Fats...Should I hate you or Embrace you?
To all my wonderful readers out there, today we will be learning about “fats”. What comes to mind when you hear this word? What is fat? Are we talking about the extra pounds some of us might want to lose? Actually, the types of fats that we will be discussing today are dietary fats, which are also known as “Lipids”. I will be going in depth about fats and whether or not we should “hate” fat or “embrace” it. My goal is to guide you through the information and scientific research of lipids. Please don’t stop reading! I promise this will be a fun study and very interactive! Are you with me?! I guarantee it will change your perspective about fats, as it has for me.
Personally, I grew up eating a lot of dietary fats that came from cheese, meat, lard, vegetable oils, and other foods. As a college student, I was not aware of how fats could be harmful to my health, my food choices were based on convenience and affordability. So I constantly ate fast food and especially from the dollar menu. It took me years to change my diet and lifestyle, but I first had to change my perspective on food. My greatest hope is that you will find valuable knowledge to make the best decisions for your health and future.
We live in a society that has become obsessed with eating a “low-fat” diet because we might associate gaining weight with eating fats. You can find many items at the grocery store that are labeled “low-fat” or “non-fat”. I believe that this has brainwashed people to believe that fats are bad, and that has produced a fear of gaining weight. What can explain this phenomenon? I will answer this question later. So let me ask this question again, Should I hate fats?
Research and Lipids:
I promise not to bore you with this research, but I must share some useful information with you in simple terms. Ready?! If you are not interested in knowing the “why”, you can skip this section and read the recommendations. Now, let's evaluate the different types of fats. There are 3 main types of Omega-3 fatty acids: DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and ALA (alpha-linoleic acid). These are actually considered the good fats! They are found in fish, flaxseeds and walnuts; functions to boost brain power, decrease inflammation and so much more, as we will see soon. ALA, is mainly found in some plant oils. EPA and DHA are found in fish and are essential for good health when consumed in the correct quantity and ratio. Unfortunately, our American diet exceeds the need of Omega-6 fatty acids (the bad fats) by a ratio of about 20-30. This can result to many health problems, such as inflammation.
Inflammation: Studies shown that there is a link between inflammation and heart attack, certain cancers, and memory loss. As a matter of fact, the first signs of inflammation that are linked with Alzheimer’s actually came from autopsies. DHA is one of the most important fatty acids in the brain, however, patients with Alzheimer’s have been found to be deficient in DHA; some of the symptoms include inflammation, loss of muscle mass, and strength. More research is definitely needed in this area. Now, this is very frightening to me, and it should be to you as well. I’m sure that most of us want to age gracefully and have the muscular strength to do our everyday activities like go for a walk, and spend time with our children or grandchildren. Therefore, it is vital to consume dietary fats to prevent inflammation in our bodies.
Omega-6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils and processed foods, which is in the majority of foods that Americans consume daily. Diets that are high in the Omega-6 fatty acids can lead to inflammatory diseases, which are not good! CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is an Omega-6 fatty acid found only in meat and milk. CLA levels are much higher in grass-fed animals and may reduce asthma symptoms such as wheezing and coughing. Studies have shown that CLA halts cancer growth, especially in skin, breast and colon cancers. It is also believed to help with reducing weight gain over time. This is good news right?! Do I have your attention?
The Good News:
Who wants to keep their vision and be able to enjoy beautiful sceneries? Omega-3 fatty acids can help with that! One study indicates that high fat diets may contribute to developing Macular Degeneration. These fats include saturated fat, trans fats and Omega-6’s. A study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, found that an intake of Omega-3 has a 39% reduction in age-related Macular Degeneration. Omega-3 fatty acids help strengthen cell membranes, assisting with the healing process and they help build the resistance against infection. It may also help reduce stress and the traumatic effects that it has on our bodies. WOW! I love this, our body can heal itself with proper nutrition. In addition to this, another piece of good news for women is that Omega-3’s could improve bone structure by boosting absorption of calcium consumed, reducing bone loss.
More good news, Fish Oil:
There are a lot more studies showing that fish oil can benefit conditions such as Arthritis, Asthma, Cancer (specifically breast and colon cancer), Diabetes, Eczema, Migraines, Premenstrual Syndrome and Ulcerative Colitis among others conditions. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish about 2 times per week, especially salmon. I’m excited with all this research about the benefits of consuming fish oil! Based on all this research and overwhelming benefits that have been discussed, I think it’s worth taking some time to consider taking a fish oil supplement. What do you think?
What food sources have Omega-3 fatty acids and the good fats? Dietary sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are: Salmon, Caviar, Mackerel, Shad, Anchovy, Whitefish, Steelhead trout, Herring, Tuna (blue fin), Sardines and Rainbow trout. Other foods that have Omega-3’s are Extra Virgin Olive oil and butter. Organic butter, however, is best to consume because it avoids the residues of antibiotics and other chemicals found in factory animals. Other sources are whole eggs, which include the yolks. Yes! I said it, eat the yolk. The yolk actually contains important vitamins and nutrients like choline, lutein zeazanthin. When you only eat the egg whites, you are missing out on all of these incredible nutrients. Another good source of fat is Coconut oil, it is antiviral and antimicrobial which helps the immune system. And lastly, Avocados are an amazing source of fat, as it contains some fiber and the good types of fat that our body needs. Plus, they are truly delicious and very versatile.
The Bottom Line:
Research has been proven, that our bodies actually need some fatty acids to maintain optimal health! This is why having a “low-fat” diet is something I would not recommend. We need to balance Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in our diets. Our American standard diet seems to be extremely high on this ratio and higher on our intake of Omega-6 which leads to high levels of inflammation. We are recommended to consume both types of fats and maintain 1:1 ratio of both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. When these two fatty acids are ingested in the correct amount (omega-3 and omega-6) they will help regulate inflammatory responses and contribute to a stronger immunity.
Please! Stop using the “non-fat” and “low-fat” versions of food. They are usually very high in sugar and contain other harmful ingredients. Eat real dietary fat sources that are satiating and nutritionally very healthy. Fats…Should I hate you or embrace you? What do you say? After all this research, I want to embrace my good sources of dietary fats. Will you join me?!