Fats… should we eat them or not?
Fats have seen their fair share of ups and downs when it comes to the media and nutrition advice. In the 80’s they were vilified by most, now they’re being praised by many, what are we to believe? If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that broadly, I’m on the whole foods side of the equation, which includes healthy fats. A big question is, which fats are healthy for you and which may be harmful.
Here’s what I’m talking about.
Butter and lard are making a come back as traditional healthy fats that we should have in the diet, so should we really be eating them? Then what about all of the information out there from respected physicians like Drs. Campbell and McDougal who advocate a very low fat diet without any animal fats at all. They appear to have a good following of clients who get great results?
Here’s my take on what fats you need in the diet.
Wait for it… you may already know what I’m going to say… it depends on the you, and all of your unique loveliness. I’m sure you’ve never heard me say that before, wink. But it leaves you to wonder, “What are my individual needs… how do I know?” So I want to help you answer that. There are a few key ways to help you decide how much and what kinds of fats you need.
First, why should we care about fats?
I think most of us have been okay with the need to stay hydrated by replenishing with clean water because our bodies are composed largely of water. Seemingly, the same rational falls flat for many when we discuss the need to consume healthy fats. Near daily I watch as clients turn pale at a given recommendation that includes the word fat. I understand it but we need to evolve our thinking here. Healthy fats are essential to creating a healthy body.
Figure out what kinds of fats you should be eating.
I feel the most comprehensive (and most exciting) way is to get a Holman Omega-3 Test. Here’s what I like about this test. I’ve run fatty acid panels many times before, but they’re expensive and require a visit to a lab for a full blood draw. Thanks to Holman, we now have a way to test your fatty acids with blood from a simple finger prick. I had mine done recently and I could not believe the level of detail I received from a simple blood spot. I do love advances in technology… (sometimes!).
Complete with charts and graphs, the test reveals how you compare to the typical American diet and outlines personalized details to improve the fats in your diet. Do you need to eat more fish? Take a fish oil supplement? Eat more nuts and seeds, maybe eat less? From a simple blood spot test you get a breakdown of over 20 fatty acids, the ever important omega 3:6 ratio as well as your total Omega- 3 HUFA score. While the test has the most traction in evaluating cardiovascular risk, I would offer that the results have so much more life than that. By knowing and improving your fatty acid profile you can take steps to peak your health and even prevent certain conditions. (We are carrying these in office and on our HealthE Naturally online store. It’s easy to complete at home as long as you are okay with pricking your finger.)
Additionally, you can now take a look at your genes to get clear on your unique needs (Eat Smart for Your Genes). APOE (Apolipoprotein E) is a gene with several variations. Your gene variant can help you decide how well you process fats from your diet. You can ask your doctor to run this or you can do a simple saliva collection through 23andMe. There are app’s you can run the data through which can tell you your APOE status. Right here is likely central to why some people do well on high fat diets and some do well on low-fat diets. I like this kind of information because it removes guessing and clarifies an approach to personalized nutrition.
Lastly, you can also track your yearly screening labs in combination with a diet dairy to get a sense of how well you’re metabolizing fats. A skilled practitioner can determine a lot from this approach.
You are You… we need to respect that.
I will likely always come back to this but what I know for sure, is that each one of us is unique beyond belief and so are our optimal dietary needs. So whether fats are your friend and which fats are your “besties” depends on YOU. Now, you have the tools to figure out for yourself.