In my practice I get a lot of questions about fat.
Kim, should I buy low-fat products and eat a low fat diet? What about a no-fat diet?
Are vegetable oils spreads good for me or not?
What’s all this coconut oil hype?
Is butter going to jack up my cholesterol? What about animal fats?
All of these are valid concerns and with all of the the fat fads out there, it can be challenging to decipher which fats are best if any at all. I tell my clients that you want to eat fat in its natural form with all of it’s synergistic components. This is why I don’t recommend no or low-fat products. Often additional ingredients (i.e. sugar) are added to low-fat products to give it the same texture and mouth feel of the full fat version.
Unfortunately, this often can leave you feeling unsatisfied. It reminds me of those Wendy’s commercials back in the 80’s – “Where’s the beef?!” It’s better to eat less and go for the full fat version to satisfy your body’s needs. You don’t want the body to have to search for the “beef,” because these cravings can often lead to unhealthy decisions!
So why is fat important anyway?
Fat serves many critical functions in the body including:
- insulation – warms and energizes the body
- protection – cushions internal organs and holds them in place
- transportation of nutrients – carries important fat soluble vitamins A, E, D and K where the body needs them most.
- structure – forms the structure of cell membranes and builds tissues
- hormone regulation – helps various parts of the body communicate and function
- nervous system health – plays a major role in brain and nerve development in addition to normal brain function and nerve transmission
There is a misconception that saturated fats are bad, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Saturated fats strengthen our immune systems, protect our heart and liver against toxins and stress, keep hormonal receptors on our cell membranes working properly and are required for hormone production.
Polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable oils such as canola, soybean, safflower and sunflower oil should be limited and never heated. Studies show that many vegetable oils in the diet disrupt the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio which creates inflammation in the body. When we consume too many polyunsaturated fats and limit our saturated fat intake, our cells become flimsy and don’t work properly.
So what fats should we consume? Let’s take a look at traditional diets before the invention of packaged foods. Most people enjoyed old fashioned, organic butter from grass-fed cows, unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil, balanced fats found in high quality foods (i.e. grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, nuts and seeds, avocados) and even minimally processed coconut oil.
If you want to learn more about the importance of fat, what fats to enjoy and how to prepare them so they don’t oxidize in the body and create inflammation, join me for my Skinny on Fats teleclass on September 18. I’ll be covering lots of information vital to your health in just one short hour.
Do you have a story or recipe to share using healthy, traditional fats? Feel free to post them here!
Winter is here and “germs” are everywhere. Guess what? They always have been. Unfortunately, germs are blamed as the cause of sickness when a weak immune system is the real culprit. Why are our immune systems weak? A variety of factors contribute to this weakness including stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, lack of exercise, overuse of alcohol or medications and dehydration.
So what can you do to support your immune system this winter? I suggest adding alkaline, nutrient-dense foods in your diet such as chlorophyll-rich greens like kale, parsley and cabbage, anti-microbial veggies such as garlic, high-mineral sea veggies and other seasonal goodies. In addition, fats such coconut oil (high in lauric acid), butter from pastured cows (high in vitamin A, E, selenium and conjugated linoleic acid) and cod liver oil (high in vitamins A and D) are great immune system builders. Flax oil, fish oils and wild-caught, cold water fish such as salmon and sardines contain omega-3 essential fatty acids which reduce inflammation in the body. Also, be sure to incorporate lacto-fermented foods and/or a good probiotic which build healthy intestinal flora and support immune system health. Lacto-fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchee, miso, kefir and yogurt, to name a few.
In addition to fat, make sure you are getting enough good quality protein in your diet. This can be from sprouted or soaked legumes, pastured meats or wild-caught fish. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and support the growth, repair and maintenance of every system in the body. Without it, your body doesn’t have the building blocks it needs to support your immune system. Be sure to balance your animal and vegetarian sources of protein. Everyone is different. Some people need more animal protein sources and less vegetarian protein, while others benefit from more vegetarian protein sources. Start with a 50/50 ratio and experiment! You may find that you need more protein or a particular type of protein during certain seasons or when you engage in more activities.
Remember that poor diets can lead to leaky gut syndrome, compromised digestion, nutritional deficiencies and Candida overgrowth (yeast). The health of the gut is very important to the health of your immune system. If you experience allergies, skin conditions, gas or bloating, for example, you may need to look a closer look at your diet, stress levels and digestive system health. If you’re feeling rundown, it’s really important to cut back on sugar, refined carbs, alcohol and commercial dairy. The sugars in these products feed the opportunistic bacteria and yeast. In addition, water supports the mucosal lining of the gut where the friendly microbes live, so make sure you are hydrating well in the colder months.
Regular, appropriate exercise and sunlight (rich in immune-system boosting vitamin D) have been found to support a healthy immune system. Be careful with working out too much however, because for some it can weaken the immune system further. Some people benefit more from intense workouts, while others benefit more from more calming workout such as walking or yoga (although yoga can be quite intense as well). The important thing is to move your body regularly and listen to it.
In addition to eating well and exercising, getting plenty of sleep and relaxation will protect you from most viruses and other infections. Make sure you have time to decompress everyday. It can be staring into space, closing your eyes to meditate or visualizing something soothing or joyful. In my opinion, this is the most effective way to stay healthy, even if you consume a lot of junk. Guess what? People who eat well but don’t rest get sick. Create a self-nourishment or play menu and pick something from it each and every day. It can be as simple as giving someone a hug, smiling more, going for a long walk or enjoying a cup of tea or glass of wine with a loved one.
So instead of worrying about the flu vaccine and stocking up on hand-sanitizer, put your time and and energy into eating well, relaxing, playing and loving yourself and others a little more. As they say, laughter truly is the best medicine.