Do you remember the fat-free craze back in the 90’s?
I admit it. I got caught up in that nonsense. I remember my college friends and I would eat an entire Entenmann’s Cake (each) because it was labeled “fat-free.” So clearly that meant it was healthy!
What about non-fat frozen yogurt? Absolutely. Fat-free butter? Yep. Baked chips? Of course. Pretzels? Heck yeah. Fat-free cheese? You bet. Gummy Worms? Obviously. Non-fat salad dressing? The only kind I ate.
Sadly, these “low-fat” and “nonfat” processed foods promote unhealthy diet culture and disordered eating. These fake foods are laden with sugar, toxic chemicals, hydrogenated oils, and artificial flavors. No surprise, processed foods perpetuate blood sugar and hormone imbalance, maintain sugar addictions, harm your gut microbiome, and contribute to inflammation and disease.
Over time, I worked to release the diet culture mindset and the fear of fat. I made the decision to stop consuming lots of processed foods and learned what good, healthy fats were and incorporated them into my diet.
However, there are many people who fear fat, don’t understand the necessity of consuming healthy fats, or might not know what healthy fats are. Some still think a low-fat diet is the key to weight loss (nope) or that canola oil is healthy (it’s not).
8 Reasons Why You Should Eat (Healthy) Fats
Gives you sustainable energy
Curbs unhealthy cravings
Supports brain function and mood
Supports heart health
Promotes glowing, healthy skin
Balances hormones, your body needs dietary fat in order to make specific hormones, including the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen.
Helps with healthy, balanced weight
Promotes proper vitamin absorption, you need good dietary fats to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K
So let's talk about dinner. Why would I recommend you choose a piece of grass-fed meat over pasta?
Well, it’s important to know that your body processes fat, protein, and carbohydrates in different ways. Fat, protein, and carbohydrates are the three macronutrients that your body needs to function and survive.
When you eat refined, starchy carbohydrates such as pasta, your body breaks them down into sugar (glucose) that's absorbed into the bloodstream; your body responds with the hormone insulin, which moves the glucose into your cells where it can be used as energy. These carbohydrates are broken down quickly, which results in a sharp rise in blood sugar. Therefore if you eat a carb-heavy meal you’re more likely to feel hungry again, soon. Additionally, carb-heavy diets keep insulin so high that your body continues to shuttle sugar into your cells, resulting in weight gain.
Conversely, eating healthy dietary fats doesn't have an impact on raising insulin or blood sugar. When you eat a meal, or a diet, rich in healthy fats, you help keep insulin levels balanced, which allows for the body to burn fat.
Fat provides a steady, long-lasting source of fuel. Using fire as a metaphor, eating fat for fuel is like throwing on a big log, sustaining a long-burning fire, whereas eating carbohydrates (sugar) for fuel is like throwing on kindling, it’s short lived.
Fat from your diet gives you sustainable energy. Fat helps keep you full and satiated so you don't need to eat as much and you can go longer without feeling hunger or cravings.
You need good dietary fats to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K (found in foods such as oysters, salmon, sardines, raw almonds, Swiss chard, dandelion greens, cabbage, liver, and egg yolks) If you’re eating a low-fat or no-fat diet, you’re essentially eating a vitamin-free diet. A vegan, vegetarian, or low-fat diet generally means a carb-heavy diet; so if your diet consists mostly of carbs like breads, white potatoes, oatmeal, bananas, beans and rice, and pasta there’s a very good chance you are deficient in fat-soluble vitamins.
Deficiencies in fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, & K can lead to a host of health problems including:
Poor bone health
Reduced immune function
Lack of growth in children
Another one of the many benefits of healthy fats is they support the brain and mental health.
Did you know that your brain is made up of 60% fat?
Makes sense then that not getting adequate dietary fat can adversely impact your brain health and mental health. One of the most important fats for brain health (and overall health) are the omega-3 fatty acids EPA & DHA, which you must get from your diet. These fatty acids are paramount for preventing diabetes and inflammation, regulating metabolism, and supporting brain function and mood.
Deficiency in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA & DHA show up through symptoms such as depression, anxiety, memory issues, unhealthy stress response, and can contribute to Alzheimer’s and ADHD.
Good Fats and Bad Fats
What are bad fats? Trans-fats and hydrogenated vegetable oils -- found in margarine and vegetable shortening, pre-packaged snacks/cookies/baked goods/crackers, fried foods, microwave popcorn, non-dairy creamers, etc. -- should be avoided at all costs.
What foods contain good, healthy fats?
Avocados and avocado oil
Grass-fed butter and Ghee
Olives and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Wild-caught fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovies all are packed with omega-3s DHA & EPA)
Raw nuts and seeds
Full-fat coconut milk
Pastured organic eggs (including the yolk)
Grass-fed organic beef
Dark chocolate (at least 75% cacao, the higher the cacao the lower the sugar)
Now that you know all about healthy fats, you might be wondering how much fat you should be eating?
My approach to nutrition and wellness is not about tracking or counting, but rather helping you cultivate a harmonious relationship with food, your body, and yourself.
If you're looking for personalized support, I can help you. Email me to set up an exploratory wellness coaching call.
Love, Your Wellness Coach,
February 10, 2020