How do you feel about fat in your diet? Do you include fat as part of your daily diet? Are you confused by all of the contradictory information written about fat?
For a long time, fat was a FEAR FOOD for me. I grew up believing that eating fat made you fat, and think I lot of you gals out there probably did too. Well, we’ve come a long way from the low-fat diet trend of the 90s. Nowadays, fat, i.e. healthy fat, is all the rage! For example, the avocado craze that ruled (maybe still rules) social media and inspired avo-themed restaurants and $2 avo add-ons to dishes at almost every restaurant. Let me tell you, I am HERE for it! In this post, I want to go over 3 points regarding fat:
1. What is fat and what are the different types.
2. Sources of healthy fats.
3. Why we should embrace fat and its importance for our optimal health and well-being.
1. What is fat?
Fat is a macronutrient that is essential for overall health and vitality. It plays an especially important role in hormonal, brain, gut, and cardiovascular health, not to mention energy and metabolism! With all of that being said, it is actually the quality of fat that a you are consuming that makes it so important. There are two types of fat and 3 types of fatty acids. The two types are unsaturated fat, which includes monounsaturated fat (avocado and olive oil) and polyunsaturated fat (salmon, walnuts, and flax seeds), and saturated fat which comes from sources such as coconut oil and butter/ghee. Fatty acids are the basic building blocks of body fat and all of the body’s hormones.
Short and medium chain fatty acids get released immediately for our short-term energy needs as a result of breaking down fiber. Long chain fatty acids (LCFAs) get packaged up and stored for later use. LCFAs are necessary from our diet because our body can’t make them on its own. This is where omega-3s and omega-6s come in!
2. What are the best sources of healthy fats?
Here comes the fun part where we get to talk about what to EAT! As I mentioned above, it is truly the quality of fats that will take your health to the next level. As often as possible, buy grass-fed organic animal products, wild-caught fish, and pasture raised eggs. If you eat dairy, make sure to buy full fat cheeses and yogurts. I know it may be scary to do this, but I encourage you to try it. Low/Non-fat yogurts are “air-fluff” as one article I read called them and are always amped up with added sugar. The full fat versions will keep you fuller for longer. On another note, don’t let saturated fat scare you. While it was once claimed that saturated fat caused unwanted weight gain and conditions like heart disease, it has since been proven that these fats may actually lead to improvements in your immune system function and metabolism. Ghee is a staple in my pantry and something I recommend to everyone, not only for its healthy fats, but also for its healing digestive properties.
Although the foods I listed above are absolutely incredible for your health and are full or protein (double-win), I think plant-based sources of healthy fat are my favorite. I’m talking AVOCADOS BABY! Yes avocados are an amazing source of monounsaturated, healthy fats along with olive oil. Olive oil is also loaded with polyphenols. Polyphenols are plant-based sources of concentrated antioxidants, which help our body fight disease, lower inflammation, and boost overall health through the roof. Raw nuts and seeds are sources of polyunsaturated fats. Roasted nuts and seeds aren’t as nutrient dense and are often coated with rancid oils (unhealthy fat), sugar, or excess salt. If you have trouble digesting nuts and seeds, try soaking them! Last but not least, is coconut oil, which lands in the saturated fat family.
3. Why is fat so important for our health?
Did you know that our brain is the fattiest organ in the entire body? Fat is essential for our neurological health. It is also essential for optimal nutrient absorption and smooth digestion. A person could be eating perfectly clean, unprocessed, and healthy foods, but without fat in the diet, their body may not be absorbing all of the nutrients from the food! Inflammation in the body causes heart disease, weight gain, etc., and fat (especially from plant-based sources) is an essential anti-inflammatory. This section wouldn’t be complete without talking about hormones and the menstrual cycle. Fat plays a HUGE role in balancing hormones and creating a healthy period. Many of the hormonal imbalances that women experience began, in part, due to a low-fat diet. In fact, hormones are produced from fat and cholesterol. Contrary to popular belief, fat also helps us achieve our ideal body composition!
When I added fat back into my diet after a year of barely eating any (I was scared to use even the tiniest bit of olive oil to cook with), my poor health did a complete U-turn. I truly felt like I was glowing! Healthy fats keeps you full, satisfied, and are something I often create meals around. Having a smoothie? Add some healthy fats in! Avo makes smoothies super creamy and delicious. I believe that a delicate balance of macronutrients, tailored to the individual, is essential to health that blooms. Experiment with adding healthy fats into every meal to find a balance that makes your health thrive!