It’s been nearly four decades since modern medicine began its war on dietary fat. Low-fat, non-fat, fat-free—the labels appear on thousands of products in every supermarket in America, along with claims that these highly-processed foods are somehow healthier alternatives to food eaten the way nature intended.
Most people are still confused about fat, and continue to adhere to their fat phobia, which was largely driven by the profit-centric food industry and based on myths and misinformation from the 80’s and 90’s.
Think about it…the fat-free food frenzy and the meteoric rise in obesity rates run coinciding paths. We now know that deficiency in healthy fat is known to adversely affect our emotional and overall health, including our hormones, immune system, digestive health, skin, and ability to deal with stress. Fat deficiencies can also negatively affect mood, cognitive health, behavior, and brain function. Combine all of this with the fact that your brain is made up of about 60% fat and we start to see how the fat-free diet was not only a catastrophe, but also downright dangerous when it comes to your health and wellbeing.
The truth is, fat is a macronutrient we all need for good health, and is a far more efficient source of fuel than carbohydrates. Fortunately, scientists are finally admitting that the story about fat is more complex than they thought, and are now more accurately focusing on sugar and refined carbohydrates as the bad guys. That’s pretty ironic, given that fat-free foods are loaded with refined sugars!
But, just how much fat to eat and what kind you need can be seriously hard to pin down. You probably already know that ‘good’ fats can supercharge your health, but if you get a little confused deciphering which ones are a-okay, this blog post will help point you in the right direction.
The key is identifying the right fats.
The healthiest kind of fat you can eat is unsaturated – you’ll find it in avocado, nuts, seeds, oily fish, and olive oil. Trans fats, on the other hand, which tend to show up in processed foods like chips, pre-packaged cakes, biscuits, pastries, and ready meals, negatively affect our health. These are chemically-altered fats that contribute to inflammation, which plays a role in nearly every chronic disease on the planet and make us fat. Unsaturated fats fall into two groups, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). These both include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, fatty fish including sardines, mackerel, and salmon are all rich in omega fatty acids, and should form a significant part of your overall diet.
As for your brain, the biggest portion of fat comes from an omega-3 called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Your brain needs DHA to spark communication between cells, and easy access to high-quality fat boosts cognition, happiness, learning, and memory. So, eating more of the right stuff is essential to giving your brain a boost.
Along with unsaturated fats come the much-maligned saturated fats, but when found in grass-fed butter, ghee, organic meat, whole milk, and coconut oil, they are a key component to a balanced diet. These are all sources of natural fat that are packed with nutrients – just eat them in moderation and always go for quality over quantity.
If you’re going to ditch anything in your diet, make it trans fats and processed sugars. Sugars scramble all your normal appetite controls, driving your metabolism to convert sugar into lethal belly fat. They are also linked to cancer, dementia, autoimmune diseases, and more. If that leaves a gaping hole in your diet, fill your plate with plants instead. Like broccoli, kale, spinach – any vegetable you like, in fact! Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top or add grass-fed butter to your veggies with some salt and pepper, and herbs and spices to your taste.
Did you know we have a Nutrition Series? Relax and learn how to eat healthy at the same time! Try listening to Class 11 – Fats Your Body Needs found within the Nutrition Series.