Quick! Name one of the most misunderstood of all nutrients in the American diet! Can you do it? We’ll give you a hint — it’s in the title of this post. That’s right, fat.
Fat has a reputation for being one of the worst things you could possibly eat, being accused of causing obesity, elevated cholesterol and heart disease, and more. However, what if we told you that fat may actually be good for you? Even an important nutrient that should be part of your daily diet? Don’t believe us? Read on to learn more about good fats versus bad fats and how the good ones might just help you maintain a healthy weight or manage chronic illnesses.
Fat, the misunderstood nutrient
It’s true, fat is one of the most important nutrients in your diet, just as important as protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, the US food industry that is responsible for mass manufacturing processed foods has pulled a switcheroo on the American public. For millennia, humans have consumed healthy fats in the form of natural plant oils from coconut, avocados, and olives and as natural components of wild game, wild-caught fish, and grass-fed cows. People eating such traditional, natural diets typically have far fewer chronic health conditions and live longer when compared to peers eating processed foods, farmed fish, or feed-lot beef.
With the rise of mass manufacturing and the ability to process foods for longer shelf lives and mass distribution, the US food industry put profits over health and began to promote “low fat” diets in the 1960s through today. Often this was a byproduct of the need to create shelf-stable foodstuffs, stripping healthy fats and replacing them with artificial, lower quality, or hydrogenated fats, and adding preservatives and chemicals.
The result? Substandard, processed foods with questionable nutritional value has displaced whole, natural foods across the country. The most visible places where this is evident are cafeterias in fast food restaurants, schools, hospitals, and corporations. Or, just walk through your local conventional supermarket and take a look at all of the foods packed in cardboard and plastic.
Why you need healthy sources of fat in your diet
Your brain is 60% fat and your body requires fat from your diet in order to promote muscle growth, cellular repair, and brain function. Fat is required for your body to break down and absorb several vitamins and nutrients found in the foods you consume. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K (potassium). Without adequate healthy fat in your diet, consumption of foods high in these nutrients, while not irrelevant, becomes far less efficient. Your body needs these nutrients to build strength and health.
Good fat and bad fat
Fats run the spectrum from bad to good in terms of their impact on your health. We talk more in depth about these fats in THIS post, but in general, good fats, as mentioned above are the ones that aid in cellular repair, muscle building, and brain function. Bad fats inhibit these processes, promote LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood stream while blocking HDL (good) cholesterol. Bad fats also add to chronic disease, obesity, cardiovascular disease, risk of strokes, and far more.
Good fats — Good fats are minimally processed and are naturally found in proteins such as wild-caught fish and grass-fed beef and in plant sources such as coconut and coconut oil, avocado and avocado oil, and olives and olive oil. These fats promote better health overall, inside and out.
Bad fats — Bad fats include any type of hydrogenated oil, fat from feed-lot cattle and farmed fish, and from genetically modified crops such as soybeans. They often are paired with simple carbohydrates which provide virtually no nutritive value and often increase hunger. These fats are most commonly found in processed, prepackaged foods. They contribute to all manner of chronic illnesses and lower the efficiency of the body’s natural defenses.
Dietary changes and genetic variation
While it may be exciting and tempting to go out and buy all new, healthy fats right away, turning around your diet overnight, be mindful of your particular dietary and health needs. The mass US food production industry would have you believe that there is one diet suitable for just about everyone. This simply isn’t true.
With as many as half of all Americans having genetic variants such as MTHFR (please see our introductory post on methylation), or other variations, it is essential to understand your genetic makeup and how different foods may impact the expression of different variants, many of which lead to chronic illness. Patients with SIBO, food allergies or intolerances, histamine sensitivity, and so on should be particularly careful and have a genetic screening and analysis before making significant dietary changes.
At Functional Longevity Institute, we suggest starting with genetic testing from 23andMe. 23andMe provides simple, at-home kits that use your saliva for DNA testing. Ideally, schedule your appointment with Dr. Rosario or Dr. Medel at FLI around the same time you order your genetic testing kit. The combined guidance from Dr. Rosario or Dr. Medel with your genetic testing may help to discern your suitability or need for dietary or lifestyle changes or your risk of developing (or continuing to suffer from) chronic illness. Please note, we recommend 23andMe independently. We receive no compensation from doing so and have no financial or other relationship with the organization. We simply believe this is the most efficient, easiest, and most affordable method of genetic testing for our patients.
You don’t need to have your genetic testing prior to scheduling an appointment at Functional Longevity Institute. We are happy to see patients and clients in our office, over Skype, or even by telephone to review health concerns, lifestyle modifications, and dietary factors. Please call us today at (916)550-0567 or fill out our easy to use contact form for immediate access to a brief video about our services and information about how to get started on your individualized care plan and to learn more about managing your chronic illness or health concerns.