Foundation 4: Essential Fatty Acids
I’ve talked countless times about the years I spent fearing fat, refusing to barely even look at it for fear of gaining weight. That is no longer the case, as I’ve finally been able to shed the years and years of low-fat dogma that has infiltrated what we know as standard “healthy” recommendations.
Now, I eat plenty of real, whole healthy fats, not only because they taste amazing (hello avocado!) but also because they contain a plethora of nutritional benefits for total body health.
When we do not eat enough or digest fatty acids properly, we start to experience a host of symptoms including musculoskeletal, endocrine, cardiovascular, immune, and skin issues, as well as depression, allergies, and anxiety. Plus, proper levels of fatty acids also help keep inflammation at bay, and as we’ve discussed numerous times, chronic inflammation is at the root of all disease.
When it comes to classifying fatty acids, there are three main categories, which you’ll know if you read the nutrition facts on foods: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Each category is made up of a slightly different arrangement of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and bonds. I’ll save the geeky chemistry details for now, but just know that each fatty acid molecule is slightly different.
Saturated fats are highly stable, solid at room temperature, don’t go rancid very easily, and hold up to high heat cooking quite well. Examples include coconut oil, butter, and lard.
Monounsaturated fats contain one double bond and are relatively stable, mostly liquid at room temperature, and don’t go rancid very easily. Examples include olive oil and oils from avocados, almonds, pecans, cashews, and peanuts.
Polyunsaturated fats contain more than one double bond and are relatively unstable, go rancid easily, and are always liquid in form. Two of these lipids are essential, meaning our body cannot make them; we have to eat them in our food. Examples include flax seeds, nuts, and fish oil.
Fatty acids play so many roles in the body, including the basics such as providing a source of energy, making food taste good, and increasing satiety. However, fats also play a more serious role in our health as well, as they act as building blocks for cell walls, hormones, and organs; aid in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins; and help regulate our blood sugar levels.
In order to maintain optimal health, we need a balance of all three types of fatty acids from a variety of wholesome sources. It’s also important to make sure the fats that we are buying are quality fats, as lower quality fats are typically already rancid by the time they hit the shelves (namely vegetable oils), thereby creating inflammation and havoc inside of our bodies.
Rather than choosing the not-so-good fats from vegetable oils, shortening, margarine, and any other fake butter spreads, I encourage everyone to include healthy fats from:
Coconut products (oil, butter, flakes, milk, etc)
Olives, olive oil (organic, cold pressed)
Avocados, avocado oil (organic, cold pressed)
Butter or ghee (clarified butter)
Nuts and seeds (raw or dry roasted, NOT roasted in vegetable oils)
Almond or peanut butter (no sugar added)
Flax or chia seeds
Full fat dairy products (yogurt, cheese, etc)
Having at least 1-2 servings of healthy fats per meal is the ideal way to ensure that you’re eating enough fatty acids and maintaining stable blood sugar levels.
However, if you do not have a gallbladder or have subpar digestion, this might still be an issue. If you do not have a gallbladder, I recommend taking an ox bile supplement before each meal.
If you still have your gallbladder but struggle with digestion, I’ll refer you back to my previous posts on digestion:
Digestion 101: What Proper Digestion Looks Like
Digestion 101: What Can Go Wrong and How To Fix It
Eating to Support Digestive Issues
Regardless, eating enough fat each day from healthy, real food sources is critical for overall health. Trust me, if you don’t start now, you’ll pay for it later.