I love fat! Like really love it, pretty much Paula Dean when it comes to (grass-fed, organic) butter, ha! Most people know by now that the whole low-fat thing is B.S yet still don’t know what kinds of fats are healthy and why they should be getting their daily dose. As a holistic nutrition student, and a person who is working my way out of severe hormonal imbalances, I’m continually learning the amazing role healthy fats play in our health.
Let’s start with the bad: bad fats include trans-fats, hydrogenated oils, and commercially processed vegetable oils. Any commercially processed oils are a bad idea because unsaturated fatty acids have double bonds. Double bonds are easily damaged by heat, light and air. Commercial processing completely damages the oils, making them harmful to our health!
A side note of why ‘low-fat’ = sh*t (sorry, passionate about real food here 😉 ) Low fat food products need to get their flavour from somewhere, so how do companies do it? Sugar of course! Here’s the thing, when you eat sugar, your body produces insulin to compensate, insulin then causes your body to store the excess glucose (sugar) as fat. That’s why low fat makes you fat!
Onto the good: there are two essential fatty acids -essential meaning our bodies cannot make them, therefore we must obtain them from our diet. Omega 3– Alpha Linolenic acid, found in flax oil, hemp oil, pumpkin seed oil and walnuts, as well as Omega 6– Linoleic acid, found in sunflower oil, safflower oil, walnuts, sesame oil, and flax. Using these oils in salad dressing is my favourite way to get these in my diet on a daily basis!
Other amazing fats include:
monounsaturated fatty acids, like avocados, almonds, and olive oil
GLA found in Evening primrose oil & borage oil
EPA & DHA found in cold water fish, salmon, trout, halibut, sardines
Saturated fats get an especially bad rap because old rumours said they caused heart disease. In excess, saturated fats may cause weight gain because they can be stored as fat in the body, however saturated fats are the building blocks for all of our steroid hormones (sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone). Healthy hormones need fat! I learned this the hard way when I went off the pill a couple years ago and because of digestive issues cut most fat out of my diet (certain fats are harder to digest) at the time so I wasn’t helping my body make any hormones that I desperately needed.
Deficiencies of omega 6 can manifest as eczema, hair loss, behaviour issues, excessive thirst, poor wound healing, infertility (male and female), arthritis like conditions, heart and circulatory problems.
Deficiencies of omega 3 can manifest as growth retardation, weakness, vision impairment (DHA needed), behaviour issues, high blood pressure, dry skin, low metabolism, immune dysfunction.
Too little fat in the diet is associated with low energy, depression, aggression and even suicide. Your brain is made up of mostly fat, therefore dietary intake is essential to brain health, as well as overall health.
As I mentioned earlier, my favourite way to get my essential fats are through homemade salad dressings. I mix a base of olive oil, a small amount of pure maple syrup/raw honey, a bit of apple cider vinegar, with a mix of flax/sesame/evening primrose oils and top my salads with walnuts and hemp seeds. SO Yummy! I take a digestive enzyme with my meals (especially high fat/protein meals) to help breakdown the fats to be used by my body. For cooking I recommend saturated fats (no double bonds to get damaged by the heat) like coconut oil and butter.
You can find these oils at most health food stores in the refrigerated section. The only one I haven’t found in liquid form near me is the evening primrose oil so I ordered it online.
It’s generally recommended, although research has yet to find the ideal ratio, that we have a 2:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3’s in our diet. I highly recommend working with a holistic nutritionist and/or naturopathic doctor to make sure you’re in good hands, especially if you have any health issues. And remember, DON’T FEAR THE (GOOD) FAT 🙂