Fat: You Can't Live Without It

December 20, 2012

Fats are essential to health, find out why a fat free diet could get you in trouble with your health

Dietary fats are more important than you may have previously thought. Of course we know they are essential for keeping inflammation at bay, but they are also deeply satisfying, providing a feeling of fullness and adding a flavor, texture, and consistency to foods that we like – and expect. Fats are found in every cell membrane of all the cells in the body, and they are critical components of brain and nervous tissue. Additionally, fats are used to make hormones that affect blood pressure, blood clotting, immune function, and smooth muscle contraction.

Most importantly, without fats, we would not be able to properly absorb fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin A, D, E and K, and the range of carotenoids, the nutrients in foods like carrots and sweet potatoes.

Let’s talk about the fat-soluble vitamins:
Vitamin A can be classified generally into retinoids or carotenoids, either animal or plant derived respectively. Benefits include specific immune, inflammatory, genetic, and reproductive-related benefits specifically from the retinoid category. While the carotenoids function as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, specifically beneficial for eye health. Great examples include, spinach, kale, sweet potato, Swiss chard, carrots, romaine lettuce, chicken liver, cod’s liver oil and more.

If you’re planning to have these veggies it’s best to cook them with a bit of fat, think olive oil or after steaming dress them with a little extra virgin olive oil to help the body assimilate the vitamin A.  Of course vitamin A found in animal products naturally comes paired with fats.

Vitamin D is really a group of fat-soluble vitamins that are considered pro-hormones, or the precursors to hormones, and are essential to endocrine health. Vitamin D is also essential for bone health, immunity, as well as playing a role in preventing cancers and chronic disease. Vitamin D rich foods usually already come paired with fat naturally, think sardines, mackerel, milk, oysters, tinned salmon with bones (yes, they are soft enough to eat), and eggs from hens raised outside.

Vitamin E is also not a lone vitamin but actually referrers to a group of nutrients called tocopherols. Vitamin E protects your skin from ultraviolet light, helps prevent cell damage from free radicals (acts an antioxidant), allows for proper cell communication, and helps protect against prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s. Excellent sources of naturally occurring vitamin E include, sunflower seeds, flax seed oil, almonds, spinach, Swiss chard, papaya, asparagus and more.

Last but not least, vitamin K. Not surprisingly vitamin K also refers to a group of vitamins mainly K1 from plants and K2 from good bacteria in our gut. Both are essential for normal blood clotting, bone health throughout life, keeping our arteries flexible and providing possible protection against liver and prostate cancer. Best sources of vitamin K rich foods; natto, hard cheeses, kale, spinach, mustard greens, parsley, broccoli, leeks, prunes, chicken liver, egg yolk, and more.

Now that you’ve learned the importance of the fat-soluble vitamins, removing fat from your diet wouldn’t be a good move as you wouldn’t be able to use these precious vitamins. Instead use healthy fats, i.e. fats that are liquid at room temperature, like olive oil and even coconut oil (not liquid at room temperature, unless you live in the tropics) and fats in fish (salmon, sardines, makerel), tree nuts, avocados, flax seeds and some of the foods mentioned above.