Healthy Yummy Satisfying FAT

My last post talked about why fat doesn’t make you fat. (Sugar does!) Just to recap why we need fat, our bodies are made to run off of long-burning healthy dietary fats. Fat plays a ton of role in our bodies, including serving as an energy source, making up the membrane wall of every healthy cell, being necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), serving as the building blocks for our sex hormones, promoting the healing process, making us feel satisfied and full, and making our food taste good.

So, what is fat?

Fats, or lipids, are found in most foods. (Even kale has fat in it!) Fats are classified by the length of the molecule (short, medium, or long chain), and their bond saturation with hydrogen (saturated, unsaturated). Within the family of unsaturated fats, we find the healthy Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats. There are even two fatty acids (the building blocks of fats) that are considered “essential”, which means they are necessary to sustain life, but our bodies cannot make them and so they must be ingested.

That’s a lot of chemistry!

Here’s what you need to know. Incorporate good sources of fat into your diet! Choose a variety every day, as each source of fat is comprised of different types of molecules and different beneficial fatty acids. Good choices include:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Raw, cold-pressed oils from nuts and seeds (Note: These oils are in dark containers and refrigerated. Avoid the oils in clear plastic bottles on the grocery store shelf.)
  • Cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil
  • Saturated fats from healthy sources, such as organic grass fed beef
  • Butter and other raw dairy fats
  • Raw, organic coconut oil
  • Avocados

Fats to avoid:

  • Hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated fats and oils
  • Highly processed vegetable oils (corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower, canola)
  • Trans fatty acids (from hydrogenated oils)
  • Fried foods

These fats are all dangerous as they cause inflammation at the cellular level. Inflammation is the root cause of many diseases, and heart disease in particular. Although for years we believed that unsaturated oils such as canola were actually good for the heart, we now know they cause inflammation and disease, and are to be avoided.

Here’s the bottom line: You don’t have to limit healthy fat in your diet. Because fat is so satisfying, it’s very hard to eat too much of it.  So what does that look like on your plate? About one-third of your plate should be some kind of protein, including animal (meats) and vegetable (beans) sources. And most of the rest should be vegetables of all kinds. Healthy fats, like avocados, coconut oil, and butter can be used liberally. Limit grains and fruits, and always avoid processed, packaged, denatured foods.

Why Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat

If you’re like me, you grew up hearing the message that eating fat would make you fat. Low fat eating was the only way to go. We cooked out of the American Heart Association’s low fat cookbook, we ate Snackwells fat-free cookies, and butter might as well have been arsenic. Americans ate that way for decades. And guess what? As a nation, we got sicker and fatter.

Fat is an absolutely essential ingredient for life. Just some of the many roles our dietary fats play in our bodies include:

  • Fats make up the membrane of every cell in our body. The health of that membrane is critical to every process every cell needs to do, whether it’s excreting toxins, taking in nutrients, or making a muscle contract.
  • Fats are critical for the absorption of many of the vitamins we eat. Without fat, those vitamins (A, D, E and K, specifically) cannot be utilized and are just excreted after eating.
  • Fats play a vital role in fighting inflammation and promoting healing.
  • Fats are critical to the creation of hormones, including those all-important sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone.
  • Fats make you feel satiated, make your food taste good, and allow you to eat less food and feel fuller, longer.

Our bodies are meant to run on fat, as it provides us with the best long-burning source of energy. Unfortunately, most of us are fueling our bodies with carbohydrates/sugars. (Note: carbs are anything that comes from a plant, which includes sugar and grains and fruits. Every carb we eat is eventually broken down into its simplest sugar form, glucose.)

Every time you eat carbohydrate-heavy foods, it sets off a cascade of hormones in your body, as the body tries to process all that glucose and store it away for use. The problem is, our bodies become so hyper-sensitive to the nonstop flood of sugar most of us are eating, that our hormones overreact and do too good of a job processing the glucose. As a result, our blood sugar levels plummet (you know that crash you feel an hour after you eat a giant plate of pasta? Yeah. That.), and we are left craving more sugar or stimulants such as caffeine to try to get our energy back up. Low-fat high-carb eating sets off a chain of events that can lead to hypoglycemia, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and even type II diabetes. Our bodies can only handle so much sugar bombardment.

Beyond that blood sugar roller coaster though, the fact is our cells can only store away some of that processed glucose. Once our cellular and liver storage is full, but we continue eating more carbs, that processed glucose gets stored away as fat. There’s just nowhere else for it to go. Body fat. Belly fat. Fat. Sugar makes you fat.

When we eat meals that contain a good portion of fat, a few things happen. First, we feel full, happy, satisfied. We eat less. And we can go longer without wanting to eat again, because we’ve given our body long-burning fuel. Our cravings are reduced. Fat also slows the absorption of carbohydrates, so any sugars you have eaten will be much less likely to spike your blood sugar. And at the cellular level, we are building strong bodies, tissues, and cells.

Low-fat eating is a certain route to cravings, blood sugar issues, sleep disturbances, and even more severe disease. Give your body what it needs, and include some healthy fats every time you eat.