Fat – Why You Need It!
When I was younger I tried a different diet almost every week. No surprise really, I was a teenager in the 90′s – the decade of low-fat/no-fat foods. Remember Snackwells? Yeah, I was all over those things! When I was about 15 I read that one should not consume more than 25 grams of fat a day, and just like that, fat became the enemy to be avoided at all costs! For years I would constantly aim for as little fat as possible, always trying to stay as far under 25 grams as I could.
Fast forward to my early 20′s. I started to develop some MAJOR health issues that I could not figure out! I was constantly sick, had achy joints, my digestion had gone from bad to worse and my menstrual health was a disaster. I went to countless doctors but all the tests came back normal. According to the docs I was fine. However, I was not feeling fine. It’s not like I was lying in a hospital bed but I felt unhealthy even though I kept being told that I was okay. In addition to my major issues, my skin and eyes were dry and my hair and nails were a brittle mess. No matter how much water I drank I still felt dehydrated and it seemed that the food I was eating wasn’t being absorbed.
Let’s just say that this period in my life served as my wake-up call. Since that time I’ve cleaned up my diet and lifestyle significantly. I kicked the processed junk-food habit and starting eating a LOT more veggies and whole grains. But fat? Sure I’d cook with olive oil and eat avocados once in awhile but that was the extent of it.
Two and a half years ago I was introduced to Sally Fallon (author of Nourishing Traditions and founder of the Weston A. Price foundation) through The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Her presentation totally changed my perspective on fat. In the 1920’s, Weston A. Price traveled to remote parts of the world and found that people from indigenous cultures ate very different diets but had common health characteristics. They did not suffer from the modern-day diseases. However, when these people moved from their remote villages to industrialized areas and were exposed to processed foods for the first time, they got sick!
I’m sure you’re wondering, “What does this have to do with fat?” Well, as Sally explained, traditional cultures ate meat – with all the skin, organs and fat included. Some cultures ate little or no meat but plenty of whole-fat raw milk or plant foods with natural fats. In short, naturally occurring fats were an important part of their daily diets.
I learned that our bodies require a certain amount of fat to function. Did you know that 60% of your brain is fat? And that there is more fat than protein in breast milk. Cholesterol, the mother of all fat molecules in our bodies, is the key to normal cell function and mood regulation and helps us digest fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. These vitamins play an important role in hormone regulation and fertility. Also, many of our most important hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, are made from cholesterol. Traditional cultures rarely, if ever, experienced problems with fertility, yet today, infertility is a $2 billion industry that affects six million American women every year. Our low fat/no fat processed foods craze is literally stopping our ability to reproduce!
I know that the idea of letting go of our fat misconceptions is frightening, but think about this. Our bodies equate fat in our food with security. It’s an evolutionary thing. When we don’t eat enough fat, our brains become preoccupied with how to get more of it. This is why most low-fat diets fail — at some point our biological charge kicks in and we “cheat.” And feel like we’ve failed. I’ve been there a million times and I’m sure you have too!
Our brains aren’t fooled by “fake fat” either. Real fat breaks down slowly over 3-4 hours after eating. Eating fat in combination with other foods slows digestion and signals the brain that you’re full. Fat substitutes trigger the promise of fat but never deliver. Waiting for the real deal, the brain continues to transmit a “still hungry eat more” message to your stomach. That is why I would eat the whole damn box of those Snackwells cookies and still be hungry! My body didn’t want all the sugar and chemicals, it just wanted real nutrients – carbs, proteins and fats.
Start getting more fat into your diet with some of these common sources of good fat:
Nowadays, I cook with butter and even coconut oil. I eat avocados, chia seeds, ground flax seed and lots of nuts. I use sesame oil and walnut oil in different recipes. I eat salmon but I’m not always in a place where I can get wild-caught fish, so I also take Omega-3 fish oils. My hormones are balanced, I no longer feel dry and brittle and I have actually lost stubborn weight that my body was holding onto when I was depriving it of fat.
Nicole Jardim is a women’s holistic health coach and founder of The Healthy Elements, where she helps women balance their lives and their hormones. www.thehealthyelements.com
Her latest program Fix Your Period begins next week! Learn more at www.fixyourperiod.com
Posted by The Be Prepared Period Team
Monday, August 6th, 2012
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