I Can't Believe It IS Butter: Why fats are good for you

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Written By

Rhea Dali

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

 

Do you have particular foods that you go on a ‘kick’ with?

As a 1st grader, for instance, I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my lunch box every day for a solid year straight—perfectly content with the Peter Pan peanut goodness and Smucker’s grape goop between two slices of Iron Kids bread, alongside some apple slices and stain-your-fingers-orange Cheetohs, until…

I moved on to Lunchables: Turkey, cheese and crackers did the trick throughout 2nd grade, then…

Growing up even a little bit more, come 5th grade, my much more refined tastes preferred turkey sandwiches on whole wheat bread with mustard, a string cheese and some baby carrots—all packed in a brown paper lunch sack, of course (no more embarrassing lunch boxes for me), and consumed day in and day out for a year…

What can I say? Humans are often creatures of habit and we tend to gravitate towards similar foods out of preference and taste.

Fast forward to today, and most recently, coconut had been my thing.

Sauteeing my veggies in coconut oil. Pan frying eggs or meat in a pan, heated with coconut oil on the stove. Spreading delicious coconut butter on sweet potatoes.

Until…I decided one evening to mix it up.

One word: Ghee.

Essentially, butter’s better half—Clarified butter (butter that has been melted over low heat and allowed to bubble and simmer until most of the water has been evaporated)—that makes everything taste #AmazingSauce! It’s available at most grocery stores nowadays!

I put a dollop in my pan, added some Rainbow Chard and kale, a splash of water, sea salt and pepper, covered it to simmer…and within 5-minutes: SHAZAAAM! Simple, but delicious.

If you have yet to try it, you need to put it on your grocery list right now!

I don’t know what took me so long to use this fat as a ‘go to’ source for cooking and spreading on my veggies, meats and potatoes.

Reflecting on this recent ‘discovery’ made me chuckle…because I used to be ‘that girl’ who was SCARED (like there’s-a-snake-in-my-boots-scared) of ANYTHING remotely associated with the word, ‘Fat.’

That definitely meant butter.

 

If anything so much as remotely touched or was cooked in a pan that butter had been used, I would not eat it.

In my mind: Fat made me fat…

Unfortunately, that is still a resounding belief of our society today.

Not a week goes by that I do not speak with a person who tells me they are scared of fat, or they’ve been ‘trying to be good’ by making low-fat, no-fat choices.

And, while many of these same people will say to me, “I know healthy fats are supposed to be good for me”—they don’t really believe that to be the case.

Moreover…what are “healthy fats” anyways?!

They are lost in the dark as to what a diet with plenty of healthy fats really looks like, and thus resolve to resort to their non-fat Greek yogurt, Parkay “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” spray, skim milk, egg white-only-omelets-please, fat-free salad dressings, out of comfort and the aim to earn their ‘gold stars’ on MyFitnessPal for the day.

Listen up, people: FAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT…And, FAT (HEALTHY FAT) IS ESSENTIAL.

Do I need to repeat that again?!

Some healthy fats to incorporate in your daily diet include:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Butter
  • Ghee
  • Animal Fats (Lard, Duck fat, Tallow, Suet)
  • Hempseed Oil
  • Pumpkin Oil
  • Avocado Oil
  • Walnut Oil
  • Almond Oil
  • Raw nuts (all except peanuts—they are not a nut, but a legume)
  • Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed
  • Almond flour/Coconut flour
  • Avocado
  • Coconut butter
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Coconut milk
  • Egg yolks
  • Fatty cuts of animal meats (preferably organic and nitrate-free to avoid toxicity)
  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines)
  • Full fat, raw organic dairy (Milk, yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, cheese)
  • Olives
  • Fish Oil & Cod Liver Oil

…Just to name a few…

Incorporate at least one serving per each meal. Fats are also great sources of fuel for in-between meal snack because they help satiate you. Pair ‘em with a protein, veggie sticks or a piece of fruit, and you’ve got some energy to tide you over.

“But really…that’s a lot of fat…and I tend to hold onto fat. Won’t fat store in my body as fat?”

NO! NO! NO!

Given you are eating to FUEL your body appropriately, eating fat does anything BUT make you fat.

I am a firm believer in knowing the WHY behind most things in life—not easily content to ‘just settle’ for what I am told. I am a life-long student and constantly seek to learn what’s BEHIND any claim or wisdom we are told…On Facebook, Google, the news, Instagram, blog posts, our friends, health experts, etc.

