For decades, fat has been made out to be a villain, one in which should be avoided. This has created immense confusion and a lack of understanding. The truth is, our bodies and brain need fat in order to properly function and continually maintain positive health.
It all boils down to the type, amount, and quality of fat you’re eating. When you better understand the types of fat you choose and consume, you can actually improve the aging process, especially in terms of your cognitive health. First, let’s examine what fats are and how to choose the right types.
Fats are simply concentrated packets of energy that supply just over double the calories that carbs do. Based on this high-calorie supply, fats have long been deemed unhealthy. They have a reputation of blocking arteries and contributing to heart attacks and strokes. Although there is some truth to this (based on certain unhealthy fats), our bodies need fat for:
• Neurological functioning
• Receiving signals from hormones
• The absorption of vitamins such as A, D, E, and K
• Keeping our body insulated and warm
• Development in children (formation of hormones and the development of their brain)
Restricting the wrong type of fat and increasing your intake of the right types of fat is critical for your health, but how do you know what a healthy source of fat is?
Currently, the standard North American diet is full of unhealthy fats and deficient in healthy fat. We’re eating far too many saturated fats found in commercially raised meat and dairy, as well as processed polyunsaturated and trans fats. These are found in various cooking oils, margarine, and processed foods.
Trans fats should be avoided, however, not all saturated fats need to be eliminated. In fact, when you source meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals, you consume beneficial nutrients and less unhealthy fat. This is simply because commercially raised animals are fed unnatural diets high in corn, yielding far too much omega-6. Let me explain.
Our bodies require omega-6 and omega-3, however, it’s the ratio of these fats that’s critical to understand. In order to maintain optimal health, we should be consuming an omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio of 2:1. Instead, our modern diets are yielding a ratio that is closer to 30:1. This is leading to inflammation and a wide range of other increased health risks.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and the Aging Process
Each and every day, we’re aging throughout our bodies. There are a number of factors that contribute to this aging process, such as genetics, oxidative stress, chronological age, and lifestyle. Although the aging process is inevitable, emerging research is showing that we do have some level of control.
The answer may lie in fats, omega-3 EPA and DHA fatty acids to be exact. The key to aging successfully is to reduce inflammation. When you choose the right types of fats and oils, you consume essential fatty acids in which our bodies cannot produce naturally.
These healthy fats help transport vitamins A, D, E, and K around your body, delivering the nutrients you need to stay healthy and maintain a younger looking complexion. Since inflammation is a driving force behind chronic illness, it’s important to consume enough omega-3.
Studies have also shown that omega-3 fatty acids support normal blood pressure, improve circulation, and promote healthier levels of cholesterol. Some of the best sources include:
• Fatty cold-water fish, such as tuna, salmon, sardines, and mackerel
• Flax, pumpkin, and chia seeds
• Avocados and avocado oil
• Walnuts and pecans
When it comes to aging, one Danish study reported fascinating results. Researchers were interested in the effects of Cockayne syndrome, a condition where children age prematurely and typically pass away around the ages of ten to twelve. They found that a high fat diet postponed the aging process.
Published in Cell Metabolism, this study looked at mice with a defect in their DNA. This defect is what causes Cockayne syndrome in humans. When given a high-fat diet, researchers began to notice positive effects when given medium-chain fatty acids, such as those found in coconut oil. This is also exciting news for the Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s community.
When it comes to fat and its effects on your health, focus on high-quality, healthy sources, consuming more fish, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds (especially flax and walnuts), as well as pasteurized eggs, meat, and dairy. For more information, please visit Dietians of Canada.
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