“Low Fat” Fads
For years, we were told that a “low fat” diet was good for us and that it would lead to a healthy heart. Contrary to popular belief, this is absolutely false! A fairly high percentage of diverse, good quality fats are required for optimum health (Nutritional Therapy Association, 2019). Fats compose about 15% of our body weight, and there are many essential functions that they play in the body. For one, they provide us with a source of energy. While I do not feel that it is necessary (and can sometimes even be detrimental) to utilize calorie counting, I would like to use a quick example to show how fats can provide us with energy for longer periods of time than perhaps just carbohydrates or protein alone. A calorie is simply a form of energy. Carbohydrates and protein both provide 4 calories per gram, while fat provides 9 calories per gram. Therefore, higher calories = higher energy. If you are eating a low fat diet, you may find yourself consistently feeling hungry throughout the day. Even if you eat a large meal of mainly carbohydrates and proteins, if you are lacking dietary fat, you are not going to feel as satiated after the meal – and not for as long, either. For those that may be hesitant to add more dietary fat into their diets, I can understand that due to messages from our society. At the same time that we were told that a “low fat diet” is makes us healthy, we were also taught to fear dietary fat, with the belief that eating dietary fat MAKES us fat. Another very common misconception!
Important Roles of Fat
Here are some other various important roles that fat plays in the body: it acts as building blocks for cell membranes and hormones, aids the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), allows for the proper use of proteins, serves as a protective lining for the organs of the body, and helps regulate energy absorption by slowing the absorption of food. Also, this one may be obvious…but it makes food taste good! Some great dietary fat choices that add amazing flavor to meals include coconut oil, grass-fed organic butter or ghee (if you don’t tolerate dairy this is a good alternative), avocado, and sprouted nuts and seeds/nut butters. There are so many more, but those are just some of my favorites that I consume on a daily basis.
Not consuming enough dietary fat can lead to negative health consequences. Before I increased my fat intake, I struggled with many issues including digestion, hormone balance, pain in my joints, and low energy. I kid you not, significantly increasing the amount of dietary fat that I consumed helped to decrease ALL of the above health problems. This makes sense, as healthy fatty acid deficiency can negatively impact our musculoskeletal systems, endocrine systems, cardiovascular systems, immune systems, and more.
Working with a FNTP
Now, I do not write this post to tell anyone how to eat, and I also do not want anyone to obsess over making sure they are eating enough dietary fat. These are simply things that I have learned so far on my journey as a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (FNTP), and have also learned through personal experience in my own diet. I feel that these facts and experiences are too amazing not to share. If you had told me years ago when I was struggling with all of my chronic health issues that I could improve these problems by adding more avocados, almond butter, and coconut oil to my diet…I would have done that easily! So if you are struggling with feeling full/satiated after meals (i.e. feeling like you need to eat every couple of hours or you’re always still hungry at the end of a large meal), joint pain or any type of inflammation, hormonal issues, and/or digestive issues (particularly constipation – adding dietary fat can help with this!), it doesn’t hurt to try increasing your intake of healthy dietary fats and see if it makes a difference. And if you are interested in getting to the root cause of any of these health issues and/or you are would like to figure out a way of eating that feels best for both your mind and your body, I would suggest working with a FNTP. I help people figure out which foods make them feel their best – without having to skimp on flavor or cut out their favorite things. I also help eliminate “food fear” (i.e. the fear of dietary fat or other foods, or the fear that they don’t know what to eat because lots of foods make them feel sick). I also help others explore their relationship with food, and how they would like it to look.
Nutritional Therapy Association (2019). Fatty Acids Module. Olympia, WA: Author.