If you read my blog and check out my recipes you’ve probably already noticed that I don’t shy away from real-food fats. I don’t use low-fat and sugar-free versions of foods when a real-food, full-fat is available.
It seems that the “eat healthy fats” message is everywhere online and on tv. Even the experts talk about healthy fat consumption and advise to incorporate it into our day. The real question if you’re a woman is, how is fat healthy for women?
Before I get to how you can benefit from eating healthy fats an which ones you should eat, I should share with you a one-liner of my food philosophy.
I focus on incorporating healthy fats into my diet combined with real-food fresh ingredients. Since I don’t use unhealthy fats or eat processed fats, I do not worry about the fat content as much as I worry about sugar. With that in mind, let’s talk about fats.
WHAT ARE HEALTHY FATS?
Please don’t shy away from eating fat. Fats are good if you eat the right ones. For so many years the media told us that eating fat was bad. That by eating fat we would get fat. Thank heavens that myth has now been squashed. Eating fat will not make you fat, but sitting on the sofa, not moving, eating the wrong foods…. that might!
Not all fats are the same. While bad fats like those found in commercially baked cakes and fast foods can wreck your health, good fats can, in fact, improve your health, protect your heart and reduce inflammation.
Good fats like the unsaturated fats found in extra virgin olive oil and avocados can actually boost your energy, improve mood, and because they help keep you feeling fuller for longer they can even help you lose weight. Awesome, right?
WHY ARE HEALTHY FATS IMPORTANT?
Just like our bodies need protein and carbohydrates, they also need healthy fats. Good fats give us energy and help us to absorb nutrients and vitamins from our diet.
WHAT ARE FAT-SOLUBLE VITAMINS?
Many nutrient-rich foods have fat-soluble vitamins. A fat-soluble vitamin is one that can dissolve in fats and oils. Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed along with fats in the diet and can be stored in the body’s fatty tissue. They come from plant and animal foods or dietary supplements. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble.
So taking a multivitamin on an empty stomach might not be the best idea. Add a tablespoon or two of full-fat yogurt with it and absorption increases.
BENEFITS OF EATING FATS FOR WOMEN
#1 Fat makes you feel fuller longer
Do you ever eat Chinese food or take-out and wonder “how can I possibly be hungry?” two hours after you eat? While you are probably stuffed at first and think to yourself “I shouldn’t have eaten all of that;” a few minutes later you get tired, and after that comes the short trip to the fridge to see if there are leftovers.
Carbohydrates, complex or not, come and go a lot faster than fats and proteins. That’s because they create an insulin spike and boom, they are gone. Healthy fats have a much lower impact on insulin levels. When your insulin stays level you don’t feel the sugar spikes or crashes.
The great news is that your moods are also stable and thus, you’re a much happier human all around.
Fat also slows the absorption of the carbs you eat alongside it so your pancreas doesn’t have to work as hard pumping insulin. While steamed veggies are much faster to cook than roasting them, consider drizzling a little extra virgin olive oil on top to add fats. Yes, vegetables have carbs and lots of fat-soluble vitamins.
#2 Fat is good for your heart
For decades we’ve been told that fats cause cholesterol and therefore high cholesterol causes heart disease. That’s not true. It’s been fully debunked so I won’t try to go into detail on this blog.
In short: you should look at the research because since the “heart health” of low-fat agenda was pushed nearly four decades ago, Americans have packed on the pounds and heart disease has skyrocketed. This is most concerning for women because heart disease is the #1 killer on women. That worries me because it can be prevented. It excites me because it can be prevented.
Eating mostly carbs is a terrible idea. Starting out with a bagel or muffin for breakfast, adding on fruit a couple of hours later, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner can only mean one thing: you’re eating carbs around the clock. Your body is working hard to digest them and keep insulin levels at bay, and you’re on your way to a slow death. Shocking, but true.
Carbohydrates cause oxidative stress and inflammation which causes your little cholesterol plaques to harden around your arteries. If you have no inflammation, cholesterol plaques are softer and don’t stick to your arteries. And then, cholesterol can do what it’s meant to do which is to regulate and make hormones and support your brain.
#3 Fat helps your brain
Did you know that your brain is made up of fat? About 60% of it is and about 25% of that fat is made up of cholesterol. The worst thing you can do over time is to eliminate fats -you’re literally starving your brain.
That’s why when you eat a high carb diet or go very low-fat for a while you feel tired and foggy. Your brain needs fat for energy and to run.
