SO, picking up where we left off, let’s talk about what’s on just about everyone’s minds… FAT. To avoid the endless pages I could share with you on the topic, let’s just simplify some simple, but important facts.
TRUTH OR MYTH:
Eating fat makes you fat.
One of the most important things to educate yourself on about fat are what kinds of fat are GOOD for you and should be consumed regularly, and what kinds are bad and should be avoided. Not all fats are created equal, far from it actually. The goal to a healthy diet is to eliminate all trans and hydrogenated fats and eat the proper ratio of good fats.
BAD fats from hydrogenated oils (don’t be fooled by the ‘vegetable’ tag) and trans fats (mutated fat molecules, caused by processing or heating for long periods of time) raise your body’s “BAD” cholesterol (aka ‘LDL’) and triglycerides, and lower your “GOOD” cholesterol (aka ‘HDL’). These types of fats impair insulin receptors in the cells, decreasing energy use and slowing your metabolism. Because of their altered shape trans fats commonly found in processed foods, pack together more tightly in the cell membrane, decreasing the permeability of the cell walls and causing them to become rigid. This significantly reduces the cell’s ability to take in nutrients and release toxins.
If that sounds too complicated to keep straight, just remember this:
1) avoid all processed foods where these fats run ramped
2) the “fat-free” craze should be avoided like the plague! By the time food is processed to a ‘fat-free’ state most of the nutritional content has been depleted and stripped of its ability to be useful by your body.
Now on to the GOOD Fat!
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are not naturally occurring in the body and need to be acquired from an external food source. Saturated fats are key component to your body’s ability to function optimally. Grass-fed and organic foods high in saturated fats like red meat, coconut and butter have been a key component of a healthy diet for thousands of years, but not unlike cholesterol, have gotten a bad rep.
Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA, and ALA) are the healthiest fats for us to consume. They are essential for healthy cell membranes and in aiding the transport of ‘fat soluble’ vitamins A, D, E and K. The two best Omega-3s are EPA and DHA found in fish oils, wild meats, and organic grass-fed beef. Other sources of omega-3s are chicken, eggs, butter, avocado, flax seed oil, and nuts (note: *peanuts are NOT nuts).
Omega-6 fatty acids are found in abundance in a typical Western diet, found in high quantities in seed and vegetable oils. These fats should be consumed in moderation because it has been found that diets higher in omega-6s compared to omega-3s put people at greater risk for heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disease.
So what’s the point of knowing all of this?
Why are GOOD fats so important?
– make cells more permeable for better communication and exchange of nutrients and toxins (helping your body run more efficiently)
– increase brain and central nervous system function, energy and alertness
– decrease inflammation and joint stiffness
– decrease insulin response (help regulate blood sugar levels)
– improve the health of skin and eyesight
– significantly reduce the risk of just about every disease
And even with all those amazing benefits from consuming healthy fat – there’s still more!
Wanna know the very BEST thing about eating fat?
Consuming healthy fats turns off your fat-storing genes and turns ON your FAT-BURNING genes! Yes, that’s right.
Eating fat actually makes you skinny!
In direct relation to fat loss, the optimal level of consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is 1 to 1.5 grams of omega-3s per percent of body fat (i.e. if you have 20% body fat you would consume at least 20 grams of omega-3s in your diet daily). One serving of wild salmon (3-4 ounces) contains about 1.5g of omega-3s. More often than not we are deficient in omega-3 and should use a daily high quality omega-3 supplement (in capsule or liquid form) in addition to a healthy diet.
Here are some simple guidelines to help you with your next grocery trip:
1) stick to the outer perimeter of the grocery store: this is where “real food” is shelved (fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs)
2) choose organic and grass-fed meat when possible, and ‘wild’ fish as opposed to farmed. Otherwise, choose lean cuts of meat and ‘extra-lean’ ground meats.
3) avoid the inner aisles as much as possible – this is where most processed food is stored
4) if the item you’re selecting isn’t in the form it once was naturally (i.e. before it was killed or harvested) leave it there… rule of thumb: if it has more than three ingredients its probably NOT good for you
5) leave the “fat-free” where you found them. Buy whole milk (organic when possible), 2% or higher greek yogurt and cottage cheese
6) use high-quality butter or coconut oil for cooking
*Another key player in this discussion is the ever-dreaded cholesterol, which, similarly to fat in general, has gotten a bad rep erroneously. Cholesterol is the mother of all hormones – including sex and mood hormones. Most of its bad rep comes from being found in abundance where your arteries are damaged and hardened. The concentration of cholesterol in these trouble areas exists to help repair the damaged tissue from plaque build-up. Not unlike your teeth, when poorly managed (poor diet), your arteries build up layers of hardened plaque and become chronically inflamed which leads to blockages, causing heart attack and stroke. To learn more check out this awesome article: Naughty Nutrition: Get Frisky with Food by Certified Clinical Nutritionist, Kaayla Daniel, PhD, featured by world-renowned Strength and Nutrition Coach, Charles Poliquin. It gives a brief but fun overview of the importance of good fats and cholesterol.
If you have any fitness and nutrition questions please leave a comment here or drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!