Love your fats!

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Do you remember when seemingly everyone thought a “low-fat” diet was a “healthy” diet? Turns out this just isn’t true! In fact, we need fats in our diet! Thankfully, more and more people are catching on to the fact that fats have an important role in an ideal human diet. Some dietary fats are essential for human life, others serve important roles in nearly every cell, and even the fact that dietary fats taste so good is important for optimal digestion.

Fats that are essential

We all know that vitamins and minerals are substances that humans need to eat to survive. Well, turns out there are a couple fats with this status too, and they are aptly called essential fatty acids. Separately, they have even fancier names: Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are available from plant and fish sources. Sources of omega-3 fats include many types of fish, and seeds like chia seeds, walnuts, and flaxseeds. Omega-6 fatty acids can be absorbed from plant oils and seeds like safflower oil, sunflower seeds, and pine nuts.[1]

Why do we need fats? These fatty acids are important in our bodies. They create the structure for our cell membranes. They are the building blocks for hormones. And they help to form bile acids, which helps us digest our food. When we eat enough dietary fat, it ensures that these processes keep working well in our bodies.

Fats that are good for us

Not only do these fats help with basic functions in the body, they can also help to improve your health. Healthy fats can reduce the risk of chronic cardiovascular disease. Fish oil taken for as little as 12 weeks can improve known markers for cardiovascular disease like blood pressure and cholesterol.[2] Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are also associated with reduced risk of acute cardiac events like heart attacks.[3]

Getting enough dietary fats can also help to improve our genetic expression! One study looked at how fish oil affects epigenetics, or how our genes get turned on and off. Both walnuts and olive oil had a positive impact on epigenetic markers. Basically, when we eat healthy fats, our genes work in our favor. This decreases inflammation and positively affects our metabolism and risk of diabetes.[4]

Fats that make us feel good

Not only do dietary fats make food taste good, but they help our bodies feel fed. Fats trigger hormones and neurotransmitters to send you the signal that you’re full.[5] When you eat fats, you can feel full and satisfied for a little longer than you would from a meal without any fats.

The types of fats that show positive impacts on health come from plant or fish sources such as:

  • Walnuts
  • Olives
  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Safflower
  • Sardines

The great news is that it’s not complicated to incorporate some of these into your everyday meals. Be sure to schedule an appointment to discuss the appropriate diet for your health goals.

[1] Oregon State University. Essential Fatty Acids. Linus Pauling Institute website. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/essential-fatty-acids#metabolism-bioavailability. May 2014. Accessed January 24, 2018.

[2] Shen T, Xing G, Zhu J, et al. Effects of 12-week supplementation of marine Omega-3 PUFA-based formulation Omega3Q10 in older adults with prehypertension and/or elevated blood cholesterol. Lipids Health Dis. 2017;16(1):253.

[3] Kamleh MA, Mcleod O, Checa A, et al. Increased levels of circulating fatty acids are associated with protective effects against future cardiovascular events in non-diabetics. J Proteome Res. 2017

[4] Arpón A, Milagro FI, Razquin C, et al. Impact of Consuming Extra-Virgin Olive Oil or Nuts within a Mediterranean Diet on DNA Methylation in Peripheral White Blood Cells within the PREDIMED-Navarra Randomized Controlled Trial: A Role for Dietary Lipids. Nutrients. 2017;10(1)

[5] Waldman HS, Krings BM, Smith JW, Mcallister MJ. A shift toward a high-fat diet in the current metabolic paradigm: A new perspective. Nutrition. 2018;46:33-35

Katy Morrison, ND, LAc