesterol is the “good” kind of cholesterol found in your blood.
  • LDL cholesterol is the “bad” kind.
  • The key is to keep LDL levels low and HDL high, which may protect against heart disease and stroke.
  • Conversely, high levels of LDL cholesterol can clog arteries and low HDL can be a marker for increased cardiovascular risk.

Rather than the amount of cholesterol you eat, the biggest influence on your cholesterol levels is the type of fats you consume. So instead of counting cholesterol, it’s important to focus on replacing bad fats with good fats.

Good fats vs. bad fats

Since fat is an important part of a healthy diet, rather than adopting a low-fat diet, it’s more important to focus on eating more beneficial “good” fats and limiting harmful “bad” fats.

Healthy or “good” fats

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are known as the “good fats” because they are good for your heart, your cholesterol, and your overall health. These fats can help to:

  • Lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Lower bad LDL cholesterol levels, while increasing good HDL.
  • Prevent abnormal heart rhythms.
  • Lower triglycerides associated with heart disease and fight inflammation.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Prevent atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries).

Adding more of these healthy fats to your diet may also help to make you feel more satisfied after a meal, reducing hunger and thus promoting weight loss.

Monounsaturated fat – good sources include:

  • Olive, canola, peanut, and sesame oils
  • Avocados
  • Olives
  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)
  • Peanut butter

Polyunsaturated fat – good sources include:

  • Sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds
  • Flaxseed
  • Walnuts
  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines) and fish oil
  • Soybean and safflower oil
  • Soymilk
  • Tofu

Unhealthy or “bad” fats

Trans fat. Small amounts of naturally occurring trans fats can be found in meat and dairy products but it’s artificial trans fats that are considered dangerous. This is the worst type of fat since it not only raises bad LDL cholesterol but also lowers good HDL levels. Artificial trans fats can also create inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, and other chronic conditions and contributes to insulin resistance, which increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

In the U.S., the FDA is making inroads into outlawing the use of artificial trans-fats in commercially prepared food, but it’s still important to carefully read food labels. No amount of artificial trans fat is considered safe, so aim to eliminate it from your diet.

Trans fat – primary sources include:

  • Commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough
  • Packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips)
  • Stick margarine, vegetable shortening
  • Fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, breaded fish)
  • Anything containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, even if it claims to be “trans fat-free”

Saturated fat. While not as harmful as trans fat, saturated fat can raise bad LDL cholesterol and too much can negatively impact heart health, so it’s best consumed in moderation. While there’s no need to cut out all saturated fat from your diet, most nutrition experts recommend limiting it to 10% of your daily calories.

Saturated fat – primary sources include:

  • Red meat (beef, lamb, pork)
  • Chicken skin
  • Whole-fat dairy products (milk, cream, cheese)
  • Butter
  • Ice cream
  • Lard
  • Tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil

But I’ve read that saturated fat is no longer considered unhealthy

For decades, doctors, nutritionists, and health authorities have told us that a diet high in saturated fats raises blood cholesterol and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. However, recent studies have made headlines by casting doubt on those claims, concluding that people who eat lots of saturated fat do not experience more cardiovascular disease than those who eat less.

So, does that mean it’s OK to eat as much saturated fat as you want?

What these studies highlight is that when cutting down on saturated fats in your diet, it’s important to replace them with the right foods. For example, swapping animal fats for vegetable oils—such as replacing butter with olive oil—can help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk for disease. However, swapping animal fats for refined carbohydrates-such as replacing your breakfast bacon with a bagel or pastry-won’t have the same benefits. That’s because eating refined carbohydrates or sugary foods can have a similar negative effect on your cholesterol levels, your risk for heart disease, and your weight.

Limiting your intake of saturated fat can still help improve your health—as long as you take care to replace it with good fat rather than refined carbs. In other words, don’t go no fat, go good fat.

