As you likely know, your body requires vitamins A, D, E, and K (potassium) among many other nutrients for optimum health. While these nutrients are easy to get naturally, they aren’t easily absorbed without being paired with fat. However, that doesn’t mean you should go out and pop your vitamins with a burger and fries.
When pairing nutrients with fat, it is important to opt for the healthiest forms of fats available. In addition to helping your body absorb these important vitamins, healthy fats also promote brain function, muscle building, and cellular repair. In fact, some studies even suggest that some good fats may help reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. That is exciting news, indeed!
Good fats help your body and overall health and bad fats do the opposite. The best sources of good fats are foods in their most natural state possible or from which oils have been extracted with minimal processing.
Good fats help you to feel full and satisfied after a meal and may contribute to maintaining a healthy weight. They also may support healthy cholesterol while buffering against bad cholesterol in the blood. Some of the best examples of healthy fats include:
Avocado and Avocado Oil: These little green gems contain monounsaturated fat and are easy to digest. This type of fat is easily converted by the body into energy, and avocados are also fairly low in natural sugar. The ratio of high but healthy fat to low sugar is elemental to avocado’s health-giving properties. They also contain nearly 20 essential nutrients including double the potassium of a banana and natural folic acid. One research study also found that volunteers who regularly consumed avocados absorbed far more carotenoid antioxidants than those who didn’t consume avocados, helping to preserve their health at the cellular level. If you have a histamine sensitivity or are allergic to latex, use caution when considering avocados or avocado oil in your diet.
Olives and Olive Oil: Olive and olive oil, like avocado, contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. They help to promote satiety and vitamin absorption. Olives and extra virgin olive oil are high in omega-9 fatty acids, a heart-healthy fat source, and also contain antioxidants that are particularly good for your skin, heart, hair, and nails. Olive oil is best used in homemade salad dressings, low-temperature cooking, and topically. Topically? Yes! Did you know that olive oil can be used as a moisturizer for dry skin? It can also be used on a cotton swab to remove makeup. However, use caution when cooking at higher temperatures as high heat breaks down some of the health-giving properties of olive oil. Instead, consider coconut oil for high-temperature cooking.
Coconut and Coconut Oil: Coconut and coconut oil have skyrocketed in popularity over the last few years, and for good reason. Coconuts are packed with lauric acid, one of the most important nutrients found in human breast milk and essential for brain development. Lauric acid is also an antiviral and a great addition for immune system support. It is also antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory. It may well be one of the world’s most perfect foods, rivaling avocados for top position. Although you can cook with olive oil, coconut oil is a significantly better choice as it can withstand much higher temperatures without breaking down and losing nutritional value. However, avoid coconut and coconut oil if you suffer from SIBO.
100% Grass-fed Beef: The cow’s digestive system has evolved specifically to break down grasses, absorbing the nutrients in their herbivorous diet for muscle growth, cellular repair, and overall good health. Beef contains both healthy omega-3 and unhealthy omega-6 fatty acids, but the ratio is such that it tips the scale far in favor of the omega-3s, thus promoting healthy cholesterol and limiting bad cholesterol. Grass-fed cows have overall better health than their feedlot counterparts, thus, when cooked properly they pose a much lower risk of food-borne illness.
Wild-caught Fish: Much like grass-fed cows, wild-caught fish retain naturally high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. As a result, wild-caught fish may promote heart health while providing anti-inflammatory properties. Wild-caught fish also contain numerous vitamins and minerals that may help reduce mental fog and improve focus and may also help promote a healthy immune system, helping to protect you against seasonal illnesses such as the common cold or even the flu.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids: Bad fats include omega-6 fatty acids which promote inflammation throughout the body and often lead to increased hunger, larger and more portions, and finally to obesity and its associated complications. The few minutes of satisfaction from these bad fats may actually lead to hours or days of fatigue, stomach aches, headaches, or other uncomfortable symptoms. Long-term, consumption of Omega-6 fatty acid may lead to chronic illnesses and disorders such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, elevated bad cholesterol, and lowered good cholesterol, strokes, and more. Bad fats include processed liquid oils, feedlot animals, farmed fish, and any fats that have been hydrolyzed, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.
Hydrolyzed Fats: Hydrolyzed fats and any food that has been hydrolyzed are particularly scary. In their natural forms, the original forms of these fats and foods may be harmless or low risk, but through hydrolysis, they become excitotoxins. Excitotoxic foods are implicated in a number of illnesses and disorders that involve overstimulation of the brain, disrupting numerous processes throughout the body, specifically disrupting the process of methylation. Without proper methylation, normal genetic expressions that help keep the body healthy and high-functioning may not be switched on correctly, or at all, as fats and other factors act on the chemical processes in the cells of the body.
Commercially Raised Beef and Farmed Fish: Commercially raised and slaughtered cows and farm-raised fish are almost universally fed corn or corn-based mixes and their digestive systems were not designed to breakdown and metabolize them. They may even be fed food byproducts and waste products. In fact, not too long ago, some feedlot cows were fed the tissue of other leftover slaughtered cows leading to outbreaks of mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE).
Feeding cows or fish an indigestible diet inhibits their normal methylation cycle as well as other processes involved in their normal development. When methylation and other processes are impaired, their muscle tissues are unable to utilize nutrients from their food sources and they become poor sources of nutrition for humans. The ratio of good fat to bad fat is severely lopsided in these animals, often resulting in unhealthy levels of omega-6 fatty acids and very low levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Farm-raised fish are also far more likely to contain high levels of mercury and other toxins that may be absorbed by the human body leading to illness.
If your budget prevents you from purchasing wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, coconut and coconut oils, avocado and avocado oils, and other sources of healthy fats, focus on purchasing the best quality you can afford within your budget. You may start by buying just one jar of coconut oil for your pantry for a month, and then adding an avocado oil another month. Pace yourself, but make the switch.
Whenever possible, buy organic, non-GMO foods. If you can only afford a few, consider following “The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.” The foods on the dirty dozen list often contain much higher levels of pesticides and other non-organic compounds. The clean fifteen foods often may be consumed with far less risk of consuming pesticide and other contaminants.
Limit processed foods. Begin by eliminating the least healthy processed foods from your diet first. Remove a few from your grocery list each week, replacing them with whole, natural, unprocessed alternatives. Also, many healthy foods are seasonal and at peak season are sold at a reduced price. Eat with the seasons!
Reconsider your cooking methods. Poaching, slow cooking, and steaming meat proteins are far better methods for preserving healthy fats when compared to baking or frying which heat foods to such high degrees that the healthy fats are damaged and replaced by less healthy compounds. These slow-and-low cooking methods also reduce the need for unhealthy oils in cooking, saving you money.
Consider the long-term costs of healthcare. Eating lower quality foods today may seem budget-friendly but these cheap foods lead to many serious and expensive health problems. Obesity, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses are responsible for millions of dollars spent annually on healthcare. Eating better today may actually be more affordable long-term.
Before you overhaul your diet, get a thorough evaluation of your health concerns, lifestyle factors, and genetic makeup. While one dietary change may be ideal for your friend but may not be ideal for you. Those suffering from thyroid disorders, impaired methylation, diabetes, and many other issues should seek medical guidance. Your health and genetic makeup are individual to you. As a result, it is important to partner with healthcare practitioners who are focused on helping you navigate your own path towards managing chronic illness.