Despite what you may have been told, fat isn’t always the bad guy in the "Battle against the Bulge". Healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats, omega-3s fatty acids, and saturated fats - yes, you read that correctly - all can play a huge role in improving your health, memory, mood, and body composition. Let's take a look.
#1 - Better Health
The human body is about 97% saturated and monounsaturated fat, leaving the remaining 3 % to polyunsaturated fats. Half of that three percent is omega-3 fats, and that balance needs to be maintained. Vegetable oils contain very high levels of polyunsaturated fats, and these oils have replaced many of the saturated fats in our diets since the 1950s.
The body is in a constant state of rebuilding cells and producing hormones, two processes in which fats have a very important role. Regardless of what we consume through our diets, our bodies use the building blocks we give it. When we give it a high concentration of polyunsaturated fats instead of the ratios it needs, it has no choice but to incorporate these fats into our cells during cell repair and creation.
The problem is that polyunsaturated fats are highly unstable and oxidize easily in the body. In fact, they oxidize and become unstable during food processing and even light exposure while sitting in the grocery store. The oxidation of fat creates inflammation and mutation in cells. Inflammation has widespread affects on health and immune function. Inflammation is associated with conditions such as arthritis, asthma, and allergies and is now being identified as a key component in chronic diseases ranging from cardiovascular disease to diabetes to cancer.
Saturated fat is not the enemy. As a matter of fact, saturated fat is essential to optimal health and taking it out of your diet is a disaster waiting to happen.
#2 - Improve Memory, Enhance Mood
If you think fat only affects how you look, you’re in for a surprise. Studies are now demonstrating that staying mentally sharp and maintaing a balanced mood may be largely related to the type of fat you eat. Over the past decade, research continues to link omega-3 fatty acids to benefits ranging from better blood flow to improved mood and memory function.
The brain is 60% fat and thrives on smooth signaling between nerve cells — and the body refreshes these connections with a new supply of fatty acids. In a study published in Neurology
, researchers found that those who ate fish regularly scored higher on a battery of tests for memory, psychomotor speed, cognitive flexibility and overall cognition. Furthermore, the researchers claimed that consuming EPA and DHA, fatty acids found in fish and fish oil, specifically contributed to the boost in brainpower. DHA has also been linked to decreasing the risk of Alzheimer's disease as well as overall cognitive decline.
When it comes to mood, studies show omega-3s can improve your mood. Research shows omega-3 fatty acids help nerve cells communicate better. This means feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine can get in and out of cells more easily, translating into a better mood. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health report that omega-3 fatty acids are as effective at treating major depressive illness as commonly prescribed antidepressant drugs.
#3 - Less Body Fat, Leaner Physique
Consuming "good" fats can improve body composition and make you leaner. This comes as a surprise to many people because fat contains a lot of calories and is more calorie dense than carbohydrates and proteins. But not all fats have the same effect on the body.
Studies show that the body processes specific types of fat very differently. Essential fatty acids (EFAs), such as omega-3s, are not stored in the body. They are used to rebuild cells and make hormones, resulting in an energy expenditure increase in the body. This means that your body will burn more calories. This effect isn't limit to just EFAs either. When consumed in appropriate amounts, monounsaturated fats such as avocado and nuts do not appear to elevate body fat levels and help support hormone production. Saturated fat sources that are rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), such as virgin coconut oil and grass-fed butter, don't get stored as fat either and promote optimal body composition.