Low-fat, no-fat, it was all the rage in the 80s and 90s. For years we were told fat is bad for us and we should avoid eating foods that are high in fat. Guess what? It is not true, it was never true, fat is not bad for you! Fats are an essential nutrient. Fats are one of the primary sources of energy for the body. Fats play a role in managing body weight, nutrient absorption, balancing hormones, maintaining body temperature, healthy hair and nails, immune system support, and fats provide insulation to your internal organs.
After reviewing a majority of my client’s food journals (yes, they have to provide me a journal of what they have been eating) I end up having the “you need to increase your fat intake” conversation. Typically, I get the response “no, I can’t do that, I grew up being told fat is bad for me”. Trust me I understand. I remember sneaking and eating my mom’s no-fat, sugar free Nutrisystem fruit snacks and I also remember eating the entire box of Snackwells fat free Devil’s Food Cookie Cakes (did you know they still make these, why?) You needed to eat the entire box to feel any satisfaction from these fat free chemical filled snacks.
Of course, not all fats are created equal. Fats that are highly refined, such as the fats found in packaged foods and typically used at restaurants can cause health issues. Natural fats, on the other, hand have many health benefits. Restricting your healthy fat intake can leave you feeling tired, hungry, moody and even lead to increased cravings.
Many of my clients are dealing with hormone imbalances, which is why it is important that they increase their healthy fat intake. Fat has the ability to help control hormones! Fat makes up your cell membranes, which surround every cell. These fatty membranes help keep the right balance of hormones in your cells. Healthy cell walls lead to a healthy hormone balance. Unhealthy fats lead to unhealthy, rigid cell walls, which make it difficult for your hormones to get into your cells. Low fat diets can increase your risk for hormonal issues and infertility.
Frequently I find clients have a difficult time with the idea of eating more fat. They are afraid after years of being told fat is bad, that fat will make them fat. Eating fat does not make you fat. Typically, when a person cuts out fats they increase their carbohydrate intake. This can lead to an increase in sugar intake, an increase in inflammatory foods, and an increase in overall calories. When you take fat out of a food it has to be replaced with something to make it taste good, most commonly this is done by adding sugars. Eating too much sugar has been linked to many health issues, which I have written about before (You can read one article HERE).
When you do not eat enough fat, you may find that you are hungry more often, fat helps keep you satiated. A low-fat diet increases your risk of heart disease, from eating more inflammatory foods such as sugar and refined vegetable oils. Low fat diets can lead to other health issues such as insulin resistance, diabetes, anxiety, depression and digestive issues.
Are you still avoiding fats in your diet? Healthy fats include, nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut, olives, wild caught fatty fish and full fat dairy (if tolerated). When you increase your healthy fat intake you may notice benefits such as hormone balance, improved brain function, stabilized weight, improved heart health, stabilize mood, and so much more. Eat your healthy fats!
Jamey Floreck, NTP, CPT
Legal Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is intended for educational purposes only, and it has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information isn’t intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any conditions or disease, nor is it medical advice. One should always consult a qualified medical professional before engaging in any dietary and/or lifestyle changes.