It’s an easy correlation to make that the fat you consume must be the fat that ends up around your waistline… right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. In fact, cutting all fat out of your diet would be quite detrimental to your health. As more and more people are realizing that the “no fat all carb” diet just isn’t cutting it, questions are arising as to what fat really does for us. While we understand that this is a topic that is constantly evolving, we are happy to engage in the conversation with you.
Why is Fat Essential?
Here is the most important thing to remember: fat, like carbohydrates and protein, is an essential nutrient. The key word here is “essential”. Your body uses fats to carry and absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and it keeps our hair and skin healthy. Also, essential fatty acids (like omega-3’s) do not naturally occur in the body and must be consumed through food. The body burns fat as a quick and concentrated energy source and fat is responsible for mineral absorption. Fat serves even more functions than these, so it’s safe to say that fats are not only important, but also absolutely essential for good health.
Does this mean that you should get on a cheeseburger, fried food and butter diet? Of course not! Your body does not process all fats the same, and it’s always important to take into account your family’s health history and your overall diet.
Not All Fats Are Created Equal
You may have heard nutritionists, doctors, and health foodies talk about “good fat” versus “bad fat”. These buzzwords came into play after health specialist realized that the previously subscribed to notion that all fats are evil was not in fact true. Fats are complex, and they truly are not created equally.
Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s – Finding the Balance
Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are fats that don’t naturally occur in our bodies and must be consumed through foods. Of these EFA’s, only two are known to be essential for human health (though others can be supportive to health): omega-3 (specifically alpha-linolenic acid) & omega-6 (linoleic acid). While we require both of these EFA’s, many of us are grossly imbalanced in them.
As consumers began to realize that fats like butter and lard were not so great for their health, they demanded a better alternative and found it in plant-based oils. Oils like sunflower, safflower and corn oil are extremely high in omega-6 and have very little, if any, omega-3. Because these oils are in such high demand, they are often times made with GMO produce as well. Someone who eats a typical western diet of fried and processed foods is likely consuming well over the necessary amount of omega-6, which are connected to inflammatory diseases like cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes in high quantities.
The ratio imbalance of the two types of EFA’s creates competition, and because the ratio is typically higher on the omega-6 side, that EFA usually wins. A diet with more balanced EFA ratios (more omega-3 and less omega 6) is tied to less occurrences of inflammatory disease. Our absolute favorite sources of omega-3 are chia and hemp seeds. We love that these seeds are not only nutritious and easy to consume, but eating things like chia seed pudding and hummus with hemp are delicious too! Consider trading your potentially toxic fish oil for an organic, plant-based source of omega-3’s. Vegans, rest easy knowing that there are other options for consuming omega-3 (like hemp and chia seed) besides fish oil.
Coconut oil and Fat
Though the coconut-rich Pacific Islander diet caught on in America, it was unfairly written off in the 1960s as a “bad fat” that had adverse affects on health. The media failed to report that the coconut oil that had been put under scrutiny for being unhealthy was artificially hydrogenated.
Coconut oil in its raw state is rich in lauric acid, a rare medium-chain fatty acid found in mother’s milk and tied to boosting metabolism.It also has less than 1% of omega-6, and has been tied to weight loss because of its richness in metabolism boosting medium-chain fatty acids. You can enjoy the true benefits of coconut oil in its organic, cold-pressed, extra virgin state; it should never be bleached, hydrogenated or refined.
At Nutiva, we believe in empowering consumers to make informed choices about food. Do you have a perspective to share about fats? Please comment below! We’d love to hear your thoughts and get the conversation going.
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