Five fun fat facts – say that five times fast! I know what you’re thinking: what could be fun about fat?! I get it. In all my years of teaching and training, NO ONE has ever come up to me to discuss the importance of including fat in their diet. Nope, the main questions I hear the most are: What’s the best source of protein? How much protein do I need? Isn’t protein the most important macronutrient? Shouldn’t I avoid fats and carbs as much as possible and load up on the protein?
While I’m glad people are thinking about how to best fuel their bodies, I’d like to shout one word from the rooftops: BALANCE!!!!!! While protein is important, so are carbohydrates and fats. Of course, I’m talking about the carbohydrates we get from whole fruits, whole vegetables, and whole grains, not foods that come in a package. Processed foods should be avoided as much as possible. The healthy fats like those we get from nuts, seeds, and avocados should also be a part of our daily diet. Our diets should be full of whole foods that reflect the colors of the rainbow, because every time you choose something that was made in nature and not a food lab, you are not getting pre-packaged junk but pre-packaged perfection. You can rest assured that all the macro and micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in that food are perfectly proportioned and balanced as nature intended. That being said, stop fearing the fat in natural WHOLE foods!
Fact #1 – Studies show that people who eat nuts daily live longer than those who don’t. I know we all want to live longer, but there’s the fear that eating nuts will make us fat. If this describes you, see fact #2.
Fact #2 – Studies also show that people who eat nuts daily are less likely to gain weight. For a short, informative video on the studies concerning nuts and weight gain, click here:
Nuts are cardioprotective in that they help lower blood pressure and blood pressure response to stress. They are packed with fiber, healthy fats, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. They help raise the “good” HDL cholesterol while lowering the “bad” LDL cholesterol. Nuts have also been shown to boost the process of reverse cholesterol transport in which fatty plaque from clogged arteries gets “swept away” by particles of HDL in the blood. Wow, the human body is simply amazing….now, would someone please pass the nuts?
Fact # 3 – We need fat in our diets to have healthy skin. Essential fatty acids (Omega-3 & Omega-6) are called essential because our bodies cannot make them. They are important to help the body build healthy cell membranes. They also help produce our natural oil barrier that helps our skin retain its moisture which means our skin will be more plump and youthful looking.
Fact # 4 – Omega-3 fats help control inflammation in the body. Many of the diseases from which we suffer can be traced to chronic inflammation – think heart disease, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, just to name a few. Studies have shown that Omega-3s can reduce inflammation. There have also been some studies that show Omega 3s have a positive impact on cognitive function. Those in the study with a higher Omega 3 index had higher blood flow in the brain. Dr. Daniel G. Amen said, “This is very important research because it shows a correlation between lower omega-3 fatty acid levels and reduced brain blood flow to regions important for learning, memory, depression and dementia.”
Fact # 5 – We must have healthy fats in our diet to metabolize certain vitamins. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins, meaning that for them to do their jobs, we must have fat in our diets. The following list is of just a few things these vitamins are responsible for:
Healthy teeth, skin, vision – Vitamin A
Healthy bones, regulating immune and neuromuscular systems – Vitamin D
Protects against free radical damage – Vitamin E
Healthy bones and helping the blood to clot when we are injured – Vitamin K
Of course, these vitamins have many more functions than stated above, but you get the point. We need them for our bodies to function properly, but they cannot do their jobs unless there is enough healthy fat in our diets. Below are some sources for healthy fats.
Sources for Omega-3s – Plants
- Chia Seeds – have a great Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio
- Brussel Sprouts
- Algal Oil
- Hemp Seed
- Flaxseeds – have a great Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio
- Dark leafy greens – not a major source of fat, but the fats they do contain favor Omega-3
Sources for Omega-3s – Fish – Watch out for mercury and PCBs
- Tuna (fresh)
Sources for Omega-6s
- Hulled Sesame Seeds
- Durum Wheat
- Whole-grain breads
- Most vegetable oil
- Grape seed oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Canola oil
- Soybean oil
- Sunflower seed oil
- Corn oil
- Safflower oil
- Pumpkin seeds
While we need both Omega-3s and Omega-6s, it is important to have the right ratio. Eating whole plant foods can help with that. Too much Omega 6 may lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease instead of protecting the heart. It may also lead to increased cancer risk and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Look at the list for Omega-3 foods versus the list for Omega-6 foods. How does your diet stack up?
The optimum ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is not totally agreed upon. Some say it should be 1:1, while others say 4:1 is good enough. However, many Western diets have a ratio of about 15:1 or higher. If you eat a lot of processed foods, your ratio is going to be much higher because many processed foods and baked goods have a high amount of Omega-6. According to research conducted February 28, 2018, 67.3% of the food consumed in the United States was either processed (9.4%) or ultra-processed (57.9%). No wonder we have so many chronic, inflammatory diseases!
Learn to Dance!
I have given you a lot to chew on in this article, I know, but don’t stress. Learn to dance! What do I mean by that? Stop being so hyper-focused on one nutrient, whether it be trying to get more of it (protein) or eliminate it altogether (carbs & fats). Just like life, good nutrition is a dance that should sway, shimmy, and shake to the COMPLETE symphony of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber, micronutrients, and macronutrients found in a diet based on WHOLE, not processed foods. Your plate should be alive with a variety of colors at every meal.
If you follow those guidelines, you won’t have to fear the fat or cower before the carbs. Instead, you’ll be dancing around the bathroom scale, or better yet, you’ll never bother with it again! Whole foods are perfectly packaged by nature to give you what you need without you having to obsess over protein, carbs, and fats. Learn to choose and fall in love with food that will love you back by giving you vibrant energy and boundless health. Choose REAL WHOLE FOOD!
Now if you dare, I’ve included links below to my favorite veggie panini with…… YIKES, fatty avocado! Even worse, it also has pesto made with almonds! Just kidding. Real food doesn’t scare me, and it shouldn’t scare you either. Enjoy!!
Or watch the video here: