The amount of fat we carry on our body isn't directly related to how much fat we have in our diet, per se. It's the quality and type of fat you and I choose to eat that makes the biggest difference.
Our bodies need fat.
It's like a slow burning fuel. It helps us feel full and satisfied after every meal. If you add a piece of avocado to your smoothie one day, then the next day have a smoothie without that avocado, you'll notice a difference in how soon you're looking for your next snack.
I can not tell you how many conversations I have about fat. It happens almost daily. I'll tell clients 'you need more fat in your diet'. The response often is 'fat?! But I'm trying to lose weight. I can't have more fat in my diet!'
That's when my heart starts to hurt a little. Because that used to be me.
Partway through high school I became obsessed about my weight. If something was packaged fat free I was all over it. I'd make the odd exception for low fat labels. Anything that didn't advertise how much fat had been reduced I steered clear away.
All my efforts and what was my reward?
The only thing avoiding fat did was make me MOODY. I'm sure I could find a list of people to verify this. Seriously, I remember having meltdowns over the simplest things. My emotions were all over the map.
Today I eat fat. More fat than I would've ever imagined. The old me would have a heart attack right now just looking at the amount of fat I eat. The funny thing is - my body shape hasn't changed. My health is so so much more stable. PLUS, I have emotional stability as an added bonus. Party!
Here's the thing about fat. Depending on the quality you choose, it's can be so beneficial to you, your health, your skin, your hair, and your emotions.
Fat is crucial to having a healthy life. It cushions and protects our organs. It keeps us insulated. We need it to absorb fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins D, E, A and K.
Our brain NEEDS fat. It's 60% fat.
Fat cushions and soothes our nervous system. That leaves us better equipped to handle stress. Remember me mentioning how I was such a moody joy to be around? That would be why. Well, at least part of the reason. ;)
If we feed ourselves the right type of fat we reduce the risk of so many chronic ailments and diseases - fatigue, depression, cancer, heart disease, eczema, allergies and infections.
Healthy fats help our cells communicate with each other. They help our nerves send necessary messages throughout the body, our glands make hormones and most important fat creates an amazing flavour to our food, giving it a distinct aroma that really can't be beat. Whether it's fat or any other nutrient remember - it's the quality of calorie choices and not the amount of calories that will build our health or build our disease.
The number of calories shouldn't be the focus. Focus on where the calories are coming from. This is why you'll probably never see or hear me talk about calorie count. It's not important. The ingredient list? That's important. How many calories? Not so much.
So which fats should be making daily appearances in your diet? Daily, yes! It's essential that good sources are in our diet. every. single. day.
Saturated Fats - help stabilize our cell membranes, giving our cells structure. They're typically solid and liquify when heated. Best sources: coconut oil, ghee, butter. (In moderation butter is okay.) Saturated fats are single bonds so they don't oxidize when heated. Oxidized fats creates free radicals which damages our tissues. You get bonus points if you use butter from cows that were grass-fed. Grass-fed butter is loaded with fat-soluble vitamins.
Unsaturated Fats - help our cells communicate with their surroundings and provide flexibility to our cell membranes. They stay liquid in most temperatures. There are two types:
Polyunsaturated - are delicate and sensitive to light, heat and oxygen. Keep these fats refrigerated and in airtight containers. We want to prevent them from going rancid and oxidizing (which causes damage to our tissues). Best sources: nuts and seed oils like chia, flax, walnut, hemp, sesame, pumpkin and grape seed oil. Egg yolks and fish oil are great go-to sources.
Monounsaturated - are more resistant to heat than polyunsaturated. This makes them a better choice for cooking. Olive and avocado oil are great sources. Avocado oil can stand up to more heat than olive so that's typically my go-to. I use olive oil mainly for salad dressings and light cooking.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) - are essential because they must come from our diet. Our body can't produce these EFAs - Omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and Omega-6 (alpha-linoleic acid). All other fatty acids can be made in the body from these two.
There's a delicate balance in terms of how much Omega-6 vs Omega-3 we need for optimal health. It's best to keep our EFAs in balance, for these reasons:
- Plays a role in relaxing our blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, maintaining water balance in the body and boosting immunity.
- Decreases and manages inflammation.
- Keeps our cells happy and functioning well.
- Our skin! Our skin is looking so so good and with awesome elasticity when we have the right balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3.
Omega-6 can be pro-inflammatory, so a balance is really important. The ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is around 3:1 or 4:1. The standard American diet is sometimes upwards of 20:1. Hello inflammation, malfunctioning body and aging skin! Too much Omega-6 can also lead to heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Typical Omega-6 sources in the standard American diet are from refined plant oils. Oils like canola, safflower, corn and peanut. The types of oils used by fast food companies, the average restaurant and most pre-packaged food found in grocery stores.
Ideal Omega-6 sources: seed oils like walnut, sesame, hemp and wheat germ.
Ideal Omega-3 sources: fresh (ideally wild caught) cold water fish like salmon, halibut, tuna, herring and mackerel. Egg yolks and sardines also are good sources. Best plant-based sources: chia seeds, flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds.
Omega-3s are sensitive to heat. So don't overcook your fish. To keep that nutritional goodness in egg yolks, the less they're cooked the better. Think soft-boiled or poached eggs. Again, bonus points if you get your hands on pastured eggs. They have considerably more anti-inflammatory Omega-3s than non-pastured.
The types of fat that cause concern for your health are:
- Trans fats and hydrogenated (even partially) fats. They cause clogging and hardening of the arteries, cholesterol problems and immune dysfunction. Trans fats are in most commercial baked goods, and things like potato chips and some chocolate.
- Margarine. The refining process to get that spreadable yet solid form of 'faux butter' is scary and toxic.
- Highly refined fats like canola, vegetable, and palm oil.
A diet high in processed oils, trans fats and animal fats promote inflammation in our body. If you eat the standard American diet you're eating these problematic fats on the daily. That's not building your health today, and for sure not setting you up for a healthier tomorrow. A bit cheesy sounding but it's true.
What To Look For When Reading Labels
The best types of fats will be labelled as expeller pressed, cold pressed or extra-virgin. The ingredient list should read 100%….. Some companies dilute olive oil for example with lesser oils and still market it as extra-virgin olive oil. Sneaky sneaky right? #foodfraudalert
Remember there's not one perfect solution, just an ideal solution that works for you. An ideal solution that helps you feeling and looking your very best ever.
In the comments below, I'd love for you to share with me what small change in your dietary fats you've already made or plan to make to create a healthier you.
To eating good fats,