- February. 9 2019
Ah yes. One of my favorite quotes from the movie Caddyshack (1980). Spalding…what a gem.
He really brings up a good point though. You better be eating your fat. Especially if you can answer a hardy “yes” to the following questions.
Here are the top 5 reasons why you should be making sure that you get in those healthy fats each day.
Our body has two main sources of fuel for energy – fats and carbohydrates. This energy is gained either by converting carbs to sugar (aka glucose) OR by changing fats to fatty acids. Gram per gram, fats offer the most efficient source of food energy, since they provide twice the energy of sugars.
If we are not eating enough fats, the body will be forced to rely more on sugars for energy, which can cause a number of issues, such as mood swings, fatigue, brain fog, headaches, depression, allergies, and more.
If we are in fact eating a proper amount of healthy fats, then our blood sugar will be more stable, and energy levels will remain consistent and high. Eating enough healthy fats also enables our body to leave a sufficient amount of blood sugar for the brain and nervous system, which run on sugar only, to function properly.
Our hormones are absolutely dependent on fats for optimal performance. In the production of hormones for the adrenal glands, for example, cholesterol is necessary for the creation of testosterone, progesterone, and cortisone. This explains why some women who are extremely lean experience amenorrhea, or the absence of their menstrual cycle.
Fats help the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses, repair or replace deteriorating cells, maintain our core temperature, blood pressure, nervous system, thyroid, and more. Without proper fat intake, our body as a system, cannot function properly.
Research shows that the hormone-like substances called prostaglandins are needed for optimal cell function. The body produces them from fats taken from our diet. They help regulate blood pressure, immunity, water balance, steroid production, pregnancy and lactation, and other essential life support systems. Prostaglandins also control free radicals, which are responsible for aging, tissue damage, and possibly some diseases.
Fat provides the structural components to cell membranes in the brain and to the myelin, which is the protective sheath that covers and insulates each nerve fiber, allowing them to carry messages more quickly. In fact, two-thirds of the human brain is made up of fat.
Without enough fat in our daily nutrition, our skin and hair dries out… fast! If your skin and scalp is flaky or scaly, you may have a fatty-acid deficiency. In addition, if you are constipated, this may be due to an inadequate intake of essential fats as well.
That’s right friends, we need fat to burn fat. Recently, some studies have shown that taking a few grams of EPA and DHA (2 specific fats found in fish oil) can speed up metabolic rate by about 400 calories per day. An extra 400 calorie burn per day can add up to almost an extra pound of fat loss per week!
Source: Precision Nutrition
The key to keeping that metabolic furnace stoking versus storing those fats is balance. This means that it is not an all or nothing game. You shouldn’t totally cut out all carbs or go into a peanut-butter-fat-binging overload because this is not healthy either, just as too many carbs and not enough fats is not healthy. You must have a sufficient amount of both.
So your question is, “How much is enough?”
Well, this is a tricky question, as “enough” is different for every person. I personally, with my finicky hormones, function best on a ratio of 30-40% fats, 30-40% carbohydrates, and 30-40% protein. For you, the optimal ratio may be different, which is why you must play with your ratios a bit and pay attention to how you feel.
Aim for a variety of natural fat food sources, so that you will receive a wide range of nutrients as well, which are necessary for proper fat utilization. Some of these important nutrients include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and minerals like zinc and manganese.
Great sources of fats (and fatty acids) include raw nuts and nut butter, ground flax seeds, unrefined organic coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, fish, cod liver oil. Fats from butter, meats, eggs, and dairy are good as well, as long as they are part of a balanced diet.
For more information on fats, check out Fats, Your Guide to Meal Planning.