In my last two blogs, I discussed how essential it is to consume carbohydrates and protein. Now let’s look at the last vital macronutrient, fat. Yep, the forbidden word, fat! It seems like currently the media is on a ‘carbohydrates are bad’ kick and many of us recall the 90’s fat-free craze. Almost all food naturally containing fat, became fat free. Cheese would no longer melt, potato chips caused gastrointestinal problems because of the Olestra being added instead of fat, and our pans were never the same again as even oil or degreasers were forbidden. Even though the media moved onto different trends, this fad still hangs in the back of our minds, and I often have clients who are still convinced that fat is bad.
Let’s review the different types of fats:
Saturated: found in animal-based products and tropical oils – meat, eggs, dairy, palm oil and coconut oil. They are typically solid at room temperature. These used to be thought of as bad fats, but more studies are showing that as long as these are consumed with a variety of other fats, they are not harmful.
Unsaturated (polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and omega’s): typically found in plant oils as well as fatty fish – olives, nuts, seeds, avocados, salmon, and tuna. These are known for having huge health benefits. They are being used to treat schizophrenia and depression, prevent blindness, decrease cholesterol levels, and help with healthy skin and hair.
Trans Fat (partially hydrogenated fat): manufactured fat found in processed foods. Because this is not a natural fat, the body does not know how to process them properly, therefore these fats are linked to increased risk of heart disease. As of June 18, 2018, all partially hydrogenated were eliminated from food in harmful quantities. Therefore, we no longer need to worry about these.
Fat is essential for many reasons. To begin with, it provides the amazing flavors and smells when we cook. Three pounds of our brain is water. If we removed the water, we have over half of the brain containing fat which includes cholesterol and unsaturated fat. This is critical for our brain to communicate. If you imagine dropping a pea into a jar of olive oil, it will float around but if the jar does not have oil in it, the pea will clink around in there. The same thing happens in your brain. When clients eliminate all fat from their diet or begin to lose too much weight, the brain actually shrinks. This leads to increased risk of dementia and depression as well as increased eating disorder thoughts. Rationale tends to decrease considerably, especially when it comes to overthinking food choices and having a healthy body image.
It is true that fat is denser than carbohydrates and protein; meaning that each gram has more calories. But it’s important to remember it is a macronutrient which means it is the other critical component to eat in addition to carbohydrates and protein. Let’s focus on trying to eat some fat throughout the day so we can have the healthiest brain possible.