Have you ever seen a lion stalk a herd of wildebeest searching for the skinniest one with the least amount of fat? In the natural world, fat is a prized commodity. It is calorie dense, allows longer satiety because it burns slowly and provides needed nutrients not found in other food types. Humans have been eating fat since the beginning of time, so when did fat become bad?
The modernization of our culture led to a much higher percentage of people with a sedentary lifestyle. Obesity started to become a problem and the weight loss industry convinced us that fat was the enemy back in the 70’s. Decades later, we are still buying the load of lard that all fat is bad and should be eliminated from our diet.
Am I suggesting you should increase your intake of oreos, Doritos, doughnuts, etc. to get more fat? Absolutely not! Bad fats really ARE bad. They create inflammation, contribute to obesity and increase the risk of heart disease, among many other things. As we transformed from a hunter/gatherer society into a modern culture, we started processing good fats in a way that caused them to change into a form that is not healthy, as well as manufacturing fat substitutes from chemicals. Several years ago, we started seeing information on the health detriments of trans fats. Many of the studies showing connections between fat intake and heart disease are looking at the intake of bad fats such as conventional eggs and grain fed beef.
Good fats, however, are essential for optimal health. Fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 are termed “essential fatty acids” because our body cannot make them – we must get them from the foods that we eat. They are essential to our normal physiological processes.
Fat is a component in every cell in our bodies. Our brain is primarily composed of fat. Therapeutic diets for a variety of illnesses that affect the brain include high intakes of healthy fats. For example, the ketogenic diet includes roughly 70% of calories from fat. It has been used clinically for over 80 years in the treatment of seizure disorders and more recently for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Autism.
Cholesterol makes up the molecular backbone of all of our hormones. If we don’t have enough fat coming in from our diet, we can’t appropriately digest fats. If we use a medication such as a Statin that inhibits our ability to absorb cholesterol, then hormone levels will drop regardless of age. Everyone needs adequate hormones! I routinely look for low cholesterol levels as a potential cause of hormone imbalances.
Healthy sources of fats include avocados, coconut oil, raw olive oil, raw walnuts, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, fish, grass fed and finished beef, eggs from pastured chickens, pastured chickens, lamb, pastured pork, and wild game. Organic sources are preferred. I recommend eating a source of healthy fats with each meal.
Stay tuned for future blog posts from me to include more great reasons to eat plenty of healthy fats. In the meantime, enjoy your favorite sources of healthy fats!