Let me guess… at some point you’ve been convinced that fat is bad for you. We’ve all been there. Even if you now know otherwise, maybe there’s a little part of you that still leans towards skimping on the healthy fats in fear of your health or weight.
Well I’ve got news for you. Healthy fats don’t make you fat. In fact, they are so important for your health that by continuing to eat a low fat diet, you’re doing your poor body a disservice!
Healthy fatty acid deficiency is widespread, and may be behind many common health concerns such as musculoskeletal, endocrine and cardiovascular issues, allergies and skin conditions.
Why do we need fat?
Fat is way more important than you probably realise.
For starters, it makes food taste awesome. There’s no denying here that butter (raw, cultured, grass-fed butter that is) makes everything taste 1000x better. It’s a fact.
Healthy fats provide a lasting source of energy. Let’s go with a fire analogy here. Carbohydrates are like kindling. They burn up quickly and you need to keep throwing more kindling on the fire to keep it alight. Fats are the slow burning log. Once you’ve shifted your body into fat burning mode, your energy levels will stay consistent throughout the day. This means you'll no longer have those energy slumps where you wind up eating a ton of sugary snacks just to make it through the afternoon.
Fats are needed for healthy liver function. They are needed to produce bile. Without appropriate bile production, your body won’t be able to flush out toxins through this pathway.
We need fats to be able to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Vitamin A is important for eyesight, growth and tissue healing and healthy skin. Vitamin D is important for healthy bones. Vitamin E has an antioxidant function within the body. Vitamin K is required for normal blood clotting.
Fatty acids are essential for managing inflammation. Prostaglandins are made from fatty acids and control inflammatory function in the body. The body needs to inflame and anti-inflame to heal. This means we need a variety of Omega-3, Omega-6 and Saturated fats to ensure our inflammatory processes are working appropriately.
What are the different types of fat?
- Highly stable
- Do not go rancid easily
- Solid at room temperature
- Not essential (body can produce these itself)
- Sources: tropical oils like coconut oil, animal fats like lard, butter, ghee
- Somewhat stable
- Do not go rancid easily
- Liquid at room temperature
- Not 'essential' (body can produce these itself)
- Sources: olive oil
- Go rancid easily
- Two are essential (body can't produce them, you need to get them from food): Linoleic Acid (from Omega-6) and Alpha-linolenic Acid (from Omega-3)
- Sources: flaxseed oil
All fats are actually a mixture of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Whether or not they are healthy depends on how they are produced.
Figuring out which fats are healthy and which aren't is usually pretty intuitive. Think about animal fats. They're what's left over from cooking meat or broth. Think butter. You can whip it up yourself. Avocados, nuts and all the other natural sources speak for themselves. Canola oil on the other hand? This is processed at a high heat with the use of solvents and bleached, deodorised and dyed yellow before it lands on the supermarket shelf. It doesn't even taste any good! So steer clear!
What kind of fat do I eat?
To make sure you’re getting the healthy fatty acids you need, it’s important to eat a wide variety of healthy fats.
- Sunflower oil
- Black currant seed oil
- Evening primrose
- Some nuts and seeds
- Sardines (yum! – read more on them here)
- Hemp oil
- Chia seeds
- Olive oil
- Almond oil
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Animal fats such as tallow or lard
Quality is important. The fatty acid profile of meat varies depending on its source. For example, grass-fed beef is higher in Omega-3 and lower in Omega-6 than grain-fed beef.
Healthy Sources vs. Unhealthy Sources
- Hydrogenated fats like margarine
- Highly processed vegetable oils like canola oil, ‘vegetable’ oil and soybean oil
- Fried foods
- Saturated fats such as coconut oil, butter and ghee
- Wild-caught fish such as salmon and sardines
- Organic, pastured eggs and poultry
- Organic, grass-fed meat
- Good quality olive oil*
- Cold-pressed oils*
- Nuts and seeds (soaked and dehydrated is best)
*Best for cold applications only!
Confused? Don't be! Just choose from the healthy sources of fat and be sure to mix it up, eating a variety of healthy fats each day.