The power of omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat and are especially beneficial to your health. There are different types of omega-3s: EPA and DHA are found in fish and algae and have the most health benefits, while ALA comes from plants and is a less potent form of omega-3, although the body does convert ALA to EPA and DHA at low rates.

Research has shown that a diet rich in omega-3s may help to:

  • Prevent and reduce symptoms of depression, ADHD, and bipolar disorder
  • Protect against memory loss and dementia
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer
  • Ease arthritis, joint pain, and inflammatory skin conditions
  • Support a healthy pregnancy
  • Battle fatigue, sharpen your memory, and balance your mood

The Best Sources of Omega-3s

Fish: the best source of omega-3 (high in EPA and DHA)

  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Trout
  • Tuna
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Halibut

Vegetarian sources of omega-3s (high in ALA)

  • Algae such as seaweed (high in EPA and DHA)
  • Eggs (small amounts of DHA)
  • Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Canola and soybean oil
  • Walnuts
  • Mayonnaise
  • Edamame
  • Beans (refried, kidney, etc.)
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Kale
  • Spinach

How much omega-3s do you need?

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people with documented heart disease get about 1 gram of EPA plus DHA per day. For the rest of us, the AHA recommends eating at least two 3.5 oz. (100 g) servings of fish per week.

  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are highest in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • If you don’t care for fish or you want to be sure to get your daily omega-3s, you may want to take an omega-3 supplement, widely available over the counter.
  • Try to include a variety of ALA-rich oils, nuts, seeds, and vegetables in your diet.

What to do about mercury in fish

Despite the health benefits, nearly all seafood contains traces of pollutants, including the toxic metal mercury. The concentration of pollutants increases in larger fish, so avoid eating shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel.

Most adults can safely eat 12 oz. (two 6 oz. or 170 g servings) of cooked seafood a week. For women who are pregnant, nursing mothers, and children under 12, choose fish lower in mercury, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, Pollock, or catfish. You can also protect yourself by varying the types of fish that you include in your diet.

Omega-3 supplements

While omega-3s are best obtained through food, there are many omega-3 and fish oil supplements available. Fish oil contains no mercury (mercury binds to protein, not fat) and very low amounts of other contaminants.

  • One capsule a day usually supplies about 200 to 400 mg of EPA plus DHA, and should be enough for most people.
  • If you need to substantially lower your triglycerides, your doctor may recommend prescription fish oil, which has been concentrated to contain about 900 mg of EPA plus DHA per capsule.
  • For strict vegetarians or vegans, as well as obtaining ALA from food sources, look for capsules containing DHA and EPA extracted from algae, the original source of omega-3s for fish.

Tips for taking supplements

For some, fish oil capsules can be hard to swallow and may leave a fishy aftertaste. Keeping the capsules in the freezer before taking them can help or you can look for odorless or deodorized capsules.

Choosing healthy oils

Vegetable oils lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and raise HDL or good cholesterol. Oils such as corn, sunflower, safflower, and soybean contain omega-6, a type of polyunsaturated fat that may help to reduce insulin resistance and inflammation.

  • Use naturally occurring, unhydrogenated vegetable oils such as olive, canola, safflower, and sunflower oil whenever possible.
  • Less processed oils, such as cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, contain potentially beneficial phytochemicals.
  • When using olive oil, opt for “extra virgin,” which may have additional heart benefits over regular olive oil.

What about tropical oils, such as coconut and palm oil?

The food industry likes to tout the benefits of tropical oils, while dietary guidelines shun these oils. Who is right?

These oils can have complex effects on blood cholesterol levels—for example, raising “bad” LDL cholesterol but also raising “good” HDL cholesterol, for example-while their effects on other markers for heart disease are not yet clearly known.

  • For now, it’s safer to stick to vegetable oils since there’s stronger evidence that these oils are heart healthy.
  • If you occasionally want to eat something that contains coconut or palm oil, enjoy it as a treat—it’s better than eating something with trans fat, which these tropical oils often replace.

