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FAT. Most people are scared of it. I can understand why. I definitely used to be, and I also definitely used to be unhealthy. The FDA told us that fat makes you fat, and that it causes heart disease and other chronic illnesses. I used to sit around eating entire boxes (aka my body wasn’t registering that I had eaten because the food was processed and stripped of a necessary macronutrient) of fat-free snacks, salads with fat-free dressings, et cetera. Not only was I eating a ton of crap, I was also likely not absorbing my nutrients properly. Why, you ask? Because many of the essential nutrients that we consume in our diets are f-word soluble. What does that mean? We need to consume these nutrients with fat in order for them to be properly absorbed in our systems! So, that salad you are eating with fat-free dressing? Not the best idea. There was a reason that God created extra virgin olive oil, and it was for salads. :) Research shows that those who consume salads with fat-free dressings are really not reaping all of the nutritional benefits possible. How about those vitamins that you spend a ton of money on and take daily? If you’re taking them without around 10 grams of fat, you likely aren’t absorbing some critical components of that pill!
There are many benefits of consuming a diet with a proper balance of fatty acids (yes, that means that saturated fats and natural trans fats DO belong in your diet; however, the the kind you want is found in grass-fed organic beef rather than some crappy fast food burger). Some might even argue that a diet with a balanced fatty acid profile could contribute to weight loss! (Perhaps more on that later ). Basically, the f-word isn’t something to fear! In fact, even our brains are composed of mostly fat! That fat has to come from somewhere…
That being said, it is essential that people are mindful of what they are putting in their bodies. In our society it is quite easy to “fill up” on food that does not serve us well, and likely throws off our delicate and necessary balance of fatty acids. Researchers show that most people aren’t getting enough essential (or omega-3) fatty acids. It is believed that in the past, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3′s was 1:1, and that it is currently closer to 10:1 in the general population. It is important to have the proper ratio so that the cell remains balanced. These fats create a container for cells in the body, and balanced fatty acid profiles helps the cells to function appropriately (ask me if you don’t get it and want more information about this!). Without this balance there is evidence of difficulty in brain functioning, which can even lead to depression and Alzheimer’s.
Taking steps to create a healthy fatty acid profile is critical. Eating a diet rich in nuts (like walnuts – they are even shaped like little brains!), fatty fish (obviously be mindful of the sustainability of the fish, and the level of contaminants, for example chose wild alaskan salmon over scottish/farmed salmon), organic and grass-fed beef, organic eggs, and oils (olive – for low-to-no heat, and coconut – for high-to-no heat are good choices) can all help contribute to a healthy fatty acid profile. Of course, taking a high quality fish oil pill is also highly beneficial – but, please be mindful of the source of the fish oil (are you consuming fish oil from farmed fish? This is obviously going to be at minimum less healthy, if not harmful) and if they are purified (free from contaminants).
In summary, fats are a critical component of our diets. It makes sense that we have a drive to consume these types of foods, as they helped to aid in our survival and our ability to thrive. Although research has previously created fear around the f-word, we now have enough information to understand that we MUST consume fats to be well. That being said, acknowledging the delicate balance between fatty acids is necessary considering the failure of the standard american diet (or, as some clever people call, SAD). Increasing essential fatty acids via specific foods and/or fish oil is a must to construct the proper balance.