What are fats?
Artificial trans fats are created through the process of hydrogenation of vegetable oils. These are genetically modified oils that are linked to unhealthy cholesterol levels, increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, obesity, inflammation, and chronic disease. Avoid these fats by eliminating processed and fried foods from your diet. Common convenience foods that contain trans fats include cookies, cupcakes, microwave popcorn, donuts, pizza, and many fried foods.
Although recently demonized, saturated fats can be healthy. For instance, medium-chain saturated fats (found in coconut) can help increase fat burning, provide a quick source of energy for the brain, and provide antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Short-chain saturated fats (found in ghee and butter) provide a source of fuel for our good gut bacteria and intestinal cells.
Unsaturated fats include monounsaturated fats (found in almonds, avocados and olives) and polyunsaturated fats (found in salmon, algae, and flaxseeds). These fats are popular in the Mediterranean diet and help promote a healthier heart and reduce inflammation in the body.
Omega 3 fatty acids include ALA, EPA & DHA. These fatty acids are essential because we must obtain them from the diet as our body cannot manufacture them itself. However, we are lacking them in the Standard American Diet today and this may be a contributing factor to the rise in chronic and inflammatory diseases. Omega 3 fats are especially beneficial for lowering inflammation, improving cardiovascular health, and promoting brain health. (DHA makes up about 90% of the fat in your brain.)
Though also essential, omega 6’s are less commonly deficient in the diet. They can promote inflammation in the body but this is primarily caused by eating too many omega 6’s and not enough omega 3’s. We must pay attention to the ratio that we are getting from our diets in order to avoid any negative effects.
What are the benefits of healthy fats?
What are some sources of DHA? Wild fatty fish including sardines, salmon, mackerel, and anchovies, pacific oysters, egg yolks, algae and ground beef.
You can also supplement with a good quality fish oil or algae supplement to ensure you are getting enough.
Blood Sugar Balance
Fats are the only macronutrient that do not affect blood sugar, which is why they are so important for conditions like diabetes . When combining with carbohydrates, fats can help lower the blood sugar response by slowing down the absorption of the carbohydrate. This supports steady energy levels, as opposed to spikes and crashes.
Fats have been negatively linked to heart health over the years, however this is largely due to increased inflammatory levels in the body, not due to fat consumption. Research is increasingly showing that specific fats have protective benefits for cardiovascular health. For instance, omega 3 fats have been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels, whilst improving HDL levels in the blood.
Healthy fats are essential for healthy hormones and fertility. Not only do healthy fats make up the building blocks of hormones, they also increase nutrient absorption, lower inflammation, improve egg quality, and promote ovulation.
Essential fats help strengthen the skin and retain moisture, resulting in healthier, more youthful looking skin.
Eating sufficient amounts of essential fats can help increase metabolism, promote satiety, regulate blood sugar, reduce inflammation, lower cravings, and balance hormones, which all result in increased fat burning and healthy weight management.
Sugar: what’s the big deal?
So why is this a problem?
The research now can accurately state that sugar is feeding disease.
Why is it so hard to quit?
You may know that you need to quit sugar but actually doing it is another story. Sugar can be addictive and that’s what makes it so hard to quit. Sugar consumption can modify reward centres in the brain and interfere with leptin and ghrelin signalling (the hormones involved in telling you when you are hungry and full), as well , which can trigger overconsumption and cravings.
Though it is recommended to decrease your sugar consumption across the board, occasional sugar consumption in small amounts is not something to be fearful of. The best sources of sugars are raw honey, dates, fresh fruit, molasses, coconut sugar, maple syrup, monk fruit, stevia, lucuma, and yakon syrup.
Not all sugars are created equal. For instance, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is one of the most detrimental sugars as it is highly processed and goes straight to your liver. This can result in fatty liver disease, and obesity.
Hidden sources of sugars
Beware when you are shopping as sugar is hidden in everything! Your best bet is to avoid processed and packaged foods altogether and to focus on whole foods. Sugars are hidden in obvious forms such as baked goods, ice cream, soda, and desserts, however in less obvious foods as well like salad dressings, pasta sauce, chips, cereal, protein bars, energy drinks, yogurts and blended drinks.
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.