Don't Be Afraid of Fat.... [Food Rules #3]

Black Bean noodles drizzled with Olive Oil, tomato sauce, butternut squash with grass fed butter, topped with avocado - 3 great sources of fats to complete the meal!

Black Bean noodles drizzled with Olive Oil, tomato sauce, butternut squash with grass fed butter, topped with avocado - 3 great sources of fats to complete the meal!

Don’t Be Afraid of Fat

Saturated, Unsaturated, Poly, Monos – they all serve a purpose…. As does cholesterol. GASP! Cholesterol is vital - it is not an evil substance roaming around in your blood to ruin us all. Did you know your nervous system is protected by fat? Every cell in your body is lined with cholesterol. You need it to live, to thrive and grow! Most Americans have believed the lie that all fat is evil and that’s just not true. Your body needs healthy fats, such as coconut oil, avocados, butter or ghee, extra virgin olive oil, and Omega- 3s. Fat also come from animal proteins.

Coconut oil is high in medium-chain fatty acids, which are easy for your body to digest. MCTs not readily stored by the body as fat. They are small in size allowing them to infuse cells with energy almost immediately. These fatty acids improve brain and memory function. The high amount of saturated fats increases good cholesterol and promotes heart health, while the antioxidants found in coconut oil make it an effective anti-inflammatory food. Coconut oil can be used for baking and cooking, by the spoonful raw, or even on your skin! Some brands are more tasteful than others; if this is the case, try using less of it. Stick with extra virgin varieties of coconut oil because refined or processed coconut oils can be stripped of many of the health benefits.

Olive oil is great for a healthy heart because of its high monounsaturated fat content. The high amounts of antioxidants in Extra Virgin Olive Oil - “EVOO” means it protects your cells from damage. It also helps improve memory and cognitive function, and works very well as an anti-inflammatory. This is HUGE considering a majority of diseases stem from chronic inflammation. Some tips for recognizing real EVOO are: high quality means higher price - don’t bargain shop for the cheapest! A seal from the International Olive Oil Council will help ensure quality; check the harvesting date on the label; if it’s labeled as “light,” “pure” or a “blend,” it isn’t virgin quality. Dark bottles (ideally glass) are the best for quality storage to reduce oxidation. Since EVOO has a low smoke point, it is best consumed drizzled over foods (like a salad), or cooked using low heat only. Did you know the average Greek consumes over 20 liters of olive oil per year - all to themselves?! That’s more than five-gallon bucket! When was the last time your family emptied a bottle? We buy it at Costco - Kirkland’s Organic EVOO.

The body is not able to produce Omega-3s on its own, which is why it is so important we are getting enough of them everyday. The three different types of “omega-3s” are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). The more important of the 3 are DHA and EPA (salmon, sardines). ALA is found in is found in some plant foods, including certain nuts and seeds, as well as high-quality cuts of meat like grass-fed beef.

The best nuts to eat are walnuts, the best seeds are flax and chia seeds. Green leafy vegetables are good sources of ALA. The vegetables with the highest amounts of Omega-3s are Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and watercress. The recommended daily amount of Omega 3s is at least 1,000 milligrams a day of EPA/DHA and about 4,000 milligrams of total omega-3s (ALA/EPA/DHA combined). This is why it is important to supplement in conjunction with eating foods high in healthy fats.  The difference between “fish oil” and “cod oil” can be confusing. Fish oil is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, but it doesn’t have much vitamin A or D. Cod liver oil is lower in omega-3s but very high in vitamins A and D.

With so many varieties to choose from and ways to consume them, healthy fats shouldn’t have any problem becoming an integral part of your diet. Start small - switch to coconut oil for cooking, or add a spoonful to your shake in the morning. Avocados make a great salad topper, can be mashed up and used as a dip for veggies, or added to a shake. Switch a meal each week for a meat free option, or fish dinner (wild caught is best).

For evaluating your fat metabolism, I usually start by recommending patients have an NMR panel run. This is a more expanded lipid profile that takes into account genetic components of how your cells transport fat. An insulin resistance reading can be calculated. Did you know fat metabolism and sugar metabolism were so intimately related? I hope it is no surprise to you by now that excess sugar in the diet is stored as fat. A holistic look at your condition, genetics and nutritional status is the most comprehensive approach to evaluating health.

Action Steps (Adults):

  • Consider having an NMR Lipid Profile performed

  • Add more healthy fats to your diet

  • Decrease fried foods and simple sugars

  • Switch & Swap your fats to improve health

For the Kids:

  • Avocado toppers with sea salt

  • Avocado Chocolate Mousse

  • Cooking and eating Grass-Fed Butter (KerryGold)

  • Eating whole nuts & seeds - we love almonds, pecans and sunflower seeds - as well as dipping in almond butter!

  • Add coconut oil to shakes or desserts (ditch the canola or “vegetable” oil, or Crisco!)

  • Use Olive Oil drizzle on salads, meals

  • Eggs - experiment with scrambled, fried and boiled/deviled eggs!

Dr. Holly Tucker