So for those of you (like me)—who want to know the facts behind any claim

 

Here are 9 reasons WHY fat is good for you:

Energy!: Fat is the densest source of energy of any macronutrient! There are 9-calories for every 1 gram of fat (REMEMEBER calories=energy), whereas there are 4 calories for every 1 gram of proteins or carbohydrates. In other words, they pack a punch! Which is a GREAT thing for all the other benefits listed below—and firing up your metabolism! This is why you can get a whole lot of energy from say just a handful of almonds as opposed to two BOWLS full of broccoli (a little bit goes a long ways). In fact, within the performance nutrition realm, fats can actually be a GREAT source of POWER for getting through a longer training session or run. I’ve found great success with having athletes eat a spoonful or two of coconut butter, or an almond butter ball or two, rolled with some unsweetened coconut flakes and Enjoy Life chocolate chips. As for those who are not athletic, fats, like water, are energy and life giving to our bodies! When I used to restrict my diet to a low-fat, low-calorie intake, I always struggled to have enough ENERGY to make it through my days. Today, I have BOUNDLESS energy and I attribute this greatly to regular fat consumption. Our body ultimately uses the fat we eat, and fats we make from other nutrients in our bodies, to provide the energy for most ALL of our life-functions.

Optimal Brain Function. Your brain is composed of 60% fat and cholesterol, and for peak functioning, you need to EAT fats to develop, sustain and promote brain power. Omega -3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), (both found in fatty fish like salmon, fish oil,egg yolks and some meat) in particular, keep the dopamine levels in your brain high, increase neuronal growth in the frontal cortex of your brain, and increase cerebral circulation. While cholesterol and saturated fats (found in foods like animal meat, egg yolks, butter, ghee and coconut) are essential for the transmission of nerve impulses and the retrieval and storage of memories (goodbye Alzheimer’s disease!). Contrary to popular belief that cholesterol is ‘bad’ for you, your body actually neeeeeeeds cholesterol to function! If you had no cholesterol in your body you would cease to exist: No cells, no bone structure, no muscles, no hormones, no sex, no reproductive system, no digestion, no brain function, no memory, no nerve endings, no movement, no human life – nothing without cholesterol. Even better? Higher cholesterol levels appear to improve memory and cognitive skills and protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, while low blood cholesterol is associated with poor cognitive performance. The ‘cholesterol scare’ (i.e. heart disease) of modern medicine is actually a processed foods, sugar and grains disease…not a disease from eating healthy fats in your diet. How so? Inflammmation.

Need more evidence? Check out this article: “Butter is Back”. In it, Dr. Mercola shares, “Between 1920 and 1960, Americans’ butter consumption declined by over 75 percent, yet heart disease went from a relatively unknown condition to the number one killer. Consumption of trans fat radically increased in the mid-1950s, and rates of sudden death from heart disease have faithfully risen right along with trans fat consumption. Today, there are 30,000 items in the American diet that contain trans fats, according to the FDA. That should give you an indication of just how prevalent these dangerous fats have become!” Bring on the butter!

Revving Digestion. Healthy fats help carry your food through your system, and keep your digestion humming along as it should. Think of it as that “slippery” substance that helps usher your food along. Fat helps your body produce BILE, which is essential for elimination and proper digestion. (Have issues with digesting your fats in the first place? See my tips below to help you out!).

 

 

Helps Absorb All Your Vitamins & Nutrients. You’ve probably heard Vitamin D is good for building strong bones and energy; You need Vitamin A for good vision and healthy skin; Vitamin E helps with wound healing; and Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting. These vitamins are known as “fat soluble” vitamins; however in order to actually work, they NEED fats. Fats help transport these vitamins to where they are needed.

Produces and Supports Hormones. Our hormones are built from fat. Chances are if your hormones are out of whack, your fatty acids are as well, leading to: Low libido, amenorrhea, irregular cycles, poor strength gains and recovery from exercise, moodiness and off-mood, and more. Fat also is essential for reproductive health. . Body fat cells themselves produce estrogen, and estrogens, as you may know, is the primary female reproductive messenger. Estrogen is essential for healthy bone formation, healthy gene expression, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, a healthy menstrual cycle and making babies. In other words: eat more fat. In fact, one study recently revealed that low fat foods, like low-fat dairy consumption, have been associated with infertility. Another study, amongst men, revealed that the reduction of fats and increase of carbs decreased their testosterone significantly, dropping androgen levels by 12%.

