Hey, y’all… happy Friday! Hope you’re having a good one :).
I wanna talk to you some more about health myths today. Like, I know I’m not a nutritionist or a dietitian, but that’s why I think it’s so important to keep debunking these myths. There are too many people like me out there who wouldn’t know this stuff unless we look it up.
Something I learned a couple weeks ago when I posted about about weight loss myths: cutting stuff out isn’t really the way to create a sustainable diet/lifestyle. It’s one thing to eat less junk food… that goes without saying. It’s another thing to cut out basic nutrients that every human needs, regardless of your choice of diet. (By this, I mean, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous, you still need the same nutrients).
Let’s start with something you may or may not know…
Fats are Nutrients
Lipids, more commonly known as fats, are one of 3 macronutrients that your body NEEDS in order to function. The other two are proteins and carbohydrates.
Everyone seems to be ok with proteins, but fats and carbohydrates get a really bad rep. There’s a whole host of reasons why that might be too much for 1 blog post, but I think it comes down to these basics:
Fats and carbs taste really nice, so we’re inclined to eat more than we need.
There are a lot of really unhealthy foods that contain refined versions of these macros.
Now, the 3rd reason quite simply comes down to the number of calories you eat. No matter how healthy the food is that you’re eating, if you’re taking in more calories than you’re burning- or you’re eating too few calories and your body is in starvation mode– you’re more than likely gonna store those calories in the form of fat…
And THERE’S the trigger word.
We know that excess body mass is bad and we’ve come to call everyone with this issue ‘fat’, so ‘fat’ has become a bad word.
Therefore, if being ‘fat’ is something you don’t want, it makes sense that you’d want to eat less fat, right? Well, sure, sometimes, but not necessarily.
There are so many more things besides weight loss to consider here. There are such things as ‘good fats’ and ‘bad fats’, and the good fats contribute to a healthy diet.
So that’s mainly what I want to talk about today.
Why You SHOULDN’T Cut Fats (Lipids) From Your Diet
I’ll scream this from the rooftops until the cows come home… I am not your doctor, I am not your dietitian. So if you’ve already spoken to a professional of that capacity about your diet and they think otherwise, this isn’t really aimed at you.
This post is mainly to get the average person to think carefully before making major nutritional cuts to their diet for the sake of looking better come swimsuit season.
Now that that’s taken care of, here are a few of the important functions that the fats from your food perform in your body (and why you don’t want to be hasty about cutting them out).
1: Cell Formation
You know that skin that you spend a shit ton of money taking care of? So that you look younger later in life and shine bright like a diamond everywhere you go? Well lipids play a big role in having healthy, supple skin.
How? Because lipids form cell membranes.
Cells are complex little things (the mitochondria is the powerhouse!). And just like our insides, cell insides need protection, too. That’s where the membrane comes in.
The membrane is composed of essential lipids/fatty acids, which you can only get from food.
These essential lipids are called linolenic and linoleic acids… and you need them. So don’t skimp on your healthy fats (we’ll talk about how to get those later).
2: Energy Production/Storage
Protein is a major building block for the muscles, but fats are what give your muscles the ability to perform.
In order to work, you need energy, and to get energy, you gotta burn something. The best ‘something’ for this is fat.
This isn’t just for people who work out, either. Sure, less active people don’t need to eat as much overall, but your muscles still need something to burn in order to carry you through the day.
So eat your healthy fats.
3: Digestion/Absorption of Other Nutrients
Taking a multivitamin is all well and good, but it ain’t gonna mean shit if you can’t absorb the vitamins it contains.
There are a few vitamins- A, D, E, and K- that are known as “fat soluble”. Once your intestines break down the food you’ve eaten (for which you need fat and water, too), you need fats to get those nutrients from your intestines to your blood stream.
4: Protection and Insulation
I know we don’t love our love handles- no pun intended- but we do need a layer of fat between our bodies and the outside world.
It’s right underneath our skin, and it keeps our organs all cozy and warm. No matter how muscular or fit you wanna be, you still need this. Otherwise your body temperature would become totally subjective to the temperature of your environment… which is problematic.
Keep exercising, but don’t cut the fat, especially if you’re a gym rat.
Best Sources of Healthy Fats (The Plant-Based Version)
Ok, now that I’ve told you the basics of why fats are important, let’s talk about healthy vs. unhealthy fats.
You got 3 basic types of fats where you can get your daily intake: saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats.
The main fats to avoid are trans and saturated fats. They’re the ones you need to avoid, and here’s why:
Saturated fats, a.k.a. “solid” fats, are made up of super tight bonds. They’re solid at room temperature, and our bodies’ internal temp is room temp, so that’s no bueno.
Trans fats… these are the WORST. This is the shit that you find in cookies, cakes, and other snacks. It’s basically what happens when vegetable oils go through “hydrogenation” (gain another hydrogen atom). You can also find small amounts of it in some animal products (meat & dairy). Not so much in unprocessed plant foods.
So if you wanna be safe, avoid the two types of fats above as often as possible.
Stick with unsaturated fats. These are the good fats. They are present in fish, but fish also contains a small amount of saturated fat.
And I may be a little biased, but stick with plant-based sources like nuts, olives and seeds. From what I can see, most meat and dairy products have a lot of saturated fats in them, whereas most plant products don’t (except coconut and palm oil).
Some great sources of unsaturated fats are:
Olive oil (like in salad dressings)
Canola oil (for cooking)
Personal favorite? Chia porridge/pudding with hemp seeds and dairy-free greek yogurt. It’s better than cereal. Don’t knock it till you try it ;).
In Short: Skimping on Fats Can Hurt You In The Long Run
Like I said earlier, if you’re circumstances are different than normal and/or you’ve worked something out with your doctor, this info might not apply to you. But for the average person, you need healthy fats to live.
And if you’re looking to lose a few pounds, cutting fats out entirely might actually sabotage you.
For one, you need the energy they give you to work out. Carbs besides fiber tend to run straight through you; you need fats, too. But also, fats (and fiber) aren’t water soluble, so you feel fuller longer… and you probably eat fewer calories throughout the day.
Now, there’s still a lot to learn about health and nutrition. That’s why it takes so much training and continued education to become a healthcare professional.
But for the rest of us mere mortals, our relationship with fats should be pretty simple: check your food labels.
Eat healthy unsaturated fats and limit your intake of sat and TRANS fats, and you should be on the right track!
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