I’m about to turn your world upside down, K? For most of you, this will go against every piece of diet dogma you’ve ever heard. I, Chelsea, your personal nutritionist, am giving you permission, encouragement even, to eat fat. I know, it’s scary. Nobody wants to get fat. Who doesn’t look at what they eat throughout the day and think, Will this make me fat? That’s the wrong question. The question to ask is this, Will this make me healthy? And I can tell you this: You do need fat – the proper kind – to keep you healthy. Our fat phobia is one reason for the decline of health in this country and a huge reason we have an obesity problem. Sounds counterintuitive, right? Here’s the skinny….
Saturated Fats: such as the ones found in eggs, meat, butter, palm oil and coconut oil. The better the quality (organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed, unrefined) the more healthful they are. Please, bring these back to life in your diet. (I know, you’re scared. Hang with me.) These saturated fats each have healthful properties, but collectively they have something important in common: they are very stable when cooked or used for cooking. Meaning, unlike most polyunsaturated fats, saturated fats do not go rancid or cause oxidative stress (free radicals) in your body when heated. Just so you know I put my money where my mouth is: I add grass-fed butter and coconut oil to my coffee every morning. I am seeking the nutrients they provide. But what about cholesterol? I’ll get to that, lets’ s keep going.
Monounsaturated and Stable Polyunsaturated Fats: like extra-virgin and/or cold-pressed forms of these: olive oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, and flaxseed oil. These oils are better eaten cold/room temperature. Olive oil can be used for light cooking but leave the more extreme temperatures for the saturated fats, which are more stable when heated. Nuts, seeds (including nut and seed butters), and avocados are other healthy sources of unsaturated fat.
The Omegas/Essential Fatty Acids: You need both Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids in your diet, which are found in various saturated and unsaturated fats. The problem is, people get waaaaayy too many Omega-6s. Omega-6s are found in nuts, grains, in meat from grain-fed animals, and most of the modern vegetable oils (see unstable polyunsaturated fats below). We basically get Omega-6s (too many and not the healthy kind) without even trying. This imbalance causes inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation is the basis for many diseases, mental health issues, allergy problems, and suppressed immune systems. This is why the popularity of fish oil has increased in recent years. It boosts Omega-3 levels and helps to restore the balance between Omega-6s and Omega-3s. A note on fish oil: quality is key. Like other polyunsaturated oils, fish oil is fragile. Fish oil can be easily damaged in the extraction process (if it’s exposed to heat, which it often is). It is just as susceptible to damage as the polyunsaturated fats described below. Taking damaged fish oil can actually be harmful. I, personally, take Green Pastures Butter Oil/Cod Liver Oil blend for its Omega-3 and naturally occurring Vitamins A, D, E and K2. It is processed through cold fermentation as opposed to heat exposure.
The best way to get your Omega-3s is by eating whole foods high in this important fatty acid. The most bioavailable (meaning, your body can utilize most efficiently) are the DHA and EPA Omega-3s found in fish, pastured-raised and/or Omega-3 enriched eggs, walnuts, pastured poultry, grass-fed meat, wild game, and dairy from pastured animals. The ALA Omega-3s like flax and pumpkin seeds are beneficial, but harder for your body to use efficiently. Healthy sources of Omega-6s are found in nuts, borage oil, evening primrose oil, sesame oil, and black currant seed oil.
DO NOT EAT THESE:
Unstable Polyunsaturated Fats/Hydrogenated/Partially Hydrogenated/Trans Fats: such as those found in vegetable oil, soybean oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, canola oil (aka rapeseed oil), cottonseed oil, and margarine/buttery spreads. These should not be heated or used for cooking. Because of the way they are processed, they become unstable and rancid when exposed to air, light, and heat. This creates oxidation (free radicals) in your body. And, as mentioned previously, are high in unhealthy Omega-6s.
Now that you know which fats to eat and which ones not to, the big question is WHY? There are many many reasons, but here are some biggies:
- You cannot absorb the very important Vitamins A, D, E, or K without fat. These are fat soluble vitamins, meaning, they require fat to be assimilated into the body.
- Fats are critical to making hormones. Been on a low-fat diet? No wonder your hormones are out of whack!
- Every cell in your body has a membrane around it. Know what this is made of? Fatty acids.When your cells aren’t healthy, YOU are not healthy.
- You need fat for proper digestion. Many people who have been on long-term low fat diets end up with their gallbladders taken out. This is because the gallbladder’s role is to create the bile that properly breaks down these fats that your body needs and is expecting. But you must be eating fat for the gallbladder to work. Otherwise, it can lead to gall stones and/or gallbladder removal.
- Fats are important for mental health. 70% of our brain is made of fat. Children with insufficient amounts of Omega-3s in their diet often exhibit behavioral problems.
- Fat is the biggest source of energy for your heart.
So, what about cholesterol? Although the science debunking this fat myth has been around for some time, high-powered entities like food manufacturers and edible oil lobby groups have fought to keep you under the impression that saturated fats are bad for you, and that vegetable/seed oils are good for you. But let’s apply common sense here: why would minimally processed, natural fats such as those found in eggs, meat, and butter be bad for you, and the man-made, refined oils be good for you? It’s simple; they’re not. There is more and more evidence showing that high cholesterol is a response to the inflammation caused by eating processed food, sugar, and refined oils/trans fats, all of which have increased in people’s diets over the last century. There is a direct correlation between the increased consumption of these “foods” and deaths from heart disease. These things weaken the arteries, and cholesterol is the defense mechanism that comes in to “patch up” the weak spots. The more it has to come in and “spackle” your weak arteries, the thicker and more blocked they become. So people on cholesterol medication are actually reducing the body’s defense mechanism (the cholesterol) that helps to shore up the damaged arteries, without removing the problems that caused it in the first place (the processed food and sugar).
So what does all of this mean? It means make a concerted effort to incorporate healthy fats into your day. Your body will shuttle it to all of the places it needs, you will feel full for longer, ANDyour food will taste better. Butter is back on the menu, my friends. You’re welcome.