Fat – is that a word that scares you or causes you anxiety? Well it shouldn’t, fats are essential to our wellness and survival – the right fats of course. Let’s put things into perspective here, did you know that our brain is 60% fat, our hormones are derived from fat and in actuality fat helps boost your metabolism – like fat a bit more now? This can all be quite confusing with mainstream fads supporting low fat diets and fat free foods for decades and turning us away from the true benefits of healthy fats.
Now don’t go run off and eat a pound of deep fried wings and a box of Oreos because not all fats are created equal – this is key. Our body needs both saturated and non-saturated fats to survive, but the quantity and quality of each is crucial to good health.
Saturated Fats are derived mainly from animals and some plant sources. Humans have thrived on them since the dawn of time. The basic food sources of cavemen were meat and vegetables and they seemed to have evolved just fine! Saturated fats from naturally raised animal products such as meat and eggs, and vegetables such as olive oil, avocado, coconut, nuts and seeds are extremely beneficial to your diet and health. Benefits include and are not limited to:
- Increased bone health
- Enhanced immune system health
- Improved brain function
- Regulation of healthy cholesterol Levels
Your body needs fat, real, naturally sourced fat. However, our modern-day diet is overwhelmed with bad, artificial fats that have plagued the good reputation of saturated fats. Introducing the bad guys: Trans Fats and Hydrogenated oils. These “damaged fats” have been altered to extend shelf life, to manipulate textures and have been changed into a substance our bodies cannot digest, thus causing damage throughout the body. Side effects include increasing “bad cholesterol” levels, diminishing cardiovascular health, increasing inflammation and playing a role in a long list of serious health conditions. Fats to avoid include:
- Deep-fried foods
- Packaged Baked Goods
- Hydrogenated Oils: canola, peanut, corn, cottonseed oils
- Pie crusts and frosting
- Pre-made meals
- Ice cream
- ….and the list goes on.
The real super hero in fats: ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS. Our bodies can’t make them but require them for good health and basic functions such as growth, energy and function of cell tissues. They are derived mostly from plant sources and are most commonly known as Omega 3 (alpha-linolenic) and Omega 6 (linoleic). These are the powerhouses of the fat world as they provide an endless list of benefits to our bodies including:
- Improved mood and brain health
- Decreased inflammation
- Increased physical performance
- Improving depression and anxiety
- Improved joint health
- Improved fetus health
- Hydration and increased health of skin, hair and nails
- …and much much more!
These beneficial, anti-inflammatory fats can be found in seeds (flax, pumpkin, sesame, chia), nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, brazil), naturally sourced fish (mackerel, salmon, herring) and high-quality oils (borage, evening primrose, black current, grapeseed, flaxseed, fish).
A low intake of fat, specifically unsaturated, essential fatty acids can do more damage than good to your system, so think twice before you opt for low-fat options. Symptoms of low fat intake include and are not limited to:
- Poor brain function and mental fatigue
- Dry skin and hair
- Increased inflammation
- Hormone imbalances
- Constipation and GI disturbances
- Poor body temperature regulation
- Hunger, cravings, over eating
Remember – everything in moderation, including fat. A healthy well-rounded diet includes around 20-30% of calories from fat, with no more than one third from saturated fat sources. Your body requires a variety of naturally sourced nutrients to live in balance and in good health. Thus, fuel your body with the right fats, avoid the bad, damaged fat and enjoy the abundance of benefits these delicious, nutritious fats have to offer!
…For more information, I would highly recommend this great READ and check out my favourite EFA supplement that I take daily! More questions about fat, cooking oils, and the right supplement for you? Book a session at Zen & Tonic and let’s chat!