Fat. The word we all dread, but why? Fat can have so many benefits that we need to start facing our fear and learn to love it wholeheartedly. For instance, did you know that our brain is actually 60% fat and so depends on different types of fat to work effectively?
There are healthy fats including the more commonly known omega 3 and omega 6 (also referred to as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), and there are less healthy fats, which are called saturated and trans fats. We need to be clear on which we should and shouldn’t eliminate from our diet.
Being fat-phobic and removing all fats from our lives can put us even more at risk for health problems. When we don’t get enough, things like fatigue, depression, Alzheimer’s and memory problems, schizophrenia, and ADHD may start to occur, which is definitely something that we want to try and avoid—and that’s just to do with the brain!
In the body, good fats can do some pretty great things too. For example, there are some vitamins such as A, D, E, and K that are “fat soluble,” meaning fat is the only way they can dissolve and be absorbed into the body. Without fat, the vitamins would just pass through us and we wouldn’t get the additional nutrition benefits. Fat can also help to insulate us and keep our body temperature constant; without fat we would really suffer in the colder months!
Some fats can be made by the body, yet some do need to come from the foods we eat, especially omega 3 and omega 6. These days a lot of people have diets filled with more saturated, unhealthy fats than the omegas, and it is this lack of balance that causes the problems (like heart disease) and the bad reputation. We’re getting totally out of fatty-balance!
The benefits of omega 3 fats are as follows:
- It lowers blood pressure
- It helps reduce pain and inflammation
- It is essential for hormone production
- It helps boosts immunity
- It aids with learning and behavioral problems,
- It releases neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain, which aid mental health issues.
These are the benefits of omega 6:
- It is important for memory and mental function
- It soothes pre-menstrual symptoms
- It has even been found that supplementing evening primrose (which is rich in omega 6) in the diets of recovering alcoholics can improve withdrawal symptoms.
The body is so intelligent that it will start to show you signs when it’s not getting enough good fats or it’s getting too many bad fats. You may want to keep an eye out and ask yourself the following:
- Do you have trouble concentrating
- Is your blood pressure high
- Do you have soft or brittle nails
- Is your skin very dry
- Do you feel the cold
- Are you mentally tired
- (For women) Are your periods regular
- Are you having lots of mood swings
If you said yes to any of these questions, it might be time to re-assess your diet. Try to increase the amount of good fats you’re eating and lower the bad fats.
The nasty saturated and trans fats come from:
- Most junk food
- Animal products such as meat and dairy
The wonderful, healthy fats come from:
- Naturally oily foods, such as nuts and seeds
While a diet of nuts and seeds may not sound as appealing as a massive cheesy, greasy hamburger, there are such great recipes out there that can turn the simplest foods into culinary delights. My absolute favorite discovery is homemade “nut-mylks” or nut-cheeses. By soaking a cup of almonds for a few hours, blending with a few cups of water, a date, and some vanilla, then sieving to remove pulp, you can have the most delicious good-fat “mylk” ever! Then you can do the same with cashews (minus the date and vanilla), add some herbs and nutritional yeast, and you have your very own cheesy substance ready to pour or stir into your favorite healthy dish!
Never be afraid of fat; just make sure you’re choosing the type that will help you to feel fabulous!