Tips for adding more healthy fats to your diet

Instead of obsessively counting fat grams, aim for a diet rich in a variety of vegetables, fruit, nuts, and beans, with two or more weekly servings of fatty fish, moderate amounts of dairy, small amounts of red meat, and only occasional fried or processed meals.

This might mean replacing fried chicken with grilled chicken, swapping out some of the red meat you eat with other sources of protein such as fish, chicken, or beans, or using olive oil rather than butter. Following a Mediterranean diet can also help ensure you’re getting enough good fats in your diet and limiting the bad ones.

Try to eliminate trans fats from your diet. Check food labels for trans fats. Limiting commercially-baked goods and fast food can go a long way.

Limit your intake of saturated fats by replacing some of the red meat you eat with beans, nuts, poultry, and fish, and switching from whole milk dairy to lower fat versions. But don’t make the mistake of replacing saturated fat with refined carbohydrates and sugary foods.

Eat omega-3 fats every day. Include a variety of fish sources as well as plant sources such as walnuts, ground flax seeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil.

Cook with olive oil. Use olive oil for stovetop cooking rather than butter, stick margarine, or lard. For baking, try canola oil.

Eat more avocados. Try them in sandwiches or salads or make guacamole. Along with being loaded with heart- and brain-healthy fats, they make for a filling meal.

Reach for the nuts. You can add nuts to vegetable dishes, use them instead of breadcrumbs on chicken or fish, or make your own trail mix with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.

Snack on olives. Olives are high in healthy monounsaturated fats and make for a low-calorie snack. Try them plain or make a tapenade for dipping.

Dress your own salad. Commercial salad dressings are often high in unhealthy fat or added sugars. Create your own healthy dressings with olive, flaxseed, or sesame oils.

When it comes to dietary fat, what matters most is the type of fat you eat. Contrary to past dietary advice promoting low-fat diets, newer research shows that healthy fats are necessary and beneficial for health.

  • When food manufacturers reduce fat, they often replace it with carbohydrates from sugar, refined grains, or other starches. Our bodies digest these refined carbohydrates and starches very quickly, affecting blood sugar and insulin levels and possibly resulting in weight gain and disease. (1-3)
  • Findings from the Nurses’ Health Study (4) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (5) show that no link between the overall percentage of calories from fat and any important health outcome, including cancer, heart disease, and weight gain.

Rather than adopting a low-fat diet, it’s more important to focus on eating beneficial “good” fats and avoiding harmful “bad” fats. Fat is an important part of a healthy diet. Choose foods with “good” unsaturated fats, limit foods high in saturated fat, and avoid “bad” trans fat.

  • “Good” unsaturated fats — Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — lower disease risk. Foods high in good fats include vegetable oils (such as olive, canola, sunflower, soy, and corn), nuts, seeds, and fish.
  • “Bad” fats — trans fats — increase disease risk, even when eaten in small quantities. Foods containing trans fats are primarily in processed foods made with trans fat from partially hydrogenated oil. Fortunately, trans fats have been eliminated from many of these foods.
  • Saturated fats, while not as harmful as trans fats, by comparison with unsaturated fats negatively impact health and are best consumed in moderation. Foods containing large amounts of saturated fat include red meat, butter, cheese, and ice cream. Some plant-based fats like coconut oil and palm oil are also rich in saturated fat.
  • When you cut back on foods like red meat and butter, replace them with fish, beans, nuts, and healthy oils instead of refined carbohydrates.

Read more about healthy fats in this “Ask the Expert” with HSPH’s Dr. Walter Willett and Amy Myrdal Miller, M.S., R.D., formerly of The Culinary Institute of America

2. Hu, F.B., Are refined carbohydrates worse than saturated fat? Am J Clin Nutr, 2010. 91(6): p. 1541-2.

4. Hu, F.B., et al., Dietary fat intake and the risk of coronary heart disease in women. N Engl J Med, 1997. 337(21): p. 1491-9.

