Over the last 50 years we’ve been told to eat a low fat diet for good health. But the truth is that healthy fats, and plenty of them, are required for good health. In fact, there is no such thing as a healthy fat-free diet. When I’m speaking to people, here are the Top 5 lessons that I teach them about healthy fats and oils:
- The first key is to understand how to maximize good fats and reduce bad fats. For instance, omega-3s are the most important good fats and approximately 99 percent of Americans are deficient in these critical fats.
- Your body contains more than 100 trillion cells, and each individual cell has a membrane that is made of the fat you eat. So the healthier and higher quality fat you eat, the better your cells will function.
- The brain is 60% fat, so it is particularly dependent on high-quality fats. The largest portion of the brain’s fat is omega-3 fat docosahexaenoic acid (DHA for short). DHA is essential to spark communication between brain cells, and higher levels of omega-3 boosts cognition, happiness, learning and memory. By contrast, studies have linked deficiency of omega-3 fats to depression and anxiety.
- After the brain, the heart is the most dependent on omega-3 fats. In fact, science has now debunked the idea that high fat diets cause heart disease. Even saturated fat has been liberated from the “bad for you” list. High-quality fats improve the overall quality of your cholesterol profile and reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering the small (and dangerous) LDL particles and triglycerides, while raising the good HDL cholesterol.
- Fat is also necessary for the production of sex hormones, like testosterone and estrogen. As with the points above, the higher quality the fat intake, the better the sex hormones function.
So we know the importance of high-quality fat in our diets and in our bodies, but how do we tell the good and the bad? Here are some helpful guidelines to choose the right kinds of fats:
Avoid these unhealthy fats
- Trans fats, hydrogenated fats, and partially hydrogenated fats.
- Excess omega-6 fats from processed plant oils and refined vegetable oils, such as corn, canola, soy and sunflower oil.
Instead, opt for these healthy fats
- Extra virgin coconut oil
- Whole organic coconut milk
- Fatty fish, like sardines, mackerel, herring, black cod and wild salmon (Aim to incorporate into your diet 3 to 4 times per week.)
- Organic or high omega-3 eggs
- Nuts, like macadamia, almonds and walnuts (Limit to 2 to 3 handfuls per day, maximum.)
- Seeds, like chia, hemp, pumpkin, and sesame (Limit to 2 to 3 handfuls per day, maximum.)
- Healthy oils, such as coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, walnut oil, or high oleic safflower oil.
- Grass fed butter, clarified butter, or ghee. (If you are allergic to dairy you can avoid butter and just use ghee.)
- Purified algae or fish oil (EPA/DHA), preferably 2 grams daily
These healthy fats are great to keep in the house, and you can experiment to decide which one (or combination of) is most versatile in your diet. For instance, coconut oil is great in cooking, as well as in shakes and on veggies. Avocados are the perfect partner at breakfast or in a salad, but also taste great in smoothies or green drinks.