Fat. Does hearing the word create a certain sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? Or does it represent a constant uphill battle to remove some of that dreaded stuff from your body’s frame?
In my home growing up, fat was to be avoided due to its suggested negative relationship with cholesterol and heart disease. For the past 50 or 60 years, fat has had a sketchy reputation… but why?
Luckily, updated research is now showing us that we don’t need to fear fat (or lipids) as we once did. In fact, we can and should be embracing good/healthy fats. The question is, are all fats created equal? What is fat and how did it get a bad name? What are some good/healthy fats that I should be consuming? Keep reading and we’ll explore these questions and provide 10 healthy fats that you should include in your diet.
Are all fats created equal?
The quick answer is no. Fats are a crucial component of anyone’s diet, but not all fats have the same impact within your body. Good/healthy fats can improve brain function, lower cholesterol, lower inflammation and even help lower body fat, while consistent consumption of unhealthy fats can definitely send you down a different path of chronic disease and weight gain.
What is fat and how did it get a bad name?
Fat is one of the 3 main macronutrients that our bodies use when we consume food. The other two are carbohydrates and protein. We’ll get into more about each of them a little later. Fats are a key component of our diet. Good or healthy fats, are an essential energy source that can fuel our body, and improve our health. A good rule of thumb when consuming fats is to focus on consuming fats that occur as naturally as possible. Therefore, try to consume fats that go through the least amount of processing as possible. Avocados, olives or olive oil, coconut oil, fatty fish are just a few examples of naturally higher sources that can benefit your health. Try to avoid your highly processed industrial vegetable/seed and corn oils etc.
So where did the “low fat” craze come from?
Post World War II, research began to emerge suggesting a link that consuming saturated fats (ie. eggs, red meat and coconuts) lead to coronary heart disease. A decade or so later (1960s) government health agencies began making recommendations that people should reduce their dietary fat intake. By the 1970s, food guidelines had changed, suggesting the population needs to reduce saturated fat intake and to increase the consumption of carbohydrates and therefore launching the still now believed “War on Fat”. Though the recommendation of increasing the intake of carbohydrates was in the form of fruits and vegetables, most people looked at it as ANY carbohydrates were good and that all fat was bad. Unfortunately, this was a massive oversimplification.
The major challenge in all of this, was that the studies that attributed saturated fat as the cause of heart disease, never actually linked high-fat diets to heart trouble. Additional studies have in fact now debunked all of the research that was done to create this “fat is bad” belief. Amazingly, not only has additional research been done to discount the “fat is bad” understanding but many studies have actually shown that consumption of the correct types of fat can actually improve your overall health including that organ that was supposed to be damaged by fat… your heart.
Food is information?
Food is information for our bodies. As we consume certain foods, they are digested and broken down into their individual components. Our bodies acknowledge these components and react accordingly. The 3 main “macronutrients” that we consume are carbohydrates, protein and fats/lipids (as mentioned earlier).
Think of protein, broken down into amino acids, as the “building blocks” for the body. Simplistically, protein is providing our bodies with the supplies necessary to rebuild itself. Carbohydrates and fats on the other hand, can basically be looked at as energy sources. They are able to be broken down into their individual components (carbohydrates into glucose/sugars and fats into fatty acids) and used to power our bodies.
Anyone surprised to hear that fat is an energy source? There is a bit of a catch however. If you are consistently consuming high levels of carbohydrates (grains, pasta, breads, crackers, rice, sweets, baked goods, potatoes etc.), your body will prioritize the use of the simple or fast burning energy from the carbohydrates. Your body will unfortunately not use as many of the fats you are consuming or the fat stored on your body as an energy source, it will instead send those calories from consumed fat into storage (body fat). Collected body fat is just “stored energy” and is used as a survival mechanism when food is scarce. Our bodies do this automatically. For most of us however, we do not live in times where food is scarce; it is abundantly available to us year round. So, it becomes very important that we keep our carbohydrate consumption to healthier options and at moderate to lower levels, to allow our bodies to utilize those healthy fats even better.
What are the healthy fats we should be consuming for health and weight management?
1. Avocados & Avocado Oil
- Rich in fats that aid in the raising of “good” cholesterol and lowering the “bad”
- Vitamin E
- High in protein vs. any other fruit
- Cooking: Avocado Oil can be used in high heat cooking due to its higher smoke point
2. Butter & Ghee
- Brain and Skin health (Omega-3 and Omega-6s)
- Rich in fat-soluble vitamins and trace minerals
- Cooking: Ghee is better for higher temperature cooking. Use butter at lower temps
3. Coconut Oil
- Rich in medium chain fatty acids:
- Easy to digest
- Not typically stored by the body as fat
- Med Chain fatty acids are smaller in size and are used for energy in cells quickly
- Can be used as a topical skin moisturizer
- Cooking: Can be used in higher temperature cooking due to its higher smoke point
4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
- High levels of antioxidants
- Boosts heart health, memory and cognitive function
- Cooking: Not recommended for cooking due to its very low smoke point. Use in salad dressings and/or drizzling and dipping
- Preferred sources of Omega 3s are DHA and EPA, which are found in fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovies
- Supplement with fish oil: Try out EWYN’s own OMEGAS
- Try and get at least 1,000 mg a day of EPA/DHA (6 capsules of EWYN’s OMEGAS will supply this amount)
6. Nuts and Seeds
- Rich in ALA Omega 3s (brain food)
- Aids in lowering “bad” cholesterol
- Walnuts and almonds are preferred nut choices
- Flaxseeds and chia seeds are the top seed choices
- Loaded with a full protein (all amino acids)
- Can aid in lowering cholesterol while improving heart health
- Can reduce risk of metabolic syndrome
8. Grass-Fed Beef
- Grass-fed has a different nutritional make-up than grain fed beef
- Grass-fed has conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which can aid in the prevention of cancer and other diseases
- Higher healthy Omega 3s than grain fed beef
9. MCT Oil
- MCTs – Medium chain triglycerides
- MCTs are easily digested and sent to the liver, where they can give your metabolism a boost!
- Cooking: Use in dressings, smoothies and even coffee
10. Dark Chocolate
- We are referring to REAL dark chocolate. 70% cocoa or higher (such as 85%)
- High in fat and rich in antioxidants (which helps our bodies from free radicals, which can cause disease)
- Flavanols in dark chocolate improve heart health
- Consume 1 or 2 small “squares” of dark chocolate (not a bar at a time). The added sugar can still have negative effects.
- Healthy fats are not to be feared or avoided.
- Key is to incorporate as many healthy or good fats into your diet as you can
- Make those improved fat choices to
- Boost energy
- Reduce disease risk
- Shed some of those unwanted pounds
- Try your best to improve your carbohydrate choices
- Consume more whole foods carb options:
- Sweet potato
- Steel cut oats
- Basmati or wild rice
- If carbohydrate consumption stays high or more processed/simpler carb choices are consumed regularly:
- You are creating an environment for chronic disease and weight gain
- Even healthy fats can be shuttled into storage in the form of dreaded bodyfat coupled with high carb consumption
- Please refer to your EWYN meal plan and/or EWYN health coach for approved foods, quantities and additional fat burning strategies while on plan.
Written By: Craig Warrian, International Service Supervisor, Ewyn Studios International
Sources & Credit: https://draxe.com/nutrition/healthy-fats/ (Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CNS, is a doctor of chiropractic, certified doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, and founder of draxe.com)