GOOD FATS, BAD FATS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Wouldn’t it be great if healthy eating was as easy as following clearly defined rules that worked for every situation?
Yeah, keep dreaming.
Nothing in life is that simple, least of all nutrition. Foods that we’ve happily eaten for centuries can quickly be vilified in diet books, causing them to vanish from store shelves -- and no food group has been more affected by this trend than fat itself.
Not so long ago, many nutritionists believed that eating fat made people fat. But health science today provides a more nuanced view. Now, we know that the fat in your diet doesn’t directly lodge itself in your belly, and that many kinds are essential eating for a healthy diet. Dietary fat keeps your skin soft, your organs happy, and your blood and muscles functioning properly. In fact, a healthy diet should consist of at least 10% fat every day.
That’s not to say ALL fat is good for you, though -- the nutritionists got some things right the first time around. Some fats are far more beneficial for your body than others, and learning the difference between good fats and bad is an important way to make strides towards total health.
Trans Fats: The Bad Fats
By far, the most dangerous fats in food today are trans fats. Trans fats are a byproduct of hydrogenation, the process that turns liquid oils into solids to improve their shelf life. On labels, trans fats are usually listed as “partially hydrogenated oil.” Found primarily in processed foods, even small amounts of trans fats can increase your risk of chronic disease.
Eating foods with lots of trans fats directly increases the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your bloodstream, which can lead to inflammation, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and dozens of other dangerous conditions. In fact, research from Harvard Medical School recently found that for every 2% of calories in a diet that come from trans fat, your risk of heart disease rises by 23%.
The Healthy Fats
Unlike toxic trans fat, good fats abound in natural foods like nuts, seeds and even vegetables. Fewer hydrogen atoms are bonded to their carbon chains, meaning that most healthy fats are liquid at room temperature. While this may cause them to spoil faster, it also means they are less likely to coat your arteries and cause heart attacks.
There are two main types of healthy fats: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fats include common oils like olive, peanut and canola, while polyunsaturated fats are known as omega -3 and 6 fatty acids and are found in eggs, fish and walnuts. These healthy fats work wonders for your body by building up cell membranes and reducing inflammation.
Your body can’t make these fats for itself and needs to get them from your diet, which is why they are considered essential. When eaten in moderation, both mono and polyunsaturated fats help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Keep Essential Fats in Your Life -- and Your Diet
It’s time to change the bad rap around fat and reject the idea that all dietary fat is dangerous. Not only can fat be delicious, it’s also essential for good health. So long as you stick to natural fats and reject trans fat in all forms, you’ll be doing your body a big service by eating some fat every day.
How our gut can help us with long term disease prevention.
Most of us don't think too much about our gut. Yes, It digests our food, but most of the time it doesn’t seem to be very flattering, right? Perhaps it's time to reconsider our attitude. Recent research has shown that the gut has many surprising functions that are critical to almost every aspect of our health and wellbeing.
The unseen star of the show is our microbiome : a 4-5 pound community of bacteria, fungi, and yeast. With 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells in the body, each of us is more like an ecosystem. Here are just a few of how this ecosystem helps you stay healthy:
Regulating immune function: Beneficial gut bacteria “calm down” immune cells, which is critical for long term health. An imbalanced microbiome (dysbiosis) can result in chronic inflammation - a constantly triggered immune system! This plays a major role in chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's, leaky gut and many more.
Metabolism: An imbalanced microbiome is linked to overweight and obesity. Particularly responsible is an overgrowth in Firmicutes while reducing the fiber consuming bacteroidetes. Not only do Firmicutes extract more calories from the same foods, but also promote the onset of chronic inflammation, which cues the body to hold on to excess weight; our body's ancient protective mechanism in the state of emergency.
Neurotransmitters: Many of the brain chemicals needed to feel calm, energized, focused and optimistic are in fact made by gut bacteria, including up to 90% of our serotonin! Mental ailments and mood disorders can therefore hardly be treated without taking the gut into consideration.
Hormone balance: Critical for producing and regulating our hormones, the microbiome has profound effects on our mood, sleep, stress response and appetite. Imbalanced microbes mean imbalanced hunger hormones, which lead to overpowering food cravings and weight gain. A poorly functioning microbiome is often behind the rampant estrogen dominance seen today, which can cause many problems from infertility to low libido and PMS.
It is incredible but true: the microbiome is a key player when it comes to our health – and supporting the “good guys” is critical for long term disease prevention.
Here are some simple tips for diet and lifestyle adjustments:
4 Substances that Wreck Beneficial Bacteria and cause Inflammation:
Processed food: processed sugar & carbs (especially gluten) imbalance the microbiome, cause inflammation and also contribute to swings in mood and energy.
Trans fats: these are often used in processed food and baked goods and spike inflammation.
Chemicals in toxic antibacterial household cleaners wipe out bacteria and reduces our own resilience.
Overuse of antibiotics destroys the microbiome – antibiotics are a powerful tool, but you need to be aware of their consequences and plan accordingly.
Fortunately, you can easily rebuild your microbiome. Most important here is to eat real food, and avoid processed artificial food-like substances!
Whole, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetable provide great conditions for beneficial bacteria to thrive.
Fermented foods like real pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, homemade yogurt and miso as well as probiotic supplements are rich with beneficial bacteria that that help re-populate our microbiome and help our internal ecosystem flourish.
And remember, it doesn't need to be all or nothing. Health is a journey, and any step in the right direction makes the next one even easier.