I asked Clare Hickey a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Owner of Clarity Wellness to help us understand the importance of fat in our diet and five us some examples of healthy fats to choose from.

For years and years, fats have been portrayed as the enemy; the low fat craze took the market by storm, and even as that craze is subsiding, we continue to see “low-fat” products on the shelves of our groceries stores. Although fat is being more widely accepted by many, there is still an air of fear around consuming fat.

Healthy fats are amazing. They provide us with energy, optimize athletic performance, keep us full, provide support to our nervous system, are the precursors for our steroid and sex hormones, keep our cells strong, insulate our major organs, reduce inflammation within the body, protect us against oxidative damage by exogenous chemicals, and are critical for optimization of brain health, nervous system, liver functioning, blood volume and skin health. I could go on!

A lot of the “fat fear” lies in the notion that eating fat will cause us to “gain weight in the form of fat”. Let’s break down the truth.

Fats breaks down into fatty acids, which are absorbed into our lymphatic system, make our skinglow, and are the precursors to hormones. They also signal that we are full and satiated. We NEED healthy fats in our diet, and we need them for our athletic performance.

Benefits of Healthy Fats

Balance Blood Sugar Levels & Improve Athletic Performance by Reducing Inflammation

A differentiating factor of fat is that it does NOT cause a release of the hormone INSULIN upon consumption, unlike carbohydrates. Instead, fats help us to feel satisfied and calm, as our blood sugar stays in check, and satiates us so that we are not snacking as often. When our blood sugar is SPIKED (after consuming carbohydrates or sugary foods), it causes our body to release insulin, which brings our blood sugar back down again. This constant “up and down” in turn causes us to release cortisol, ultimately causing our bodies to hang onto extra weight; specifically around the abdomen. This spike of blood sugar and insulin doesn’t happenwhen we consume healthyfats. Instead, our blood sugar levels remain stable, and we feel full and satisfied for much longer.

This can in turn improve your athletic performance, as your body needs a stable blood sugar in order to perform optimally, and to remain stable over long periods of exertion. Healthy omega 3 fatty acids are also imperative for athletes, as they are inherently anti-inflammatory. This means that they can reduce inflammation within the body after long periods of exercise, reducing pain and stiffness following exercise. Upping the fat also helps athletes to prevent expending glycogen, which is a limited fuel source.

Further, fats are crucial for athletes, as fat-restriction can lead to inadequate energy intake, fatigue, poor performance and greater risk for illness and injuries.

Provide Nervous System Support

Essential Fatty Acids are critical for nervous system support as they inherently have anti-inflammatory properties, and because our brain is largely made of fat. We also have a lining of insulation surrounding our nerves for insulation and protection called the myelin sheath.

Omega-3’s are anti-inflammatory – want to manage the ratio of omega-3’s to omega-6’s in the diet (the ideal ratio should be 1:1; however, realistically on average the ratio is approximately 1:20 as our society consumes a great deal of processed foods). A diet too rich in omega-6’s = inflammation.

Omega-3 Omega-6
Walnuts, salmon, flaxseed, chia seed Refined vegetable oils (canola oil), processed foods

Necessary for absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K

Without the consumption of healthy sources of fat, it is nearly impossible for your body to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are known as our fat-soluble vitamins. These vitamins are found in dark leafy vegetables and nuts and seeds, and are crucial for various metabolic processes such as blood clotting, liver health, brain health and skin health.

Contribute to glowing skin

Our entire bodies are made up of a phospholipid bilayer (fat!), so consuming healthy fat will contribute to a healthy and supple layer which means healthy, glowing skin from the inside out!

Sources of Healthy Fats

  • Coconut
  • Avocado
  • Nuts and seeds (almond, Brazil nuts, Macadamia nuts, cashew, hazelnuts, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds)
  • Nut and seed butters (Almond butter, cashew butter, pumpkin seed butter, sunflower seed butter, etc.)
  • Eggs
  • SMASH Fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring)
  • Healthy oils: olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter & ghee

References:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128139226000473