Poor fat: an innocent, health-promoting macronutrient that was once demonized for being linked to health problems, such as obesity. But the truth is, fat is necessary for your health: as long as you’re eating the right ones.
Why Does Fat Have a Bad Reputation?
Fat’s bad reputation evolved from two specific dietary fats, saturated fat and trans fats.
Both of these fats were thought to be the cause of obesity and heart disease. And while there’s still no scientific proof that saturated fat causes weight gain or heart disease, trans-fats (which are found in deep fried and processed foods) have been shown to increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (1
Luckily, the “fat makes you fat” myth has been dispelled over the years by acknowledging that not all fats are created equal. We now understand that healthy fats— which are omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids— have the ability to promote
weight loss by balancing blood sugar levels and keeping your appetite satisfied for longer periods of time (3
Healthy fats also play an important role in cognitive function, hormone balance, and even your emotional well-being. Omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids are called essential because our bodies cannot make them on their own. Therefore, we must obtain them from certain foods in our diet. Needless to say, avoiding these healthy fats can actually harm your health rather than improve it. And getting a lack of fat in your diet can lead to undesirable symptoms.
It should also be noted that while both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are essential to our health, omega 3’s are the best types of fat to include in our diets. This is because the standard Western diet is already extremely high in omega 6’s from processed foods and vegetable oils such as corn, soybean and canola oil— but contains very few sources of omega 3’s. And while we do need some omega 6’s in our diets, consuming them in excess has been linked to inflammation (4
So, are you getting enough omega 3 essential fatty acids in your diet for optimal health? Here are 5 common signs that you need to eat more fat, and the best foods to get it from.
1. Your Skin is Dull, Dry, Flaky or Breaking Out
Omega 3 essential fatty acids are natural antiinflammatories, so they can help reduce redness and irritation on the skin, and may help prevent breakouts (5
). And thanks to their natural oils, healthy fats act as Mother Nature’s “moisturizer” by hydrating skin from the inside out.
Healthy fats are also the building blocks of healthy cell membranes. And having healthy skin depends on having healthy cells. So, if your skin is looking dull and lacklustre, your body may be asking for more omega 3 essential fatty acids.
2. You Have a Hard Time Focusing on Simple Tasks
If your focus and concentration is lacking, despite getting enough sleep and eating regular meals, you may benefit from increasing the healthy fats in your diet. This is because omega 3’s are found in the brain, and have been shown to play a crucial role in your cognitive function.
In fact, omega 3’s are so crucial to brain function that babies who don’t receive enough of these fats from their mothers during pregnancy have a higher risk of developing nerve and vision problems (6
3. Your Memory is Poor
Omega 3 deficiency has been linked to neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (7
). This suggests that omega 3 essential fatty acids play a key role in both short-term and long-term memory function.
In fact, many health experts recommend taking fatty acids such as phosphatidylserine a few weeks before exams simply to help improve memory (8
4. You Have Frequent Mood Swings
Some studies suggest that low levels of omega 3 essential fatty acids are linked to mood disorders, such as depression. In fact, some studies have shown that taking omega 3’s with antidepressants provide a greater increase in mood than taking anti-depressants alone (8).
5. You Get Frequent Colds or Flus
The anti-inflammatory benefits of omega 3’s have been shown to help promote immune system function and protect against infections (9
Since chronic inflammation is a primary cause of all illness and disease, increasing the omega 3’s in your diet may offer prevention for serious health conditions down the road.
The Best Dietary Sources of Omega 3’s
The best plant-based dietary sources of omega 3 essential fatty acids include nuts and seeds such as walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseed, avocados and hemp hearts. Omega 3’s can also be found in algae such as chlorella and spirulina.
If you include animal products in your diet, cold water fatty fish such as salmon and sardines and fish oil are rich in omega 3’s. One of our favourite (and delicious tasting) varieties of fish oil is as Ascenta NutraSea Omega 3 Fish Oil
If you’re looking for some creative ways to add more fat to your diet, here are some of our favourites from the Vitasave.ca recipe archives. All of these recipes can be made in 20 minutes or less, taste delicious and of course, contain plenty of omega 3 essential fatty acids.
Coconut Kiwi Chia Seed Pudding
Homemade Warm Turmeric Almond Milk
Creamy Avocado Macaroni Salad
Post Workout Raw Cacao Recovery Shake
Goji Berry Chia Seed Pudding
Vegan Mac N’ Cheese