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Canned Entrees and Soups

  • Snow’s New England Clam Chowder (1 cup) available at most Walmart stores: 15 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 200 calories
  • Stagg Chili with beans, Dynamite Hot (1 cup): 17 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat, 340 calories
  • Wolfgang Puck Organic Creamy Butternut Squash (1 cup): 11 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 140 calories
  • Campbell’s Chunky Chicken Broccoli Cheese with Potato (1 cup): 11 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 210 calories

Cured Meats and Sausage

  • Hebrew National 1/4 pound beef franks (1 frank): 33 g fat, 13 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat, 360 calories
  • Jimmy Dean Cooked Sausage Patties (2 patties): 24 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 250 calories
  • Johnsonville Stadium Brats, various types (1 link): 20 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 220 calories
  • Hillshire Farm Beer Brat (1 link): 23 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 260 calories
  • Oscar Mayer Beef Bologna (2 slices): 16 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 180 calories

Refrigerated Biscuits, Scones, and Cinnamon Rolls

  • Pillsbury Grands Supreme Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing (1 roll): 9 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat, 310 calories
  • Immaculate Baking Co. Wild Blueberry Scones (1 scone): 10 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 200 calories
  • Pillsbury Grands Homestyle Butter Tastin’ Biscuits (1): 8 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 3.5 g trans fat, 180 calories

Frozen Desserts

Frozen Breakfast Entrees (1 entrée)

  • Jimmy Dean Breakfast Bowls, Sausage: 34 g fat, 13 g saturated fat, < 0.5 g trans fat, 490 calorie.
  • Nancy’s Quiche Cheese Trio (one 6-oz quiche): 28 g fat, 13 g saturated fat, 450 calories, 1 g trans fat.
  • Aunt Jemima Scrambled Eggs and Bacon with Hash Brown Potatoes: 22 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 310 calories
  • Farm Rich French Toast Sticks (8 pieces): 22 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 540 calories
  • Jimmy Dean Muffin Sandwich, Sausage, Egg & Cheese: 20 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, <0.5 g trans fat, 330 calories.

Saturated fat

There are different types of fat in the food we eat, and saturated fats are the type that raise blood cholesterol.

Many foods contain saturated fat. They’re found in animal foods, such as meat, butter and other dairy products, and foods that are made with them, such as cakes and biscuits. They’re also found in some plant foods including coconut oil and palm oil.

Cutting down on foods high in saturated fat and replacing them with foods with more unsaturated fat can help improve cholesterol levels. Go for healthy spreads, oily fish, nuts, seeds and cooking and salad oils.

How does saturated fat raise your cholesterol?

Cholesterol is made and broken down in the liver. Eating foods that have too much saturated fat, and too little unsaturated fat, changes the way the liver handles cholesterol.

Our liver cells have LDL receptors on them. When LDL cholesterol passes by in the blood, the receptor takes the cholesterol out of the blood and into the liver to be broken down. So, we need LDL receptors to keep our cholesterol levels under control.

Research suggests that eating too much saturated fat stops the receptors from working so well, so cholesterol builds up in the blood.

Foods which contain saturated fats

These foods are high in saturated fat:

  • milk and white chocolate, toffee, cakes, puddings and biscuits
  • pastries and pies
  • fatty meat, such as lamb chops
  • processed meat, such as sausages, burgers, bacon and kebabs
  • butter, lard, ghee, dripping, margarine, goose fat and suet
  • coconut and palm oils and coconut cream
  • full fat dairy products such as cream, milk, yogurt, crème fraiche and cheese.

Saturated fats are usually hard at room temperature, such as in butter, the fat in meat and coconut oil. Unsaturated fats are liquid, like olive oil.

Many foods contain a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fats. Try to cut back on the foods which are high in saturated fat and replace them with foods that contain more unsaturated fat.

Have a look at these healthy swaps. Plus get some ideas for healthy snacks.

How much saturated fats should we eat?

About a third of our energy should come from fat. That’s about 70g for a woman and 90g for a man per day.

Saturated fats should make up no more than a third of this. That’s 20g for women and 30g for men.

