Get Healthy with the Right Fats
by Jordan Rubin in Extraordinary Health Magazine
If you’re seeking weight loss and improved health, it’s easy to look at fats as the root cause of that extra weight gain or the latest uptick in your blood pressure. But that doesn’t make all fats bad, and it certainly doesn’t make fats something to avoid. In fact, the right sources of fat can actually improve health, improve brain and heart function, and even liberate existing stores of fat. It really is a matter of seeking out and understanding the different sources of fat, capitalizing on those that are healthful, and eliminating those that are, well, evil.
It’s time to reconcile with fat. Because if you don’t, your body will find a way to hold onto it. It always does. If you limit fat significantly, your body will slow its own metabolism. It will even do such deplorable things as increasing the amount of enzymes that cause fat storage.
So the solution is to maintain some fats within the diet, not avoid them (and you still have to exercise). Fats have a number of positive properties, including improving immunity by aiding in the absorption of vitamins and minerals, improving hormone production and signaling, and enhancing well-being. It also has the very appealing quality of allowing your body to free up, or eliminate, some stored fat. Your body holds onto fat because it (fat) has the aforementioned crucial functions in the body. Your body needs fat. If you don’t provide it, it holds onto remaining stores very tightly.
So what are the good kinds of fat? There are two principle kinds, and they are called the “essential fatty acids” because the body cannot produce them by itself. One is termed “omega-3” fatty acid and the other is “omega-6” fatty acid. Of these, the omega-3’s remain deficient in most American diets. That’s a problem, because the body uses omega-3’s to create the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA, which carry the most heart-healthy and disease-fighting benefits. Omega-3’s are prominent in flax and hemp oils, although the conversion to EPA and DHA is sometimes limited, so the best source is oily fish such as salmon, trout and mackerel. Some favorable effects of these fatty acids include lowering bad and increasing good cholesterol levels as well as contributing to body fat reduction, helping to prevent muscle breakdown, and even assist in calming inflammatory conditions.
The problem is, they are not easy to come by, especially from our heavily processed food supply. Processed foods often contain trans-fatty acids, which are responsible for the more, shall we say, horrific qualities of fat that include increasing your chance of disease. Many of the essential fatty acids are found in fish oils and have been shown to promote increases in muscle mass while simultaneously reducing fat.
For anyone attempting to shed fat, a diet with a healthy amount of fat (the right kinds, of course) is a healthy alternative to a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet. Recent research has indicated, for example, that switching from a high fat diet (40% of calories) to a diet that consisted of 25% of calories from fat actually resulted in weight and fat gains. Several studies have confirmed this, and the consensus appears to be that a diet with 30% fat is recommended for achieving an optimal weight.
From this 30% recommendation, we follow the one-third rule. Specifically, one-third of your fat intake should come from unprocessed polyunsaturated fats. These include flax oil, hemp oil, and fish oils/capsules. Another one-third should come from monounsaturated fats (e.g., coconut oil, olive oil, avocados). The final third will be made up of saturated fats, which are found in products such as red meat and whole milk. Fats to avoid or severely limit include processed vegetable oils, margarine, fried foods, and anything with “partially hydrogenated” on the label The aforementioned “good” fats such as flax oil and olive oil can be found in health food stores and mixed into food or protein drinks.
So, quite easily, you can adjust your diet (and in turn, your body) to accept the right kinds of fat. The kinds of fat that actually promote health and fat loss. The kind that aren’t present in cookies and cakes and late-night snacks. But at least it’s not something to avoid entirely. It’s simply a matter of being smart, not scared, about the benefits of fat.