Good Fats, Bad Fats, WHAT ON EARTH IS THE DIFFERENCE
Fat is good for you! How could that be?! Let me explain. Many diet myths are floating around. Do this, drink (X) or only eat (Y), but most of these myths start due to anecdotal evidence. Furthermore, every single year a new diet fad emerges. (I.e., Gluten-free, dairy-free, kombucha tea, etcetera) In the past 50 years, diets have ranged from NO fat to ALL fat. To better understand this wild ride, we first have to understand what fat is and why we need it.
Fat is one of the three macronutrients in your diet (along with carbohydrates and protein). You eat fat in the form of triglycerides. A triglyceride molecule is made up of three fatty acids attached to a glycerol backbone. The fatty acids contain chains of carbons and hydrogens. Fat is an excellent source of energy, hormone and gene regulation, brain function, absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, flavor, and fullness. (1)
We know that as the “good” fats are known as monounsaturated fatty acids, they help combat serious diseases such as heart disease and diabetes (2, 3, 4). Other good fats can be grouped as poly-saturated fatty acids divided into groups depending on their structure. These include omega-3s and omega-6s. Certain omega-3s have shown benefits for inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and other health conditions. (5, 6, 7, 8) On the other hand, certain omega-6s can be inflammatory when consumed in excess, especially if omega-3 intake is low (9, 10, 11). Usually, we want a ratio of Omega-3s to Omega-6s 1:1 or 4:1, while in reality, the average diet is around 16:1 (12). Another category of fats is saturated fatty acids like coconut and palm oil. Fats such as these have a neutral effect on health but might help increase metabolism while reducing caloric intake. (1) The last type of fats are trans fats which can be found in dairy, animal products, and processed foods. These have been linked to inflammation, unhealthy cholesterol changes, impaired artery function, insulin resistance, and excess belly fat. (13) Now we have a better understanding of WHAT fat is, let’s go into the WHY and HOW!
What type of diet should I have? How much fat should be included in such diets? First, these questions have multiple answers to them! Every single person is genetically unique, yet our environment will and can change our genes via epigenetics. (14) Thus, different diets will work for different people! Personally, the diet (lifestyle) that works best for me is one with multiple facets. First, a ketogenic diet with regular intermittent fasting allows me to thrive mentally and physically. Additionally, utilizing an ayurvedic diet with seasonal types of food has kept me sane. With this, I am able to mix in certain carbohydrates that I know my body can process. Studies have found ketogenic diets: have a positive effect on memory, the blood-brain barrier, weight control, PCOS, cardiovascular, and neurological diseases. (15,16,17,18) Intermittent fasting has been shown to help with glucose response, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and many more. (19, 20) Ayurvedic diets have shown positive results with diabetes but need more evidence-based research. (21,22) Mixing these practices intermittently allows me to have the most energy, save money, and function optimally. (DON’T FORGET TO HAVE A CHEAT DAY, MEAL, OR TWO.) Excess of anything is counterproductive.
To recap, certain types of fat are essential to a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, the American diet does NOT incorporate the right type of fat. In addition, intermittent fasting/ketogenic diets with a touch of seasonally based foods can have a HUGE impact on your health! If you would like more research on any of these topics, feel free to contact me!