Check Your FATcts
Are you eating enough fat?
Once you know about the importance of healthy fats, the phrase “low-fat” will make you cringe. Yes, it’s true that there are many destructive high-fat foods out there, like processed snacks with trans fats, fast food burgers, and mysterious “vegetable oils” in salad dressings. However, we should be focused on choosing delicious natural fats, instead of avoiding them altogether. There are many mainstream articles and videos out there about the good side of fats, but healthy fats deserve all the attention they are getting! Plus, it’s hard to break that ingrained anti-fat mindset, so a little repetition won’t hurt.
It’s important to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy fats. Healthy fats tend to come from whole or minimally processed, organically grown foods and oils.
Healthy fats support hormone balance. They support neurological function. They keep us satiated throughout the day, so that we are less likely to seek out a boost from something sugary or high in caffeine. Here are a few examples of high-fat foods to increase in your diet:
* Nuts, like almonds, cashews, and walnuts
* Seeds, like sunflower and pumpkin seeds
* Nut and seed butter (almond butter, etc.)
* Pasture-raised, organic eggs
* Wild-caught, sustainable fish
* Pasture-raised, organic meat
* Cold-pressed oils (olive, coconut, almond, avocado, etc.)
* Hemp seeds (hearts) and hemp seed oil
Have you used hemp hearts or hemp seed oil before? The seeds and the oil both have a rich, nutty taste that goes well with sweet or savory foods. Hemp seed oil is sensitive to heat, so it’s best used cold, like drizzled over a salad. Hemp hearts can be sprinkled on top of just about anything to add a little flavor and fat.
Some people feel better when eating higher amounts of animal fat, and other people do better with mostly plant-based fat, or a combination. If your diet is low in all fats at the moment, experiment with adding in some of the above foods, and see which ones make you feel great.
Why is “pasture-raised” and “organic” important for animal products? Fat can be a storage space for toxins, in our bodies and animals’. When we consume animal fat from an animal that has lived a stressful life and accumulated toxins in its body, we are putting some of those toxins into our bodies. If you are only able to buy some of your groceries organic, animal foods are arguably the most important.
Cholesterol is one of the most villainized fats, but it can actually support health if it comes from good source! Animal foods contain cholesterol. But eating cholesterol does not automatically translate to having high levels of blood cholesterol. Our bodies make cholesterol whether we consume it or not, and many of our hormones are derived from cholesterol. Again, it’s all about high-quality, clean foods. Cholesterol is a natural fat that our bodies can handle and use well, if it doesn’t come loaded with toxins.
And what about dairy? Many people react poorly to dairy, even if they don’t realize it; it could be the underlying cause of certain health issues. But if you know dairy works for you (goat dairy is more easily tolerated), then look for organic and pasture-raised, and go for the full-fat version. You know it tastes a million times better, and you don’t have to feel guilty about it.
Fats and hormone balance: A low-fat diet is especially detrimental to women, because it can lead to out-of-whack hormones. As women, our hormone levels fluctuate enough as it is. Hormone balance is important for men, too. For example, cortisol is a hormone (a stress hormone) that affects everyone. Fatty acids are used to build hormones, and low levels of dietary fats can lead to hormonal chaos and deficiency.
Fats and neurological function: Our brains contain a lot of fat. As you may have heard, the brain is about 60% fat. Our neurons are protected by a lipid (fat)-rich coating called the myelin sheath. If we want to keep thinking clearly and retain healthy nerves, we need to keep consuming fats that our nervous system can use to rebuild as we go through life.
Fats and weight management: Dietary fat does not necessarily equal body fat; in fact, healthy fats can support a healthy weight by keeping us satiated and displacing some of the sugar and “empty” carbohydrates in our diets. Fats are used in many ways, for many important functions, throughout the body. It’s easy to imagine that the fat you eat lands on your belly and stays there, but it’s not always true. High-glucose foods (sugar and refined carbohydrates) are actually the ones that are quickly stored as fat on the body. Unhealthy, unnatural fats can definitely lead to weight gain, but whole-food fats support a healthy weight.
Once you change your perspective on fat, your entire way of thinking about food will change. As you put together snacks and meals, you will start thinking about how you can incorporate fat, maybe with a drizzle of olive oil or handful of hemp hearts or sunflower seeds. Fat can be very nourishing and soothing. Fatty foods taste good to us because the ones that occur in nature support our health! If you focus on real foods instead of processed, you will realize that your cravings are pointing you toward nutrient-dense foods that you need. Our bodies can be very wise if we take care of them.
Our Coconut Milk Powder is a brilliant way to add some extra healthy fat into your day. It contains no added sweeteners, but still brings the natural sweetness of coconut. We use whole dried coconut, so you get all of the amazing healthy fats found in coconut milk and coconut oil!
Stay tuned for smoothie ideas and other recipes using Coconut Milk Powder!
Bauman, E., and Friedlander, J. (2015). Foundations of nutrition. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College.
Stipanuk, M. (2000). Biochemical and physiological aspects of human nutrition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Company.