Hopefully by now you are getting the picture that we need all kinds of fats to be healthy, but zero trans fats since they are in no way healthy or natural. Unsaturated Fats are another kind of fat that we need. This is often the kind of fat your body is craving the most when you are craving other fatty foods. So increasing this kind of fat in your diet will decrease cravings and make you feel full longer.
Unfortunately, this is a fat in which many of us are severely deficient because many of us no longer eat the oily fish that our grandparents ate on a weekly basis (fried and battered fish do not count!). Many of us also do not consume healthy oils unless we deep fry them. How many of us make a point to incorporate seeds and nuts into our diet on a regular basis? Many of us are literally starving for this kind of fat and it seems our brains are suffering the most.
Unsaturated fat is the fat that you have been probably hearing a lot about in recent years. Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) or Omega 3’s and 6’s are critical for the proper functioning of your body and the foundation of healthy brain development and eye sight in children as well as general heart health. 62% of our brain is fat. 15% to 20% of the fat in your brain is made of DHA which is another type of fat that your body creates from you eating EFA’s along with other nutrients. Imagine if you are lacking omega 3’s and 6’s as well as other nutrients needed to convert these EFA’s into DHA? 15% to 20% of your brain is not functioning optimally or possibly ‘mal-functioning’ because part it is basically missing! Imagine how that affects the rest of your body nevermind your concentration, mood and problem solving. Omega 3’s and 6’s are critical for anyone struggling with mental health issues or other nervous system disorders like IBS, IBD or even MS and Parkinsons.
Health professionals believe that deficiency in Essential Fatty Acids is one of the factors that can be attributed to the increase in many nervous system disorders such as ADHD, learning disabilities, OCD and anxiety. Even autistic children often have lower levels of EFA’s. I had written about a study in a previous post, Fats: A Big Fat Lie that cultures who ate fish regularly suffered significantly less depression and anxiety than cultures (such as ours) that do not. Even people with diseases like MS and Parkinson’s, which is linked to the nervous system, often have significantly low EFA’s (among other imbalances). With supplementation they often show alleviation and improvement of their symptoms. In fact, MS is much lower in populations that regularly consume fish.
Unsaturated Fats are found in:
- Olive, hemp, safflower, flax and sesame oil
- Oily Fish (sardines, salmon, malkarel, anchovies, sturgeon)
- Nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews etc.)
- Seeds (flax, chia, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower etc.)
Unsaturated Fat is essential for:
- Hormone production (some hormones require EFA’s as opposed to saturated fats)
- Thyroid and adrenal function
- Vision – Essential for the normal development and maintenance of the retina. Deficiency can lead to poor vision or even how visual images are interpreted in the brain (again think dyslexia!)
- Regulation of blood pressure, liver and the inflammatory response. People with pain conditions, whether it is injuries, arthritis or fibromyalgia report less pain with a change to a more natural diet and an increase in EFA’s. Inflammation in the body = PAIN!!!
- Immune system (Sooooo important during the winter months which is why in the past everyone took cod liver oil during the winter months)
- Proper development of brain and nervous system. Many people with depression and anxiety are deficient in omega’s 3’s as well as 6’s.
- Transports and breaks down cholesterol
- Regulates blood clotting
- EPA is the backbone of repair and reducing inflammation which is why people who eat diets rich in nuts, seeds and fish have faster recovery from illnesses as well as injuries.
Fats require other types of fats and even other vitamins and minerals in order to be properly used, converted and absorbed by the body. For example, our body also requires B3, B6, magnesium and zinc in order to convert EFA’s into DHA and EPA. This is why a balanced diet is so important as opposed to eating the Standard American Diet and simply supplementing with one ‘magic’ pill.
So What Should You Eat?
- Ground flax seeds (must be ground otherwise your body cannot absorb the nutrients)
- Walnuts (try to eat a handful of walnuts everyday)
- Oilve oil
- Brussel sprouts
- Mustard seeds
If there is one thing I can’t stress enough it is to eat more fat–good fat. Good fat will cut your cravings, make you feel full longer and will help regulate hormones and improve your overall mood. So ignore the calorie counting hysteria and eat fat to lose fat!
Optimum Nutrition for the Brain – Patrick Holford