Again, you need to feed your brain with the right type of fats. Saturated fat is really good for brain function. Your brain is like a wired highway that communicates with electrical impulses from one end to the other between brain cells. And every brain cell has a little layer of fat around them (called myelin) that helps the signals travel faster. See? you want your information superhighway right inside your mind.
When the fat around your brain cells is starved it begins to break down. And brain function slows down. Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight but the idea is to eat today to live well tomorrow. Right?
#4 Fat improves mood
In short, you eat fat you’re happy. Did you know that your mood is a function of your brain and if you’re stressed or unhappy is possibly from a chemical imbalance (that’s what Drs tell us) but those imbalances can be naturally leveled out with… fats!
Fats are essential for mood stability. As a mom, this is super important because otherwise, I’m on the verge of losing it in front of my kids -either from anxiety, depression, or mood swings. This is an important reason for any woman that’s a mom to eat fats. Our family.
#5 Fats improve our skin
As mentioned earlier, fats help the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. This means that vitamins like A, D, E, and K are absorbed and they contribute to collagen production, skin tone, and the elasticity of your complexion.
Another myth debunked: fats don’t cause acne. On the contrary, inflammation beneath the skin will.
Since incorporating fats into my diet in the last decade my skin has improved tremendously and I have fewer wrinkles than expected on a 40-year old.
#6 Fats help your hormones
You need fat to have stable hormones. These include sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone. They also help regulate menstrual cycles and with fertility.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I NEED TO ADD FATS INTO MY DIET?
Some of the signs that you need to add fats into your diet are:
- Hair loss
- Weight gain/weight fluctuations
- Severe PMS
- Pale skin
- Loss of libido
- Lack of energy and constant fatigue
- Dry skin
- Dry eyes
- Feeling constantly cold
- Hormonal problems, including loss of menstrual cycle
- Inability to feel full/always feeling hungry
- Issues concentrating and/or mental fatigue
- Deficiencies in fat-soluble vitamins
BEST SOURCES OF GOOD FATS FOR WOMEN
- Grass-fed red meat
- Grass-fed butter and ghee
- Coconut oil
- Pastured egg yolks
- Salmon and sardines
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Avocados and avocado oil
- Brain Octane Oil
With a clearer picture of how fat affects your body, you can reach for the guacamole and pile on the butter without worrying that it’ll end up on your muffin top.
One of the ways I incorporate a healthy dose of high-quality fats in my diet is having a Bulletproof Coffee first thing in the morning.
GOOD FATS VS. BAD FATS
Since we now know eating fat is an important part of being healthy, and that we shouldn’t fall for the ‘low-fat diet’ craziness – after all this simply means it’s pumped full of sugar which has zero nutritional benefits, it’s important to get more good fats into your diet and limit the harmful ones.
• Olive and sesame oil
• Nuts and nut butter (almonds, macadamia, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, peanuts)
POLYUNSATURATED FATS (OMEGA 3S)
• Sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds
• Flax and chia seeds
• Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout, sardines, halibut) and fish oils
• Soy milk
THE MIGHTY OMEGA 3’S
Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat. A diet rich in Omega 3s helps to improve our mood, ease the pain caused by inflammation, support a healthy pregnancy and fight tiredness. Pass me the omegas!
THE BAD FATS
Vegetable oils are highly refined and artificial trans fats. They are listed in nearly every packaged food item at your store because they have a long shelf life and they are cheap! Scrap these altogether from your diet.
Note that vegetable oils are highly inflammatory in nature. Here is a list of the vegetable oils to reduce and hopefully eliminate from your diet:
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Soybean oil
- “Vegetable” oil
- Peanut oil
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
- Cottonseed oil
Where do you find refined transfats?
You find refined transfats in foods like these:
- Store bought commercially made cookies, donuts, cakes etc.
- Packaged snack foods (crackers, popcorn, fried chips)
- Fried foods (french fries, fried chicken, crumbed fish)
- Fast food
- Frozen meals and frozen foods
BEST HEALTHY FATS FOR KIDS
Remember, just like with our own diets it’s important that our children get healthy fats in their diet too. All too often parents sacrifice fats in place of adding more fruits and whole grains but kids need fat to grow and for brain development, especially in the early years.
For me, variety is key so mix up your children’s fats for optimum nutrition. My favorite sources for kids include:
- Nuts & seeds
- Oils: olive, coconut, nut, seed, and avocado
- Salmon: try my Easy Fish Nuggets made with salmon
So now you know. Don’t be scared of fats. They are good for you! The right kind of course. For this reason, I try to incorporate healthy fats into my diet throughout the day, starting with my cup of coffee in the morning. Yes, even coffee gets a healthy dose of fats which keeps me satiated longer and helps me focus.