How to cut down on fat and saturated fat

To keep to a healthy weight, you need to keep an eye on how much fat you eat in total, as well as eating less saturated fat. Use these tips to help you cut down on fat and saturated fat.

Check the labels

When you’re shopping, check the labels of products to see how much fat is them and how much they will add up to the daily maximum. Look at the total fat and the saturated fat. Saturated fat might be written as ‘sat fat’ or ‘saturates’.

  • Choose foods that have more unsaturated than saturated fats.
  • Go for foods that are labelled green or amber for saturated fat.
  • Some foods that are high in fat such as oily fish, nuts, oils and spreads may be red for saturated fat. This is OK because these foods contain a higher proportion of the healthy unsaturated fats.
  • Per 100g of food – low-fat is 3g or less and low saturated fat is 1.5g or less.
  • Per 100g of food – high fat is 17.5g or more and high saturated fat is 5g or more.

Many foods have labels on the front of pack, making it easy to check the amount and type of fat they contain. If not, it should be on the back. When labels are colour-coded with red, amber and green, go for green and amber as much as possible.

Use the table as a guide for choosing healthy foods.

Compare products

Sometimes similar products have very different amounts fat. Check a few options before you buy.

Bake instead of frying

You can usually bake, steam, grill or boil foods instead of frying them. Use a small amount healthy oil or fat spread made from vegetables or seeds. Avoid butter and other animal fats.

You can learn more about fats in our factsheet

Healthy fat choices

A healthy eating pattern will provide a balance of fats – by including healthier unsaturated fats and limiting unhealthy saturated and trans fats.

Make sure you incorporate these healthier sources of fat in your daily eating patterns.

Monounsaturated fat

Sources of monounsaturated fat include:

  • avocados
  • almonds, cashews and peanuts
  • cooking oils made from plants or seeds like canola, olive, peanut, soybean, rice bran, sesame and sunflower oils.

Polyunsaturated fat

Sources of polyunsaturated fat (both omega-3 and omega-6) include:

  • fish
  • tahini (sesame seed spread)
  • linseed (flaxseed) and chia seeds
  • soybean, sunflower, safflower, and canola oil, and margarine spreads made from these oils
  • pine nuts, walnuts and Brazil nuts.


Omega-3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat that, similar to other dietary polyunsaturated fats, can help to reduce your risk of heart disease. Omega-3s can:

  • lower heart rate and improve heart rhythm
  • decrease the risk of clotting
  • lower triglycerides
  • reduce blood pressure
  • improve blood vessel function and delay the build-up of plaque (a fatty substance) in coronary arteries.

Try to include omega-3 fats from all of these 3 sources as part of a healthy eating pattern.


Omega-3 is found mainly in oily fish like tuna, salmon, sardines and blue mackerel. Other good sources are fish like barramundi and flathead, and seafood like scallops and mussels. Try to eat 2–3 serves a week. Read more about fish.


Good sources of plant-based omega-3 include walnuts, linseed (flaxseed), chia seeds, and oils and spreads made from canola or soybeans. Aim to include foods that provide at least 1 gram of plant-sourced omega-3 every day. Read more about nuts and seeds.


Omega-3 is also found in animal products like eggs, chicken and beef.

For people who don’t eat fish, omega-3 capsules or liquids can also help supplement your intake.


Omega-6 is a type of polyunsaturated fat that lowers LDL cholesterol. Eating foods with unsaturated fat, including omega-6, instead of foods high saturated and trans fats helps to get the right balance for your blood cholesterol (lower LDL and increase HDL).

Getting the right balance of fats

Follow these easy ideas for getting the balance right.

Go nuts

Nuts are an important part of a heart-healthy eating pattern. They’re a good source of healthier fats, and regular consumption of nuts is linked to lower levels of bad (LDL) and total blood cholesterol. So, include a handful (30g) every day! Add them to salads, yoghurt, or your morning cereal. Choose unsalted, dry roasted or raw varieties.

