Healthy Fats and Why They are Essential for Health
Fats are the third member of the macronutrients family—and they are absolutely necessary for body maintenance as well as digestive health. Here’s why: Fat provides structural support for the cell membranes—the material that surrounds the cells. A great deal of our nervous system as well as our brain is made up of fat. Fats are also involved in a host of metabolic processes and supplies fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, and E to the body.
Fats are our energy reserve; they insulate the body and cushion vital organs. Almost all the cells in the body can convert fats into energy, a process called fatty-acid oxidation. Every cell in the body needs fatty acids to produce and to build new cells. They are critical in the transmission of nerve impulses and for normal brain development.
All primitive people went out of their way to obtain foods high in fat. In comparison, it is estimated that the primitive diet offered ten times the number of fat-soluble vitamins compared to the modern diet.
Healthy fats can be found in organic lean meats, fish, omega-3 eggs, fermented/organic dairy products, coconut oil, butter, avocados, nuts, and flaxseed oil. Our primitive ancestors knew the value of fat.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are necessary fats that humans cannot synthesize and must be obtained through diet. There are two families of EFAs: omega-3 and omega-6.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are not one single nutrient, but a collection of several nutrients. Three important omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexanoic acid (DHA), and linolenic acid.
You can get this essential fatty acid from fatty fish, flaxseed oil, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and a high-quality fish oil. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids are helpful against blood clots, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, colitis, and inflammatory diseases. Some research has even shown that omega-3s can boost the immune system and help protect us from an array of illnesses.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Another essential fatty acid is omega-6, which is found in vegetable oils, grains, cereals, baked goods, and margarine. Approximately 80 percent (or more) of people consume a diet heavy in omega-6s, often at the expense of omega-3s.
Omega 3/Omega 6 Balance
The most promising health effects of essential fatty acids are achieved through a proper balance between omega-3s and omega-6s. The ratio to shoot for is roughly 4 parts omega-3s to 1 part omega-6s.
In the primitive diet, the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats was between 1 to 2.5 and 1 to 4, whereas the ratio in the modern diet is between 1 to 20 and 1 to 40—dangerously and unhealthily high on the omega-6s. Consuming more wild-caught fish, organically raised eggs, and certain nuts and seeds can shift that unhealthy balance to your favor.
Healthy fats . . . be sure to add them to your diet, and you’ll support your digestive health as well.