Have you ever wondered why you crave fried, fatty foods after a night of drinking? It’s because alcohol depletes your body and brain of fat and it wants it back! As a result you end up craving any kind of fat. Usually we end up opting for french fries, burgers, or hotdogs—the greasier the better. Similarly, if you are not eating enough fat, you increase your craving for the ‘bad’ fats as well as any food in general.
By eating more of the good fats you experience satiety. Some people could eat a whole bag of chips or a box of cookies and still feel hungry because their body’s nutrient requirements have not been met. It is crying out for fat. Good fats. Not fried fats and certainly not more carbs.
In the 1990’s a terribly misguided trend started that fat kills. Suddenly, everyone was on a low fat diet. Fat was the enemy. Unfortunately, despite recent, overwhelming amounts of more accurately conducted research, fat is still one of the main ‘categories’ of food that many people avoid when they are trying to lose weight, count calories or be ‘healthy’.
When it comes to trans fats this is completely justified. With respect to other fats, it is not the amount of fat that you are eating but the type of fat, as well as with what it is being combined. There are still many people in this health conscious time who steer clear of real butter and opt for the chemical #%&* storm called margarine because they have been told it is lower in fat and cholesterol. These unfortunate people also stay clear of eating too many avocados, nuts, seeds and healthy oils because they have too many calories and are apparently not good for their waste line.
Fat, you will learn has been unfairly persecuted for years and it’s absolutely crucial and amazing health benefits have gone completely unmentioned by most for far too long. It is not fat that makes you fat. Fat combined with a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar is the real culprit. So before I go into the different types of fat and what you should be eating here are a few indications that you are not getting enough fat in your diet.
Side Effects of Not Eating Enough Fat
- Dry skin – Eczema
- Cravings – Increased Hunger
- Poor body temperature regulation – Always feeling cold. It is possible to be thin and not be cold all the time if you are getting the right amounts and types of fat. Likewise some overweight people have lots of ‘insulation’ but still feel cold all the time because they are not getting the right kind of fat.
- Learning Disabilities and ADHD – About 2/3 of your brain is fat! Accept it—you are a fat head. Saturated fat and cholesterol insulate the myelin sheath that covers the nerves. A better insulated myelin sheath means the signals in the brain are more efficiently and properly transmitted. This means the ability to focus, concentrate and problem solve is improved (ADHD… ) and the information that is sent to the brain and optic nerve (the eye) is properly transmitted (think dyslexia). Numerous studies have shown significant improvement in children with learning disabilities and ADHD when omega 3’s and 6’s were increased.
- Fatigue – Not enough fat means that there is little or no cholesterol to manufacture the hormones needed by the adrenals and thyroid as well as other glands. Adrenals = Energy.
- Hormonal Imbalances – PMS, mood swings and irregular periods. Low fat diets tend to wreak havoc on a woman’s hormones and her emotional stability. The cholesterol in fat is a main ingredient in manufacturing hormones. Little or no fat means that hormones cannot be manufactured! Talk about scary!
- Brittle nails and hair
- Depression and Anxiety – Omega 3’s and 6’s are also the precursors to manufacturing many hormones and chemicals in the brain (like dopamine and serotonin) that are responsible for happiness and well-being. People who are severely deficient in certain fats can suffer from everything from depression to schizophrenia. Belgium researchers at Antwerp’s University Hospital found that severely depressed patients had lower omega 3 fatty acid levels than mildly depressed patients.(1) In this same study the scientists at the National Institutes of Health also found that populations that consume higher dietary fats have a significantly lower rate of depression than societies that consume few dietary fats (like North America and Europe).
- Joint pain and increased pain in general throughout the body
- Unstable blood sugar – Not enough fats can cause you to be constantly snacking which is often on carbs and sugary foods. As a result you cause your blood sugar to be constantly crashing and spiking. Symptoms of low blood sugar are shakiness, feeling weak possibly to the point of passing out, moodiness, hot flashes and even panic.
- Decreased immunity- more frequent colds, flus and infections (Why the old people always consumed cod liver oil in the winter.)
- Slow wound healing
Low Fat is Making You Sick and Tired—and Sad!
By avoiding fat, you could be seriously depriving your body of vitamins E, D, E and K. These are fat soluble vitamins that need to be dissolved in fat before they can enter the bloodstream. Eliminating fat in your diet means you don’t absorb these vitamins which are also essential for your mental and physical health. Fats reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation has been dubbed a chronic condition in western society by even the most conservative medical establishments. Chronic inflammation is linked to everything from arthritis to anxiety to cancer to heart disease. When you avoid fats you deplete your body of more than just one nutrient and that is how you end up with the above problems. Essentially, eating too little fat can make you sick, depressed and anxious and it can increase your hunger and make mindful eating seem like an impossible goal. All of the things you don’t want. So eat fat!
More about specific fats and what you should eat in the next post.
Journal of Affective Disorders 1996;38:35-46