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Episode 219: Nutrition 101 - Simplifying the Science of Eating Well (Part 2)

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Summary  

In this 3-part series I'm taking the confusion and overwhelm out of nutrition by sharing some universal truths about the three macronutrients: protein, carbs, and, fat (and how too much or too little of each will impact the body).

Plus we'll dive into some very basic habits anyone and everyone would benefit from adopting! 

If you missed episode 1, pop on back and listen to that before diving into today's episode!

Macronutrient #2: Fat

Fat is an essential nutrient that our body needs to operate at its best. Dietary fat is broken down into fatty acids like triglycerides and cholesterol that can enter the bloodstream and be used or stored by the body. 

There are 9 calories per gram of fat.

Benefits of getting enough healthy fat:

  1. Energy Source: Fat is a concentrated source of energy, providing more than twice the number of calories per gram compared to carbohydrates and protein. It serves as a long-lasting and efficient source of energy that can be used during physical activity and periods of fasting. (Side note: just remember that fasting isn't some miracle fat burning tool. You can burn fat while fasting and still gain weight if you're eating in a calorie surplus)

  2. Nutrient Absorption: Some vitamins, like vitamins A, D, E, and K, are fat-soluble, meaning you need dietary fat in your system to absorb and transport them. 

  3. Hormone Balance: We need fat to make steroid hormones like estrogen and testosterone.
  4. Cell Structure: Fats are essential for the structure and function of cell membranes. They help maintain the integrity of cell walls and play a role in cell signaling and communication.

  5. Cushioning and Protection: Fats provide cushioning and protection for organs, helping to safeguard vital structures like the heart, kidneys, and liver.

  6. Essential Fatty Acids: Certain types of fats, known as essential fatty acids, cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained from the diet. These include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are important for things like brain health and inflammation control.

    In this day and age we get way too many omega-6's (pro-inflammatory) and not nearly enough omega-3's (anti-inflammatory), so when choosing fats be sure to prioritize extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, olives, avocados, wild caught salmon, grass fed beef (which contains up to 5 times the amount of omega 3's than corn-fed beef), sardines, anchovies, macadamia nuts, and chia seeds.

    Limit/eliminate conventional eggs (which are significantly higher in omega 6's than their organic counterparts), canola oil, soybean oil, sunflower/safflower seed oil, vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, corn oil, peanut oil, cottonseed oil, shortening, margarine, and flax oil.

    And be mindful of these otherwise healthy (but high in omega-6) choices: walnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, pecans, and brazil nuts.

    Something to keep in mind with plant-based omega-3 sources is that they are ALA omega-3's which has to be converted to EPA and DHA to be used by the body and the body is extremely inefficient at this process which is why we really need animal-based sources of omega-3's like wild-caught fish so we don't have to go through that conversion process. If you are vegetarian I strongly recommend taking an algae omega 3 supplement which does have DHA and EPA. 

Types of Fat:

  • Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats: Found in nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, olive oil, and fatty fish, these oils help reduce the bad LDL cholesterol and raise the good HDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and support heart health.
  • Saturated: Found in dairy, coconut oil, and red meat, this was once thought to be a 'bad fat'. However recent studies show that when eaten in moderation it serves as a foundation of cell membranes (making up 50% of most animal membranes), can increase beneficial HDL cholesterol, reduce the risk of stroke, boost brain health (the short chain fatty acids found in coconut oil are particularly protective of brain health), and is stable for high heat cooking resulting in fewer free radicals and carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds that are formed when a fat reaches its smoke point). With that said, your source is important. Get your saturated fat from coconut oil, organic eggs, grass-fed beef, dark chocolate, and ghee.
  • Trans fats: This is the nasty stuff you want to stay away from completely. It's found in processed foods like cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, fried foods, and margarine (you also are likely getting exposure every time you eat at a restaurant due to their use of canola oil). Look at the ingredients for the word 'hydrogenated' since companies are allowed to label their products as "free of trans fats" even when small amounts are used. These fats lower good cholesterol, raise bad cholesterol, increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, increase inflammation, and are linked with obesity induced by alterations in the gut microbiome. It also has been shown to increase the brown fat in your midsection which is the kind that is more dangerous to your health and harder to get rid of.

Dangers of getting too little fat:

  •  Dry rashes
  • Hair loss
  • A weaker immune system
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Brain fog
  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • ADD
  • Joint pain 
  • Irregular periods
  • Reduced satiety and unbalanced blood sugar
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other heart issues
  • Increased risk of metabolic disorders

Dangers of getting too much fat:

  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Reduced gut microbe diversity and constipation
  • Weight gain /obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney stones
  • It's unsafe for those with conditions involving the pancreas, liver, thyroid, or gallbladder
  • Reduced insulin sensitivity (after going off keto)

How much fat should you eat??

Don't overthink it! A thumb (or a tablespoon) per meal should do the trick for most women (which comes out to about 7-12 g), double that for most men. 

Did you find this helpful?? Click here to get notified when next week's episode drops all about DUN-dun-DUUUUUn... carbs!

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