Hello dear friends!
You may or may not have heard by now: fat is IN.
The scrumptious and oft-vilified nutrient is making a serious comeback and I couldn’t be happier, especially having grown up in the era of low-fat cardboard pseudo food! I can’t tell you how many sugary and processed bars, yogurts, cereals, and baked goods I consumed as a teenager that weren’t doing me any favors; it’s just that we all totally believed that was healthy back then. Oh, how wrong we were!
Listen up: if you are still reaching for the low fat or fat free labels, this post is for you. Your body is probably crying out right now for some dense and savory F-A-T to fuel your hard working cells, so it’s time to talk about why this three-letter word is crucial to getting healthy. Now, I know it’ll take a while for your brain to start associating the word “fat” with the word “healthy” (it certainly took me long enough), but I think once you understand how it works to boost your recovery, the notion will come a bit easier.
So let’s start off with an important caveat about the types of fat I’m advocating a spot for on your dinner plate. I won’t go into fancy details about molecules or chains or whatnots (there are plenty of other blogs that can do that for ya!), but I will make one important distinction: the good fats are natural i.e. found in nature and not the fats that are found in a factory or processing plant. That’s because mother nature is pretty darn good at this little thing called healing- the ideal combination of vitamins and nutrients is already out there. No laboratory or corporate testing facility needed.
Caveat number two: this type of nutritional therapy only works if you alter your dietary ratio of fat/carbs/protein, not just slap on more fat overall. Theoretically, when you replace some of your calories with healthy fats, you will naturally cut down on your carbohydrate consumption, which plays a huge part in the improvements you’ll see.
When you source your fats from whole foods, you are getting the perfect ratio of omegas and other compounds that actually protect your brain, joints, and endocrine system. Refined and processed fat sources only go on to spike inflammation, deregulate immune function, whack out blood sugar, and lots of other nasty things (hand in hand with sugar/carbohydrates, of course!). That’s because we humans are designed to get our fats from farms and not factories. The great big wilderness is filled with amazing and nourishing fat sources like coconut milk, cold-water fish, marbled steaks, nuts, and avocados. Now, I don’t know about you, but those sound a heck of a lot better than French fries and Crisco.
But I’m sure you’re sitting there wondering how on earth you can actually justify eating these things in the name of wellness. Right? Okay. Let’s start with the most important reason to up the fatty ante…
· Your brain!
That mass of neurons sitting in your noggin is made up of primarily fat and cholesterol. Now, what do you think happens when you are afraid to include those two ingredients in your diet? That’s right- your poor brain starts to suffer.
From a neurological perspective, low-fat diets have been correlated with everything from severe depression, cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, and even multiple sclerosis. And for me personally, I notice a definite difference in the clarity and speed of my thinking, as well as a lift in mood when I incorporate more omega-3-rich natural fats in my meals (thus, replacing those calories I would have gotten from carbohydrates…).
Myelin is the fatty lining that surrounds the wires of our neurons, and allows electricity to conduct speedily onwards, making our thoughts and movements fluid and responsive. We need plenty of dietary fat to keep that insulation strong. Especially if you are dealing with a diagnosis of MS, increasing your natural fat intake is a key part to your healing. As a side note, I’d also recommend reading the Wahl’s Protocol, if you haven’t already…
· Your hormones!
Everyone can benefit from a diet that balances hormones, am I right? You see, sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are made up of cholesterols, which are easily found in yummy foods like eggs, raw full-fat dairy, and fish. When you don’t get enough of these things, you may start to notice things getting out of whack: severe PMS, menstrual irregularities, loss of libido, and even serious infertility.
Boosting healthy fats while cutting processed carbohydrates is a great way to ensure your body can create the right amounts of hormones to keep you feeling balanced, nourished, and most of all…sane! I know I’m not the only one who feels more than a little off during certain times in my cycle, and I’ve found nutrition to play a huge role in regulating and calming everything down.
If you are looking to get pregnant, maintain a healthy pregnancy, or transition through puberty or menopause, please please please eat some fat!
· Your skin!
It’s actually an urban myth that fatty foods make your skin break out- it’s all about the types of fat and what it’s paired with. Yes, downing cartons of fried cheese curds and pastries will probably make you look less than stellar, but it’s not necessarily the fats’ fault. For me, and many many other people I know, the culprit behind skin blemishes is…dairy! Seriously- I struggled with acne well into my twenties, and while I still have the occasional breakout, my skin is WAY better now that I don’t eat dairy anymore.
But we’ll get into dairy another time!
Healthy rich fats will keep your skin (hair and nails too) soft, supple, and glowing. You’ll heal cuts, scrapes, and sunburns faster and more completely. You won’t need to slather on as much lotion, as your skin will be able to retain more of its natural moisture (saving you the chemical load of more topical beauty products- a sweet bonus), and flaky itchy skin will be a thing of the past.
· Your mood!
Now, maybe the fact that lots of yummy foods will be “allowed” on your plate (bacon and eggs, anyone?) will be enough to banish the crankiness, but there’s also a lot more going on than just scrumptious meals. When you start swapping out pro-inflammatory sugars and refined pseudo foods in favor of natural luscious lipids, you’ll experience higher feelings of satiety, more stable blood sugar, and a feeling of calm. This may be subtle at first, but trust me, the more you shift your diet in this direction and maintain your focus on whole and nourishing food, the more you’ll notice you aren’t quite as irritable as you were before.
Some people have reported lifting out of their depression, getting a better grasp on their anxiety, and feeling more productive, useful, and alive. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
That fat stuff is pretty darn amazing!
I could go on and on about the importance of including fat as part of your healing adventure, but this is just a blog post not a dissertation! So, I’ll leave you with a list of some of my favorite foods that keep me feeling awake, happy, and whole. Throw a few of these in your basket next time you’re at the grocery store, and leave the low-fat junk on the shelves!
· Coconut milk- the stuff in the can, not the carton
· Coconut oil- super versatile, and safe for high heat cooking
· Tallow or lard- expensive, but as natural a fat source as you can get
· Nuts- walnuts, pecans, almonds, macadamia nuts
· Fish- salmon, ahi tuna, mahi mahi (and sardines, anchovies, and other small oily fish…if you like them)
· Avocados- guacamole. ‘Nuff said.
· Dark chocolate- antioxidants too!
· Eggs- a cheap complete protein, even better when they come from backyard hens!
· Quality animal meat- steaks, uncured bacon, organ meats…
So, are you ready to start nourishing yourself with some healthy fats? Let’s give it a try and see how you feel in a week or two!
~ Hoping you feel as well as possible ~