We’ve gone through years of hearing that fat will make you fat. What we were not told is that there are healthy fats. We were removing all fats from our diets and eating low-fat everything! But we need fat as part of a healthy diet. We just need to educate ourselves which fats are beneficial.
First, avoid any product that lists “low-fat” as part of its advertising as a healthy food. There is low-fat yogurt, low-fat cookies, low-fat cakes and cookies! It’s not the fat we want to avoid (with the exception of the bad fat – I’ll talk about them in a bit). What we want is low or no sugar foods without artificial sweeteners taking the place of sugar. Sugar is the main problem with our current epidemic of obesity.
What are fats?
Fats, also known as lipids, are a class of organic substances widespread in nature which plays in living organisms a number of biological roles, both structural and metabolic which includes:
- Entering into the structure of cell membranes
- Regulating metabolic exchange
- An abundant source of energy reserve, accumulating as adipose tissue (body fat)
- Protecting against traumas and temperature changes
- Playing an important role in hormonal function
A deficiency of healthy fat is widespread in the standard American diet with the majority of people consuming too many of the harmful bad fats including saturated fats in meat and dairy, and processed polyunsaturated fats or hydrogenated trans-fat from cooking oil and margarine used in processed foods. Consuming too many of these and not enough of the good fats contribute to stroke, heart attack, chronic inflammation, cognitive impairment, allergy, auto-immune diseases and ultimately premature death.
We need balance of the two types of essential fats: anti-inflammatory omega-3s and pro-inflammatory omega-6s. Avoid the unhealthy trans-fats and because they raise your cholesterol and increase your risk for heart disease. Stop eating processed and fast foods that are made with vegetable oils, such as canola or corn oil, which are high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Even eating meat from animals fed on conventional grains rather than grass-fed alter the fat composition of the meat. We are ultimately eating what they eat when we consume their meat.
- Vegetable oils (canola, coin, soybean, etc.)
- Grain-fed animal protein
- Farm-raised fish
- Conventionally grown grains
- Sugar-laden foods
- Processed or fast foods
Substitute nut oils for vegetable oils to help balance the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Some of the benefits of benefits of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Prevent and reduce the symptoms of depression
- Protect against memory loss and dementia
- Reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer
- Ease arthritis, joint pain, and inflammatory skin conditions
- Support a healthy pregnancy
Our brains require healthy fats in order to work optimally. We need to get more of the good types of omega-3 fatty acids: EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid). Fish is a great source of these fats. The smaller fishes are also lower in mercury content. Add sardines, anchovies and wild-caught fish in your diet to increase the omega-3s. Vegans can supplement with fish or krill oil. Adding an algae supplement is also an option.
- Fish with low mercury content (shrimp, salmon, pollock and catfish)
- Cook with coconut oil, avocado oil, hemp seed oil, flax seed oil
- Eat more nuts and seeds (hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, and many more!)
Keep that balance of omega-3 and omega-6 and you will enjoy better cognitive ability, lower your risk for heart disease and an increase in overall better health.