Why We Should Eat Fats

There are three main macronutrients that our body needs to thrive:  fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Macronutrients are what makes up the caloric content of a food. Fat is the most calorie dense at 9 calories per gram, while proteins and carbohydrates are at 4 calories per gram. I believe this is one of the reasons why fat has been villainized. It is easier to overeat fat than any other macronutrient. We have thought that the more fat we eat the fatter we get. We were also told that eating low fat will help us stay slim and healthy which is far from the truth!

Let me try to convince you otherwise. First, you need to understand that there are many different types of fats, some are better or worse for us. Let’s start with saturated fat, which is also called “solid fat” because it solidifies at room temperature. It is mostly in animal foods, like milk, cheese, and meat. We can also find saturated fat in tropical oils like coconut or palm oil. People believe that saturated fat can raise bad cholesterol…but hold that thought for now. I will come back to it later after we break all the fats down. Trans fats are favorites in the mass food production world. Due to the process called hydrogenation, they are the cheapest, very stable, and solid at room temperature. Trans fats add flavor and unique textures to packaged goods (1). Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and mostly come from oils from plants and nuts. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are types of unsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fats are considered heathy by the public. You can find MUFA fats in avocado, nuts, and vegetable oils, such as canola, olive, and peanut oils. The research shows that eating foods that are high in monounsaturated fats may help lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats may also keep “good” HDL cholesterol levels high (1). Polyunsaturated fat know as PUFA is mainly found in vegetable oils such as sunflower, sesame, soybean, corn oils and seafood. There are two types of polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 (fatty fish, shellfish, walnuts, flaxseed) and omega-6 fatty acids (sunflower oil, corn, oil, soybean oil). Both fats can be very good for us, but they have to be eaten at the right ratio which is 1:4 (2).

To be truly healthy we need vitamins and minerals in our diet. Some vitamins and minerals are considered essential while others are not. “Vitamins can be broadly divided into two classes: fat-soluble, including vitamins A, D, E, and K and water- soluble vitamins, including all the B vitamins and vitamin C.” (3). This means that fat helps you absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. Additionally, protein cannot be adequately utilized without dietary fats. “That is why protein and fats occur together in eggs, milk, fish and meats. A high protein, low fat diet can cause many problems including too rapid growth and depletion of vitamin A and D reserves.” (4)

“Fat also fills your fat cells and insulates your body to help keep you warm. The fats your body gets from your food give your body essential fatty acids called linoleic and linolenic acid. They are called “essential” because your body cannot make them itself or work without them. Your body needs them for brain development, controlling inflammation, and blood clotting.” (1)

Another very important topic…pro healthy fat is inflammation. It has been studied and proven in recent years that Omega-3 fatty acid lowers inflammation in the body. It is the trans-fat, damaged vegetable and seed oils, like canola oil, sugar and high fructose corn syrup that contribute to inflammation. As I mentioned above, the right ratio, 1:4 of Omega-3 to omega 6 intake is very beneficial for the body. Omega-3 oils are also linked with positive influence on mood, depression, and brain development, especially in infants.

Healthy fat intake helps stabilize many very important hormones in the body, that includes insulin and female reproductive hormones. “Insulin allows your cells to take in blood sugar for energy or storage, based on your current needs. Insulin is the main fat storage hormone in the body” (6). Chronically elevated insulin levels can lead to many health problems, including obesity or metabolic syndrome. Adding plenty of healthy Omega-3 fats, found in salmon, can help with blood sugar stabilization. Adding fat to the meal will also help you feel full longer. It will delay gastric emptying. Fat contains cholesterol, which your body uses to produce hormones like testosterone and estrogen. You should consume enough healthy fats to maintain healthy hormone production. How much fat we should consume depends on our bio-individuality and preference. However, 35% of total fat intake will be a good start for your hormones. You can find a lot more helpful information on Dr. Jolen Brighten’s website www.drbrighten.com.

“Recent metanalyses have cast substantial doubt on the idea that saturated fat is a major player in heart disease and suggest that the link is either very weak or nonexistent. “(2) “Awareness that saturated fat is highly resistant to oxidation has also boosted its reputation. As a result, saturated fat has been making a major comeback, with fatty cuts of meat and saturated cooking fats no longer being feared.” (2) It is finally “ok” to eat grass fed meats, full fat dairy and cook with butter, ghee or coconut oil.

Lastly, low fat foods are not as healthy as you might think. Most of them will be very high in sugar and carbohydrates. They are usually very processed, packaged good