It’s time to change the way you think about fat. For the past 30 years well-meaning diet gurus have preached that eating fat makes you fat. I’m here to tell you that fat, in and of itself, is not what is making you fat.
Instead, it’s eating too much of the wrong types of fat. After all, all fats are not created equal. But, if you are like 90 percent of Americans, you are eating the wrong type of fat most of the time. It’s time for an oil change!
What is Fat?
Fat is one of the body’s most basic building blocks. The average person is between 15 to 30 percent fat! (Men should be 10-20% fat and women should be 20-30% fat). Of all of the types of fats in our diets, the body only REALLY needs two – omega-3 and omega-6. Our bodies manufacture all the other fats we need.
What is an omega fat? The omega numbers (in this case 3 and 6) refer to where the hydrogen atom joins the fat molecule. Remember, the name is just basic chemistry lingo. What is important to understand is the impact of different types of fat on the body.
The higher quality the fat, the better your body will function. That’s because the body uses fat you eat to build cell walls. You have more than 100 trillion cells in your body, and every single one of them should be constructed of high-quality fat.
How do you know if your cells are getting the fats they need? Your body sends signals when it’s not getting enough good fats. It’s up to you to recognize the warning signs:
- Dry, itchy, scaling or flaking skin
- Soft, cracked, or brittle nails
- Hard earwax
- Tiny bumps on the backs of your arms or torso
- Achy, stiff joints’
- Memory problems
- Attention deficit disorder
- Weight gain
Why does the type of fat matter? Building your body from the inside out is just like building a house. You can frame the house with the cheapest stuff you can find or you can invest in quality materials that are going to be energy-efficient and last a long time.
Recognizing Which Fats to Eat and Which to Avoid
Most processed foods are made with poor-quality omega-6 fats from refined processed vegetable oils because they are abundant and cheap. Plus, fat makes food taste good and improves its texture. Take a look at the ingredients of your favorite packaged food.
If the list includes oils made from corn, soy, cottonseed or safflower you are getting a sub-par fat. When the body puts these cheap fats to work, the cell walls also become sub-par. That means instead of being flexible and responsive to inter-cellular communication, cell walls are stiff and rigid. The more rigid the walls, the slower the cell functions and the more vulnerable it is to inflammation.
To ensure your body has the fats it needs to construct high-quality cell walls, you need to eat more omega-3 fats. For starters, cell walls made from omega-3 fats are flexible allowing cells to respond more quickly to messages.
Secondly, these “good” fats help the body churn out prostaglandins, hormones that cool off inflammation. The best places to find omega-3 fats include small cold-water fish – such as wild salmon, sardines and herring, organic flax and hemp seed oils, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and sea vegetables.
Your body is designed to run on high-quality fats. Scientists suspect that early humans ate almost equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 fats. Hunter-gatherer humans got their omega-6 fats from seeds and nuts. And their omega 3’s came from eating wild game and fish and foraging for wild plants.
But, as people began to refine oils from plants, the ratio became skewed more toward omega-6. As a result of fats being out of balance in the modern diet, our bodies are more vulnerable to diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
When the human diet contained a balanced number of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, heart disease was almost nonexistent. Cardiovascular disease is now the number one cause of death in the world.
The more omega-3 fats you eat, the easier your body cools itself. A cool body is a less inflamed body. And inflammation is at the root of nearly every chronic disease, especially those impacting the brain and the heart.
Of all the body parts dependent on high-quality fat, the brain is uniquely vulnerable. That’s because it is made up of 60 percent fat, the biggest portion of which is an omega-3 fat called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Your brain needs DHA to spark communication between cells. Easy access to high-quality fat boosts cognition, happiness, learning, and memory. In contrast, studies link a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, and even violence.
After the brain, it’s the heart that will thank you for eating more omega-3s. The heart is a direct beneficiary of omega-3 fats. They tamp down cholesterol by reducing levels of bad fats (triglycerides). Meanwhile, they raise levels of good fats (HDL) in the blood. Part of their magic is that omega-3 fats make blood more slippery, which reduces the likelihood of artery disease.
Beyond the heart and brain, eating the right fat also helps you shed fat. Healthy cell walls made from high-quality fats are better able to metabolize insulin, which better regulate blood sugar . Without proper blood sugar control, the body socks away fat for a rainy day. Ironically, it’s not eating fat that makes you gain weight it’s eating the WRONG types of fat.
How to Know Your Stats on Fats
The great thing about modern medicine is having tests, which can alert us to any imbalances in the body. One test in particular I recommend is not only really useful, but is also super simple! I work with a lab called Omega Quant, which has excellent testing protocols using evidence-based scientific research on fatty acids. I love this test because you only need a quick blood spot to get detailed results and you do it all from the privacy of your own home! The main result generated in the report will be your Omega-3 index.
In a show I did with Dr. Oz on omega-3 fats, we tested his audience – over 80% of the audience were deficient in omega-3 fats and had many of the symptoms and diseases associated with this deficiency.
I did my own test – and thankfully my omega-3 index is fantastic – that’s because I have had insider information for years on what to eat and what supplements to take. See my report here.
There are other fatty acid percentages and ratios given in the report, which set this company apart from others on the market. However, I mostly care about three results which are important to monitor for maintaining health and preventing chronic disease. Generally, it is essential to know:
- Your omega-3 fatty acid index
- Your ratio of omega-6:omega-3 fatty acids
- Your level of trans fatty acids
My nutrition coaching team will send your results to you with personalized feedback as well as instructions to improve your ratios. I have personally trained them to look for functional levels in order to provide you with the absolute best care to optimize your health.
Since our modern diet is so empty of omega-3 fats and the traditional sources such as wild fish are increasingly contaminated with toxins, especially mercury, I recommend using omega-3 fat supplements. But I only recommend the highest quality, best absorbed purified and tested forms to get all the benefits without the risks.
When you do the Omega Quant Test my nutritionists will provide you with personalized nutrition advice to optimize your blood levels of these important fats. Learning more about what is going on right in your very own body could not be any simpler! And, it is actually really fascinating to watch and see how your diet and lifestyle directly impact your results.
For more information on this test or to get started right now, please click here.
Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below – but remember, we can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, MD