Unfortunately many people today are scared to consume fats for the fear that eating fat will make you fat – thanks to the many years of being told this is true. I am here today to tell you this is not ture.
As a child of the 80’s and 90’s with a mother who wanted to do her best for her children, I was fed low fat cheese, margarine, low fat yoghurts. And if the marketing was anything to go by we were told cereals Nutri-Grain and drinks like Milo were good for us. Oh how that was so wrong… It has led me and so many of my clients into health conditions that could have been avoided. Particularly those hormonal in origin.
So why do we need to consume fats?
First and foremost to supply us with a boundless source of energy! Fats are broken down in our bodies into fatty acids. Fatty acids are a great source of energy for our bodies. Because we have taken away this energy source our bodies have had to switch from using this energy source to sugars. Being able to use our fatty acids as a source of energy allows for an even and plentiful supply of energy across the day. Whereas sugar provides us with short bursts. Its the difference between using logs or petrol to keep your fire buring.
During the low-fat/fat free era we took away not only this vital energy source for our bodies but an important macronutrient that plays a critical role in the health of our organs.
Fat not only helps with inflammation (discussed below), it is part of the make up of our immune system, our skin, eyes, nails and hair. It is an important messenger for our hormones and also ensures each one of the cells in our bodies outer layer is flexible. I mean how amazing are fats! They supply us with energy, help make us look good and stop us getting sick.
When fat was removed from our food it was often replaced with refined sugars. Then they added salt to mask the added sweetness. This resulted in us eating more sugar and more salt than ever before.
Now I don’t want to be too controversial here but isn’t it ironic that since we demonised and removed fat we now have the highest amount of diseases that have their basis in inflammation (diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, PCOS, endometriosis, bowel disease etc) driven by the over consuming salt and sugar….
All fats aren’t created equal.
We must differentiate between types of fat so we understand which ones are beneficial for our health and which ones detract from it.
The fats that add to our health are saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats and all of these can be obtained through wholefoods – nuts, seeds, grass-fed meats and butter, eggs and oily fish.
The fats we should be concerned about are trans fats and poor quality vegetable oils such as heat processed canola oil. These fats are mainly found in processed foods such as biscuits, muesli bars, foods with long shelf lives and deep-fried food. Polyunsaturated fats can become a trans fat when they are processed or heated causing the oil to damage.
There is also an optimal ratio of fats we should be consuming. You may have heard of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. These are two types of fats that sit under the polyunsaturated fat banner.
Omega-6 fatty acids are found predominately in processed foods and therefore are overabundant in a typical Western diet. Too many omega-6 fats can CAUSE inflammation in our body. Whereas omega-3 are anti-inflammatory, which help PREVENT inflammation.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, which means our body cannot make these so we must consume them in our diets. However with current ways of eating omega-6 is the predominate fat and we need swing this ratio to have omega-3 as our dominate omega source.
Omega-3 fats are broken into EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (aocosahexaenoic acid). EPA and DHA are well known and powerful anti-inflammatories. These fatty acids reside in the outer layer, the membrane, of each of our cells, keeping them flexible. DHA is found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. EPA is found in flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds. Due to their chemical make up they can oxidise so we do need to make sure we are consuming lots of anti-oxidant rich foods in our diets to keep them happy.
Omega-6 isn’t all bad. The good choice here is Evening Primrose Oil which contains GLA (gamma linolenic acid) and has been shown to be help fat be taken up by the skin – really helpful to those with skin issues. Remember before self-prescribing please see a natural health practitioner.
Other ways to differentiate our fats.
There is another way we can classify fatty acids apart from their saturation. This way of classifying breaks fatty acids into short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) and long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). Or interchangeably with fatty acids is also the term triglycerides. Therefore the above can also be referenced as short-chain triglycerides (SCT), medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) or long-chain triglycerides (LCT).
Another particular type of fatty acid is Lauric Acid. This is a medium chain fatty acid or MCT that is found in coconut and good old butter. It is well researched for its effects in helping achieve a diverse and healthy gut bacteria. If we haven’t been eating butter for decades, what impact has this had on our gut bacteria? By removing Lauric Acid in the form of butter from our diets and increasing sugar has had to have changed the make-up of our gut bacteria. Given all the research into the health of our guts, we know keeping these guys happy keeps us healthy.
The Takeaway:In all the clients I have seen I don’t think there is one person I have not had to add fats back into their diets. Healthy fats are vital for our bodies. Nature gets it right. Fat from ‘real food’ adds to our health and is necessary for our body to function.
If you would like to chat about your health please book at 20 minute chat with me – helping you become your healthiest self is what I am here to do!