Healthy Fats and Your Health Part II
Are we starving ourselves because of the lack of healthy fats? Just Like Low Blood Sugar, Low Healthy Fat Levels Do Harm
We may worry about getting fat, but what if the bigger problem is actually a deficiency in dietary intake of healthy fat? Cutting down on fat from our diet may be a knee-jerk response to weight gain, yet, what if we are actually starving ourselves through a lack of proper fat intake while making ourselves sick with a diet full of trans-fats and other unnatural forms of fat? Bad fats include such surprising sources as starchy carbs. Every time you eat a meal devoid of healthy fat, you are getting full, but not getting the nourishment you need to survive and thrive! And healthy fat deficiencies can make you feel sick and irritable just like low blood sugar.
In more than 30 years of practice and research, I have seen firsthand the effects of improper fat intake and researched the subject in great depth. Fats come in two forms, healthy, non-adulterated fat, and harmful forms of fat, including the starchy carbs and infamous trans-fatty acids, alien to the human body and capable of causing biochemical disruption. If we take in the wrong forms of fat, the physical structures of our body may be malnourished, while toxic effects from the wrong fats can weaken our tissues and cells. Starchy carbs turn to a sticky fat which clogs the arteries, setting the stage for trans-fats to stick and bind to the walls of these blood vessels. Healthy eating is thus never as simple as saying "cut out too much fat" it is about finding the right fats and actively including them in our diet. The wrong fats can be overly acid; the right fats build our health by supporting a proper PH balance.
I would like to point out the role of Essential Fatty Acids such as Omega 3 and Omega 6 in building the structure of the brain and maintaining its function. Essential fatty acids are obtained exclusively through the diet. These fats support the function of our receptors, transmitters and neurotransmitters. Many well-known mental health issues including depression, anxiety and personality problems relate to insufficient levels of healthy fats in the brain. Responsible for maintaining the functionality of your neural networks, fats known as lipids form 80 percent of the dry weight of the brain, while the wrong fats and refined starch can impede brain function. Having the wrong fats in our diet can cause healthy fats to be displaced; scientific studies have indicated a wide range of neurological and physiological effects resulting from improper fat choices and low lipid intake.
Healthy fats are brain food!
Fats are foundational to mental health. Not only physical, but psychological ill effects may result from intake of the wrong fats, refined starch and sugar. Eating the wrong fats pushes out places for the right fats, while insufficient healthy fat intake also leads to malnutrition. Ironically, eating the wrong fats and starch, or not enough healthy fat may lead to weight gain as the human body seeks to meet its need for nutrients. This leads to? Surprise! Fat retention. And with fat retention comes a surprising range of ill health effects and also, persistent hunger that can lead to overeating! The right fats act as important insulators for neurological activity, support digestion, form tissue, potentially reduce complications from skin problems, discussed in our recent skin health article and maintain the integrity of our vital organs among other core functions. Avoidance of the wrong fats and refined starch will reduce interference with this function.
In my experience, I've seen just how wide-ranging the effects of insufficient fat intake can be, and how significant the consumption of the wrong fats and refined starch can be in displacing the good fats one does eventually consume. A wide range of inflammation based health complaints in our recent article on inflammation can be traced in part to fat deficiencies. Symptoms can include splitting skin, obesity, lack of focus and mental energy and poor skin condition. Fascinatingly, it is not only low blood sugar that can cause low moods and irritability; a drop in healthy fats may wreak havoc on mood stability.
Literature has shown some interesting details that support my investigation of the biochemical basis of mental health challenges stemming in part from the foundational problem of dietary fat intake and subsequent biochemical challenges. According to the British Journal of Psychiatry, medical research has long focused on neurotransmitters alone when examining mental illness. A University of California at San Diego study noted that long-chain omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can have antidepressant effects, but the presence of trans-fats can impede the conversion of fatty acids to DHA. In this study, Dr. Beatrice Golomb noted "Trans-fatty acids were a more consistent predictor of aggression than some traditional risk factors such as age, male sex, education and smoking."
And yet more refined fats are not going to solve a healthy fat deficiency any more than white sugar and starch applied to a blood sugar situation! In our typical Western diet, intake of fat types required to maintain mental health has declined. Simple carbohydrates, trans-fats and other refined products now dominate many of diets, contributing to serious health problems being seen in our modern society. As one example, Dr. Mark Hyman notes that the so called "Standard American Diet" or "SAD" is poor in healthy fats as well as vitamins and minerals. The result is a combination of malnutrition and overconsumption of sugars, carbs and refined fats. Such inefficient eating leads to poor physical health and obesity, but also mental health complications when one does not give the brain the fat it requires for clear thinking.
What can one do about this problem?
We recommend that health seekers swiftly incorporate the right nutritious fats and fat sources into their diet. See our article on Healthy Fats, while concurrently removing the unhealthy fats and refined starch that can poison your body and block your body's ability to absorb and utilize healthy fats.
Together with the addition of healthy fat, we recommend the use of digestive enzymes to increase absorption of nutrients, mineral supplementation, sufficient protein and adequate intake of non-starch based fiber. All of these dietary components will help you to absorb nutrients and detoxify the build-up of waste from your previously unhealthy or at best, somewhat deficient diet.
We recommend olive oil, butter, coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds as ideal sources of healthy fat. Extra virgin olive oil is an excellent fat for cooking, along with the coconut oil and offers nutrition to the human body. Cashews contain healthy fats and also help to balance the serotonin levels of the brain, while Brazil nuts are high in selenium and also include amino acid tyrosine that help to boost dopamine, serotonin levels and endorphins. Interestingly, coconut oil may help address nutritional challenges potentially linked to what is considered Diabetes 3 – Alzheimer's disease. Coconut oil has great potential as a source of high quality fat based nutrition, from a palm tree species highly beneficial to humans, as long as a coconut does not fall on your head! Walnuts help nourish the frontal lobe of the brain, as noted by Dr. Neil Nedley. To improve the function and condition of skin, cells and organs, soy lecithin may be added to the diet. Flax, chia, hemp seeds provide healthy fats and proteins to support brain function and are worth including in your new improved diet. Pregnant women should be adding healthy omega 3 and 6 foods to their diet. It is important to consider the development of a child's brain.
At Island Healthworks we are encouraged by recent advances in nutritional support for mental health. Noting the importance of dietary fat intake for brain function, we can make nutritional and lifestyle choices that significantly contribute to our mental health. Rather than seeing health problems as intractable, we can recognize the fundamental importance of healthy fats and return them to our diets. With each bite we eat, we can build our bodies and assist in efficient nutritional gain. The right choices are available to us in the form of healthy foods, and the choice is ours.
To learn more, contact Yvonne Dollard Perc at Island Healthworks. Yvonne offers phone consultations where she will develop an individualized health care program and lifestyle plan tailored to your specific needs through a personal health and lifestyle analysis.
Call 250-468-7685 to speak with Yvonne and set up a phone consultation!
Yvonne offers in-person consultations with assessment of your specific needs, health and lifestyle coaching, and the best of integrative natural health care. To book your in person consultation, please call 250-468-7685!
This article is intended for educational purposes and the information contained within is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease or health problem. Please seek appropriate medical attention for any health complaints. We cannot take responsibility for your health care decisions. Our intent is only to offer health information to help you with your search for better health.