Let's Talk Fat!
Can our bodies naturally decrease fat cells?
The answer is no. Fat cells can only stretch and expand! Fat cells are different than other body cells as they are more elastic. They are able to hold more fat than other cells in the body. When our fat cells hit their maximum fat storage capacity, they produce more fat cells. Once fat cells are produced, they remain in our bodies for life unless surgically removed.
This is why it is important to manage diet and body weight throughout life to prevent fat cells from multiplying.
Don't fear fat, your body needs it!
Fat should not be feared as it is needed for many body functions. Choosing low-fat diets could mean deficiencies of important fat benefits. Fat is needed to transport fat-soluble vitamins throughout the body, keep us warm, store energy, add flavor to foods and it is a component of all cell membranes.
Fat only becomes a concern when it is in excess. Excessive amounts restrict movement and place greater demands on the circulatory system. Excess fat is linked to common diseases like cancer, obesity, and heart attacks. On the other hand, if we store too little fat, malnourishment and health-related issues may arise.
Fats are composed of building blocks called fatty acids. These fatty acids are essentially chains consisting of links. They can be short, medium, or long depending on the number of links they contain. Our bodies need all three kinds to remain healthy! A second feature of fatty acids is their degree of saturation. Our bodies require both saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are helpful for structure whereas unsaturated fats are critical for the flexibility of the cell membranes. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature (butter, animal fats) and unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature (vegetable oils). In the food industry, to lengthen shelf life, the process of hydrogenation has been adopted. Transforming unsaturated fats into saturated ones. Hydrogenation lowers the quality of the oil and has been linked to increased risks of diseases such as atherosclerosis.
Some fatty acids are synthesized by the body while others are not. Therefore, we must obtain them through diet. These are known as Essential Fatty Acids (EFA). You may have heard of Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids? That’s them! Our cells, organs, and tissues require a daily supply of these essential fatty acids.
EFAs have many functions such as promoting brain and eye development, anti-inflammatory properties, and even linked to lowering blood cholesterol. It is important to include a healthy balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 in our diet. A balanced ratio helps determine the flexibility of cell membranes and has been linked to playing a role in reducing the risk of some diseases. Most researchers agree that the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 should be near 2:1 or 4:1. But it is common to find Western diets include a ratio of closer to 15:1. It is much easier to obtain Omega-6 in our diet than it is Omega-3 because most plant oils contain plenty of these fatty acids and rich sources of Omega-3 are not common in the Western diet. Some sources of Omega-3 are flaxseed oil, cold-water fish, chia seed/oil, and pumpkin seed/oil.
The fats we store are related to the fats we eat so make sure they are of good quality!
Here are some tips for making healthier nutrient-dense fat choices:
Eat cold-water fish (salmon, maceral, herring) or take supplemental fish oil as fish contain unsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids.
Opt for cold-pressed oil or virgin or unrefined oil. Consuming unrefined vegetable oils like flaxseed oil or walnut oil is a great way to include Omega-3 EFAs into your diet. Keep it refrigerated and do not heat these oils as heating destroys the nutrients.
Instead of buying bottled salad dressings, make your own with high-quality vegetable oils mixed with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.
If you are a meat-eater, opt for leaner meat options like poultry.
Instead of frying, try other methods of cooking like steaming and broiling.
When making muffins, bread or biscuits, use low-fat plain yogurt in place of butter or oil.
Choose nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds) to snack on and add to recipes that are high in good quality fats.
Becoming aware of your fat sources and overall fat intake can empower you on your health journey. This blog post only scratched the surface on the flavourful topic of fat. Please reach out if you have any questions related to this topic.
Disclaimer: The entire content of this blog is based on the opinions of Nicole Biletski. Please note that I am not a dietitian, physician, pharmacist, or other licensed healthcare professional. The information on this blog is not intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of qualified health care professionals. Always consult with your primary care physician or licensed healthcare provider for all diagnosis and treatment of any diseases or conditions for medications or medical advice as well as before changing your health care regimen.