Calcium is to bones as fat is to ______________??? If you guessed nerve tissue, your brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerve system, you guessed right. Fat is the structural component that makes up your nerve system. Your endocrine (hormone) system is also made mostly by fat. These two systems are primarily responsible for regulating your entire body. Fat is also responsible for making up much of the cell wall in all of your 100 trillion cells. This is one of the reasons why fat is an essential nutrient.
The type of fat that makes up your cell walls is directly related to what types of fat you have in your diet. Humans should be eating a varied diet of fats, from all types of natural foods like lean, wild meats and seafood, plants and oils. The types of fats you want to avoid are from heavily processed foods like hydrogenated oils, margarine and any plant oils that don’t really seem that oily. For example, when you bite into an avocado or olive, you could see that just by pressing it, oil would come out – whereas, the same principle doesn’t really hold true for things like corn. The more common sense involved in the things we feed our cells, the better. Now, these natural fats that are found in nature are called Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. They often have a ratio of around 1 (or 2):1 Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the natural, healthy food sources available to us. If we consume these healthy fats in those ratios, then our cells will be built around that similar ratio, which is very important for cell health.
Why is this Important? One Word: INFLAMMATION
Eating the wrong fats causes inflammation (or silent inflammation) in the body. And it is associated with nearly all lifestyle diseases: heart disease, cancer, obsesity, type II diabetes. It is virtually guaranteed to run rampant in your body if you are consuming a diet that resembles the USDA’s food pyramid guide or a typical American’s diet. These diets have an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio much closer to 10 or 20 to 1, Omega-6 to Omega-3.
The content of our cells, essentially how we are made, depends on what we eat. And it plays a huge role in how we break down. Breakdown is part of life; some of your cells are undergoing the process of breakdown, while still others are in the process of dividing and creating new cells. This is a very natural process; however, what types of fats you eat have a large role in whether that breakdown happens normally, or whether it triggers an inflammatory reaction in your body.
If you eat a natural (Paleolithic or hunter gatherer) diet, your ratios of fats will be balanced and there will be much less inflammation in your body. Inflammation is linked to all lifestyle diseases, and so it is extremely important to include many healthy fats in your diet!!
Saturated vs. Unsaturated?
Although saturated fat has been much maligned in recent years, the truth is that our bodies need both saturated fats and unsaturated fats; addtionally, the source of those fats is critically important. Animals typically have much more saturated fat, and so you want to make sure that the saturated fat you eat comes from healthy pasture-fed animals. Unsaturated fat typically comes from plants, so you want to focus on healthy plant fats and oils that come from foods such as avocados, walnuts and olive oils. Staying away from processed food will help you minimize your trans fats (man made) and unhealthy saturated fats, which are linked directly with heart disease and other lifestyle diseases.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!! Everything you consume is a choice, either to build and feed your beautiful body’s cells, or to poison and harm the only vessel that contains your life. A carrot is not just a carrot – your brilliant body is able to turn that into skin, eyes and hair – and a Twinkie is not just a sugary treat, but a wrapper covered poison bomb that will shorten your life over time. We must make smart decisions with the foods that we eat, especially when it comes to fats. Avoiding fats and focusing on carbohydrates in the form of grains, breads, pastas, and other packaged food-like products has cost many Americans their figure and their life. Stop thinking of food as something to stop your stomach from moaning, or as mindless fuel, and start thinking of food for what it is: sustenance, that which creates our body and mind and gives us life.
- Eat a lot of fat. Our ancestors ate roughly 30-45% fats from healthy, natural sources and had no evidence of any heart disease, cancer, dementia, autoimmune disorders, skin problems (acne, eczema), etc.
- 2-5 grams of healthy Omega-3 Fatty Acid each day
- And lots of the following: olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, raw nuts and seeds.
Know Your Fat: A Glossary
Saturated Fats: The term “saturated” comes from the way the molecules that hold this type of fat are bound together. Fat molecules are made up of carbon atoms that are bonded together in a chain, with each one carrying its own hydrogen atoms. In saturated fat, the carbon atoms are carrying as many hydrogen atoms as they are capable. In other words, they are saturated in them. This hydrogen saturation firmly packs the fat molecules together, almost like stacks. This stacking changes the form of the fat. Saturated fats are more likely to be a solid, like butter or lard, easily molded but not oily. Saturated fats are also often used in packaged, processed foods because they are more solid at room temperatures. Some saturated fat is needed in the body. These should come from healthy, grass fed beef and naturally raised animals.
Unsaturated Fats: These are generally healthy fats, or “great fats!” Replacing the saturated fats in your diet with unsaturated fats can help lower your cholesterol and your risk for heart disease. Unsaturated fats are not fully saturated with hydrogen bonds, the carbon molecules instead bond to each other. Therefore, they do not have the rigid structure, and are oily and more fluid-like. Unsaturated fats can be found in avocados, nuts, and vegetable oils such as olive oil. There are 3 different types of unsaturated fat: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats.
Monounsaturated Fats: These fats have one bond that is unsaturated. That may not seem like a big difference, but it is! These are often found in natural foods. Olive oil is about 75% monounsaturated fat, and almonds are about 65% monounsaturated fat. Add these great fats in order to reduce your risk of cardiac disease.
Polyunsaturated Fats: These fats have more than one bond that is unsaturated. You can find polyunsaturated fats in leafy greens, fish oil, seafood, bananas and sunflower seeds.
Hydrogenated Fats and Oils: When an unsaturated fat molecule has hydrogen atoms added to it, it eliminates the double bonds in the carbon atoms, replaces them with hydrogen bonds, and makes the molecule more saturated. This process is called hydrogenation. It extends the shelf life of these fats, but they are harmful to your body. These are dangerous fats that you should stay away from! Incomplete hydrogenization is very common. This causes the formation of trans isomers. Trans isomers are…(surprise!) linked to heart disease.
Transunsaturated (commonly known as “Trans”) Fats: Also known as Partially Hydrogenated Oils, trans fats are not essential. Trans fats promote heart disease. They are created when the hydrogenation process doesn’t fully saturate the fat molecule. They are so dangerous that they have often been banned in many cities. New York City was the first city to ban trans fats from restaurants completely. Evidence is mounting that trans fats promote Alzheimer’s, liver dysfunction, type II diabetes, and even infertility in women. Simply put: Do not eat trans fats.