Let’s Chew the Fat
Is fat a four letter word in your mind? American consumers have been convinced that any fat is bad for their health. It may surprise you to learn that certain fats, so-called “good” fats, those rich in the Omega 3 fatty acids– can be part of a healthful diet and that some fats are actually necessary for survival. Let’s look at why good fat is so important to our bodies.
Your skin needs fat
Fats protect the skin. Skin can be an indicator that your body needs essential fatty acids. Dandruff, bumps on the back of your arms, dry skin on your hands or feet, shiny skin, flaky patches of dry skin on cheeks or calluses that sometimes bleed can be signs that you have a fatty acid deficiency. The good fatty acids are derived from both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Add some flax seed or guacamole to your diet.
Fats protect your nerves and brain
Fats and oils directly affect the nervous system and brain. When the brain is low in essential fatty acids, learning problems, clumsiness, forgetfulness, tremors, mood disorders and depression may develop. Supplementing your diet with fats and oils can minimize these symptoms. Some doctors believe that a lack of fat may contribute to the loss of the myelin sheath (fat insulation) around the nerves, which can later manifest as multiple sclerosis and peripheral arterial disease. Simply put: Brain structure and other nervous system tissues may be compromised by a fat deficiency.
Fats are building blocks of cell membranes
Fats from a healthy diet provide fatty acids, cholesterol and phospholipids, all of which are components of all cell membranes in the body. In the blood, fat is necessary to deliver the fat soluble vitamins, vitamins A, D, E and K to the body’s cell membranes. Vitamin A supports your vision, growth and tissue development. Vitamin D is necessary for bone and joints, regulating calcium and phosphorous in the blood. Vitamin E protects the cells from oxidative stress found in cancers. Your blood would not clot without Vitamin K and it too, helps build bones.
Opt for the good fat…
Be careful about no-fat diets. Just as carbohydrates and protein are essential for the body, so is good fat. But proceed with caution when adding fat to the diet: Foods with fat – both the good fat and the bad fat – are denser, have more calories and should be enjoyed in moderation if weight loss is your goal.
- Cold water fish are high in monounsaturated and Omega 3 fats including salmon, halibut, anchovies, mussels, oysters, cod, trout, herring, sardines, mackerel, and catfish.
- Nuts and seeds including walnut, almond, pecan, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia, pistachio, flax, pumpkin, and sesame.
- Avocados are an excellent source of fiber and vitamins with benefits of lowering cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of diabetes, promoting lower body weight and preventing cancer.
- Good oils which are cold pressed and organic: extra virgin olive oil, sesame, flax, avocado, macadamia, almond, coconut, pumpkin seed and walnut oils.
- Enriched eggs that contain all three types of omega-3 fatty acids are readily available these days. These eggs are enriched by adding flaxseed or algae to the hens’ diets so that they produce eggs that are rich in healthy fats.
Most oils have a limited shelf life, certainly no more than a year and are best stored in dark containers to prevent oxidation. Smell your oils. If they don’t smell fresh, out they go, rancid oils are hardly healthy.
Fat soluble vitamins
If following a low fat, no fat, or vegan diet you may be missing the soluble fat vitamins A, D, E, and K. In order for fat soluble vitamins to be absorbed, they need fat. These vitamins are very important for wellness, reproduction, skin, eyes, and bones. If you eat a diet based in more traditional foods and avoid processed foods, many good fats are naturally provided in the diet.