Serve up some fish

Include fish or seafood in your family meals 2 – 3 times a week. Fish are great sources of the good omega-3 fats. See our fish recipes for some ideas.

Use healthier oils

Choose a healthier oil for cooking. For salad dressings and low temperature cooking, choose olive oils, peanut, canola, safflower, sunflower, avocado or sesame oil. For high temperature cooking especially frying, choose olive oil or high oleic canola oil. These types of oils are more stable at high temperatures. Store oils away from direct light and heat and don’t re-use oils that have been heated.

What we recommend

All Australians should follow the Heart Foundation’s Heart Healthy Eating pattern to help achieve the right balance of fats by including healthier unsaturated fats and limiting unhealthy saturated and trans fats.

The Heart Foundation’s Healthy Eating Principles promote a good balance of fats by including nuts, seeds and their oils regularly.

All Australians would do well to consume less “discretionary” foods and beverages. As a whole, this group of products contributes the most saturated fat, trans-fat, refined carbohydrates and sodium to the diet which not only raise risk factors for many health complications but also take up space in the diet where healthy foods should be.


Fat are an essential part of our diet and is important for good health. There are different types of fats, with some fats being healthier than others. To help make sure you stay healthy, it is important to eat unsaturated fats in small amounts as part of a balanced diet.

When eaten in large amounts, all fats, including healthy fats, can contribute to weight gain. Fat is higher in energy (kilojoules) than any other nutrient and so eating less fat overall is likely to help with weight loss.

Eating less saturated and trans fats may help lower your risk of heart disease. When buying products check the labels and choose the varieties that are lower in saturated and trans fats and higher in poly and monounsaturated fats.

So a diet that is low in saturated fats and trans fats, but that also includes moderate amounts of unsaturated fats will help you stay healthy.

Saturated fats

Eating greater amounts of saturated fat is linked with an increased risk of heart disease and high blood cholesterol levels. These fats are usually solid at room temperature and are found in:

Animal-based products:

Dairy foods – such as butter, cream, full fat milk and cheese

  • Meat – such as fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb and chicken (especially chicken skin), processed meats like salami, Some plant-derived products:
  • Palm oil
  • Coconut
  • Coconut milk and cream
  • Cooking margarine

Many manufactured and packaged foods:

  • Fatty snack foods (such as potato chips, savoury crackers)
  • Deep fried and high fat take away foods (such as hot chips, pizza, hamburgers)
  • Cakes and high fat muffins
  • Pastries and pies (including quiche, tarts, sausage rolls, pasties, croissants)
  • Sweet and savoury biscuits

Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats are an important part of a healthy diet. These fats help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels (among other health benefits) when they replace saturated fats in the diet.

There are two main types of unsaturated fats:

Polyunsaturated fats:

  • omega-3 fats which are found in fish, especially oily fish
  • omega-6 fats which are found in some oils such as safflower and soybean oil, along with some nuts, including brazil nuts.

Monounsaturated fats:

  • found in olive and canola oil, avocados and some nuts, such as cashews and almonds.

Trans fats

Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been processed and as a result, behave like saturated fats. Eating trans fats increases the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol and decreases the levels of ‘good’ cholesterol in the body which is a major risk factor for heart disease. It is important to lower the amounts of trans fats you eat to help you stay healthy.

Trans fats are found in many packaged foods and also in butter and some margarines. Use food labels to compare foods and choose those with fewer trans fats.

It is great for health to replace saturated and trans fats with mono and polyunsaturated fats.

Source: Dietitians Association of Australia.


Cholesterol is a type of fat found in food, but also in our blood. Cholesterol has many important functions in the body but having high levels of the wrong type of cholesterol in the blood increases heart disease risk.

It was once thought that eating too many cholesterol-containing foods (such as eggs) was the major dietary cause of high blood cholesterol level. But we now know that eating too many foods containing higher amounts of saturated and trans fats is a bigger problem and has a much greater influence on blood cholesterol levels.

Source: Dietitians Association of Australia.

Foods with good fat

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