Get excited people as it’s now time for Part 3.
Yes, the third part of my little four part series that I’ve put together to help you (and me!) embrace all of those wonderful nutrient-dense foods that are in abundance and that help us heal.
For those of us living an AIP lifestyle, these are the foods that we can still (and should) enjoy daily for their ability to build and improve our health.
I’m sharing with you my 4 top highly nutritious food groups that you can add into your life, starting today.
As always, pay attention to how your dietary choices make you feel. Everyone is different, so it’s up to you to decide which type of diet and foods ultimately serve you best.
So today’s topic is probably my favourite one of all . . .
However, when I talk about fats in conjunction with a healing diet, I’m referring to those wonderful healthy fats derived from animal and vegetable sources that are nutrient rich and that also help carry these nutrients throughout our body.
These fats help lower bad cholesterol, help us shed excess weight, provide the building blocks for our cell membranes and help our hormones to work properly, insulate our body and protect our organs as well as help to strengthen our hair, skin and nails. And yes, this does includes animal fats, and in fact, animal fats are essential to our overall good health, proper growth, fertility and longevity and are rich sources of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K2, which Dr. Weston Price discovered were very high in the diets of healthy, primitive peoples.
So what “healthy fats” am I actually talking about?
OILS | coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil*, ghee*, butter*
ANIMAL FAT | lard, bacon fat, duck fat, goose fat, tallow
NUTS* | almonds, cashews, brazil, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, hazelnuts
SEEDS* | sesame, pepitas, sunflower, chia, hemp, flax
ORGANIC PASTURED EGGS*
*Denotes foods not suitable if following AIP
The fats to avoid like the plague include all industrially processed liquid vegetable oils (including corn, soy, canola, safflower and sunflower). Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (including margarine and shortening) and all commercial fried and processed foods.
So how many serves of fats should I be having?
This question is a very personal one and should be entirely based on your own body’s needs. However, our bodies need a certain amount of fat in order to function efficiently, and as part of every meal, help satiate and slow down absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry.
Ideally, you want to balance your macronutrient ratios (carbs, protein and fat) so that you are not spiking your blood sugar levels – as this is so important for our digestion. Remember, everyone is different and no one size fits all, but as a starting point, perhaps consider filling your plate with 40% vegetables, 30% fat and 30% protein, and tweak from there. Monitor how hungry you are between meals and how your digestion feels.
What are fat-soluble vitamins?
As discussed in Part 1, the vitamins we eat can be classified into 2 groups – water soluble and fat soluble.
Fat soluble meaning, they cannot be absorbed without the presence of adequate fat. This means that when eating fruit and veggies without any fat, you’ll only absorb a fraction of the nutrients you would have absorbed if you’d eaten them with fat.
Fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E and K, and are required by our bodies to function properly and are critical to our health and wellness. However, majority of people today are sadly lacking in these vitamins, especially those who follow a low-fat, no-fat and often vegan diet. Again, these vitamins MUST be eaten with good quality fat. And plenty of it.
Does fat make you fat?
Numerous studies have since debunked this myth, and it’s been proved there is no evidence that dietary saturated fat increases a person’s risk for coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.
Did you know that today, heart disease causes at least 40% of all US deaths (1)? If, as we have been told, heart disease results from the consumption of saturated fats, wouldn't we expect to find a corresponding increase in animal fat in the American diet? When in actual fact the reverse is true. During the sixty-year period from 1910 to 1970, the proportion of traditional animal fat in the American diet declined from 83% to 62%, and butter consumption plummeted from eighteen pounds per person per year to four.
During the past eighty years, dietary cholesterol intake has increased only 1%. However, during this same period the percentage of dietary vegetable oils - margarine, shortening and refined oils increased about 400% while the consumption of sugar and processed foods increased about 60%. Food for thought, right!
However, not all fats are created equal.
Know your fats
LONG-CHAIN SATURATED FAT (LCSFA) | These fats are found mostly in the milk and meat of ruminant animals like cattle and sheep. They form the core structural fats found in our body and are easily burned as energy. They have no known toxicity – even at very high doses. The majority of the fats you consume should be these.
MEDIUM-CHAIN TRIGLYCERIDES (MCT) | Are another type of saturated fat found in coconut and in mother’s milk. These fats metabolize differently than the above long-chain saturated fats as they don’t require bile acids for digestion and they pass directly to the liver. This makes MCTs a great source of easily digestible energy.
MONOUNSATURATED FAT (MFA) | Found primarily in beef, olive oil, avocados, lard and certain nuts like macadamias. Like the above saturated fats, MFA’s form the core structural fats found in our body and are also non-toxic, even at high doses. Interestingly, monounsaturated fats seem to be the only fats that typically fat-phobic groups and low-carb groups can agree are completely healthy. Just a note on these fats - like nuts and avocados - they do contain significant amounts of the dreaded omega 6 polyunsaturated fats (see below).
These three fats – long-chain saturated, medium chain triglycerides and monounsaturated – should form the bulk of your fat intake. In addition to their lack of toxicity, eating these fats will:
- Reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Increase muscle mass (muscle is composed of equal weights of fat and protein).
- Stabilize your energy and mood as fat provides a steadier supply of energy throughout the day than carbohydrate, which can cause fluctuations in blood sugar.
OMEGA-6 & OMEGA-3
Polyunsaturated fat can be subdivided into omega-6 and omega-3.
Ideally we should consume roughly the same amount of omega-6 and omega-3 fat (1:1 ratio). Unfortunately, our ratios today range from 10:1 to 20:1, which means some people are eating as much as 20 times the recommended amount of omega-6 fat! It is this excess consumption of omega-6 fat – not cholesterol and saturated fat – that is now being found to be responsible for the modern epidemics of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune disease and more.
Omega 6 can be found in small to moderate quantities in a wide variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, cereal grains and meat. However, it is also found in very large amounts in commercially processed and refined oils, like soybean, cottonseed, corn, safflower and sunflower. Basically – it can be found in everything from the commercial salad dressings we eat to fried chips!
Omega 3, on the other hand, can help:
- reduce inflammation in the body, reducing joint pain
- improve cardiovascular health and balance cholesterol levels
- stabilise blood sugar levels
- improving mood and prevent depression
- boost immunity
If you want to heal from any chronic health condition – you must reduce inflammation in your body. One of the best ways is to get more omega-3 fats in your diet!
Just remember our choice of fats is extremely important.
Most people, it seems, will benefit from consuming more fat in the diet rather than less, however the fats we eat must be chosen with care. Avoid all processed foods containing hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated oils.