Fat is Your Friend

fat health Aug 09, 2017

Mindset Around Fat

It seems that every few years there is a new food or diet trend. For a long time, the no-fat craze was all the rage. We saw it on the shelves at the grocery store. You could buy low-fat, reduced fat, and fat-free versions of everything.

Remember Snackwells? I could eat a whole box of their devil’s food cookies in one sitting.

It made sense in theory: If you want to avoid getting fat you shouldn’t eat fat. Right? You are what you eat. Who wants to be fat?

Unfortunately this thinking was dead wrong. 

 Your body needs fat to function. If you cut out fat, you’ll be hungry all the time, and you could actually be harming your body and depriving it of nutrients that it needs.   

 Why We Need Fat
 As I mentioned, if you cut out fat, you’ll be hungry all the time. Guess what happens when you’re hungry? You eat—and not necessarily the good stuff your body needs. Eating enough fat (and fiber) helps with satiety or feeling fuller longer.

In addition to helping control hunger, you need fat to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

  • Vitamin A is crucial for vision, maintaining a healthy immune system, cell growth, gene transcription and protein formation, and skin health.
  • Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, and block the release of parathyroid hormone. Parathyroid hormone reabsorbs bone tissue, making bones thin and brittle. Vitamin D also plays a role in the immune system and it may help prevent colon, prostate and breast cancer.
  • Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which protects your body from free radicals. It helps to slow down aging and also boosts your immune system. It also helps in the formation of red blood cells, it widens blood vessels and also helps the body use Vitamin K.
  • Vitamin K helps the body with blood clotting.
  • As you can see, the fat-soluble vitamins are very important. If you don’t consume enough fat in your diet, your body can’t absorb these vitamins.

Keeping that in mind, mix fats in with other foods. For example, if you eat a salad with some dark leafy greens, add some avocado or olive oil dressing to help your body absorb all of the fat-soluble vitamins.

A Closer Look at Kinds of Fat
 You know you need fats, but not all fats are created equal. There are different types of fat:

  • Saturated fats (found in butter, red meat, and coconut) are solid at room temperature
  • Monounsaturated fat (found in olive oil and nuts) are liquid at room temperature.
  • Polyunsaturated fats (found in fatty fish, some nuts, and vegetable oils) are also liquid at room temperature.
  • Trans fat (found in margarine and many processed foods) are created when you hydrogenate fat to make a typically liquid at solid at room temperature. They often appear as partially hydrogenated oils on labels.   Trans fats were originally thought to be healthier than saturated fat, but research has shown this is not true. Trans fat actually causes cardiovascular disease. Steer clear of trans fat!

To understand what fats you should eat, let’s look specifically at some important fatty acids you’ve probably heard about.

 Important Fatty Acids

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that we cannot make in our own bodies. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation, whereas Omega-6 fatty acids increase inflammation. Too much inflammation can be a problem, but inflammation can be a good thing too, like when we have a cut and need our blood to clot or if we need to signal our body to get rid of a foreign invader. For that reason, we need a 1:1 ratio of these fatty acids.

The problem is most of us are getting a much higher ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids. Why? Because of the rise of highly processed vegetable oils (such as soybean and canola oil). As a result, we’re seeing much higher levels of inflammation (thought to be the cause of asthma, coronary heart disease, forms of cancer, autoimmunity, and neurodegenerative diseases).

How do you increase your ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fats?

  • Reduce or eliminate your consumption of processed and fast foods. This alone makes a big difference as these foods use mostly highly processed forms of polyunsaturated oils (such as corn, sunflower, safflower, soy and cottonseed oils).
  • Use olive oil or coconut oil* to cook with.
  • Use olive oil to make dressings.
  • Eat foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.  (A list can be found below)
  • Grass-fed butter and dairy has a good ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids.

*A note about coconut oil

Coconut oil has been given a lot of press lately.  Here’s why there’s such a buzz.

  • Coconut oil is a saturated fat.  However, most of the saturated fat is of a type of fat called Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s).  Your body metabolizes MCT’s differently.  They go straight to the liver and are used for energy.  In fact, it has been shown that eating MCT’s helps to decrease visceral fat, which is the stomach fat around your organs which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease if too high.
  • Coconut oil also contains Lauric Acid which, when digested, can kill harmful bacteria, viruses and fungus.  Coconut oil has a high flash point so it’s great for sautéing, baking and cooking.
  • When buying coconut oil, look for organic, virgin coconut oil.

Adding Healthy Fat to Your Diet

 These are some good sources of fat:

  • Avocadoes
  • Raw nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Flax seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna

 How Do You Apply This To Everyday Life

  • I like to think about adding healthy fat to each meal and snack.  For example, no salad is complete without avocado and an olive oil based dressing.  Also, I like to have raw nuts as a snack.
  • Don’t buy reduced fat anything!  Reduced fat peanut butter, crackers, butter, cheese etc. usually contain the exact same calories as the full fat counterparts.  And actually, they’re going to make you hungrier in the long run because your blood sugar will spike and then crash.  Check out the label, if it’s full of things you don’t understand, put it back on the shelf.

Trust me, this is a hard concept to grasp for many people.  Just about all of my health coaching clients struggle with this one.

Try it out… let me know if you notice a difference.