Nutritionist Charlotte Press dispels common myths about fat and shares a healthy fat recipe you can easily make at home.
Photos courtesy of Charlotte Press
Fat often gets demonized in our culture, with the common misconception that eating fat will make our bodies fat. I am here to tell you that the fats you eat do not necessarily make your body fat, nor should either kind of fat be labeled as “bad!”
Here are four reasons why you should include fat in your diet:
1. Fat Doesn’t Make Us Fat
The real scientific name for dietary fat is lipid, and the real scientific name for body fat is adipose tissue. Lipid does not equal adipose tissue — end of story! So we can all get the eating fat makes us fat narrative out of our heads. In fact, eating fat can do just the opposite.
One of the main hormones that causes our bodies to store fat is insulin. And there is only one macronutrient that does not cause any insulin response when eaten — fat. Therefore, fat is not what is making our bodies fat.
Fat that is processed and altered by humans can override our body’s natural responses. But we can feel good that fat from nature (think grass-fed butter and dairy, avocados, nuts, seeds and the like) is not what’s driving up insulin and causing fat storage on our bodies.
2. Eating Fat Helps Our Bodies Function Optimally
Not only is fat not to blame for if there is extra fat tissue (adipose tissue) stored on our bodies, but it actually helps our bodies function optimally.
First of all, half of the vitamins we get through foods and supplements are fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E and K). Meaning, we need dietary fat for our bodies to be able to use them. So if we aren’t eating adequate dietary fats, our bodies can be nutrient deficient, even if the rest of our diet is very nutrient dense.
The beautiful thing about eating fats from nature is that you get the fat-soluble vitamins with the fat so you don’t need to worry about anything. For example: grass-fed dairy is a great source of vitamin D (but when we remove the fat and make it fat-free dairy, we then have to fortify it with extra, usually synthetic, vitamin D, which seems a little counter-intuitive, right)?
Another example is that pasture-raised egg yolks are rich in all of the fat soluble vitamins (A, D , E and K) and they are also full of essential fatty acids to help your body absorb them. So why did we start eating egg whites solo, again? Finally, almonds are rich in vitamin E and are a good source of fat to absorb it. Yay vitamins and yay fats!
3. Fat Improves Brain Health
Omega-3 DHA fats are a crucial part of a developing baby’s brain, but their importance doesn’t stop at childbirth. They give the brain fuel, and reduce inflammation in the body and the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids have even been shown to help treat depression.
Yet, it’s not just omega-3s that have beneficial brain effects. Coconut oil, a saturated fat, can help prevent memory loss. Egg yolks are rich in choline, a B vitamin, which among other things, improves cognitive function. Olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, improves learning and memory and avocados, also monounsaturated, are rich in vitamin A & K (which help prevent blood clots and therefore strokes) and can boost memory and cognitive function.
4. Fat Helps with Hunger Pangs and Satiation
Fats are crucial for physical and mental satiation and can help us practice better portion control. Fat slows our digestion so other nutrients release more slowly into our bloodstream. This is especially important when paired with carbs because it prevents a large insulin spike and crash subsequently after. Many studies have also shown that dietary fat can increase satiation hormones.
Long story short, we can let go of our fear of fats and enjoy food the way nature intended it!
Healthy Fat Recipe: Avocado Hemp Seed Pesto & Zoodles
- 1 cup tightly packed basil leaves
- 1.5 medium avocados
- ½ cup hemp seeds
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 medium zucchinis or 4 servings of pre-made zucchini noodles
Throw all of the pesto ingredients into a food processor and blend until your desired consistency. I like it almost smooth with some chunks left in it.
Meanwhile, cut the ends off washed zucchinis and “spiralize” them into zoodles, or you can use pre-made zucchini noodles.
Separate zucchini noodles into 4 servings and put desired amount of pesto onto each zucchini noodle serving and mix. You may have extra pesto.
Store extra pesto in an airtight container (you can prevent oxidation and browning by pressing plastic wrap tightly on the top) in the fridge for 5-6 days.
Charlotte Press is a nutritionist who strives to make nutritious eating easy, delicious and accessible to everyone! She believes healthy eating should not be deprivation, feel like a chore or be a quick fix. She has her Master’s Degree from Northeastern University in Applied Fitness Nutrition and runs a private practice (www.press-startnutrition.com) out of Bloomfield Hills, where she meets with clients both in person and remotely via video chat.
Charlotte moved to the Metro Detroit area from New York City at the beginning of 2016, where she now lives with her husband, Matt Luber. They are both Jewish and have really appreciated how welcoming the local Jewish community has been since they moved here from out of town. Charlotte and Matt have a French bulldog puppy and a baby on the way in September 2019!