Boosts your Metabolism. Eat fat for a revving metabolism, and to potentially even burn fat? No way! Healthy fats in your diet help trigger hormones that release fat, and eliminate toxins that make it hard for your body to otherwise have a fiery metabolism or shed unwanted pounds. The leader of the pack? Coconut oil! As a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT), coconut oil is metabolized more quickly than most any other fat—especially vegetable fats.  MCTs are absorbed directly from the digestive tract into the blood stream without having to be transported by the lymph system to the liver. In fact, Coconut oil is burned at a rate three times faster than other fats due to the high lauric acid content of coconut oil.  Lauric acid accounts for half of the content of coconut oil, and it is the most rapidly utilized of all the fatty acids. Consequently, coconut oil raises body temperature, metabolic rate, and energy.

 

 

Healthy Skin, Hair & Tissues. Dry skin, dry eyes, thin nails, dry hair—all are directly attributed to fatty acid deficiencies. Got acne or easily breakout? How is your fat intake (versus your sugar and processed food consumption)? Fats help your skin keep aglow! In fact, one study of Japanese women, revealed that the intake of saturated and monounsaturated fat was associated with greater skin elasticity and fewer wrinkles. Looking for an AWESOME skin care product?! You have to try this by Fat Face for even more glowing skin (remember, healthy fats support your body’s structure and cells in general, which are comprised of fats.

Satiation & Staving Off Cravings and Hunger. Fats help you feel satisfied! What do you think is a longer lasting source of energy…eggs over easy, fried in bacon fat with 2 slices of bacon and some creamy avocado slices on top, or a bowl of dry pebble-like cereal in a splash of skim milk with sliced strawberries? A grilled chicken breast with steamed broccoli, or some Dijon-mustard chicken thighs with a side of roasted asparagus and zucchini, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil on top? A cup of fluffy fat-free, fruited yogurt or a creamy chia-seed and coconut-milk pudding? The fats win (in flavor and satiation EVERY TIME). Not to mention, fats are ESSENTIAL for warding off those crazy sweet tooth cravings. People often crave sugar when their bodies are fat deprived because their bodies have settled for becoming sugar-burners, as opposed to fat burners, because that’s all you are primarily feeding it (grains, bars, cereals, low fat/no fat dairy, fruit, muffins, pastries, chips, pretzels, etc.).

It Tastes Good (Like Really Good). No questions about it, fat makes everything taste better! Drizzle on the olive oil, spread with coconut butter or real grassfed butter, sautee in ghee, slice up some avocado, fry up some sunny-side-up eggs with nitrate-free bacon, sprinkle olives or pecans on your salad, crust your fish with coconut flakes, add some full-fat organic creamer to your coffee…mmm…mmm…good….

And just in case….

Ok, ok, ok. You get it.

You need fat. You would like to incorporate more fats into your diet, BUT after eating a low fat diet for so long, you find you actually have a difficult time stomaching and digesting your fats.

That was completely my case too!

After subsisting off of Healthy Choice frozen dinners, fat-free frozen yogurt, apples and baby carrot sticks, and low-fat snack crackers for the majority of my life in my eating disorder, the mere thought of eating fat made my stomach turn!

It was uncomfortable.

And I later found out, it was uncomfortable for a good reason: I had FAT MALABSORPTION.

 

Fat malabsorption results from poor digestion, specifically from one (or more) of these three causes:

  • Liver congestion – the liver can’t synthesize good bile
  • Poor quality bile – the gallbladder can’t release thick, sticky bile
  • Lack of pancreatic enzymes – these enzymes, along with bile, digest fat

For me: It was a combination of all three due to the fact that my liver and gallbladder never had to really work like they were supposed to when I was eating all sort of low-fat processed foods for so long. I had trained my body to become deficient in the appropriate enzymes to properly digest and break down fats, coupled with the fact that my gallbladder had become sluggish to assist in the breakdown as well!

Common symptoms of fat malabsorption may include:

  • Greasy, smelly, light-colored and/or floating stools
  • Gas and belching after meals
  • Very dry skin (indicates fat isn’t being absorbed or not enough is being consumed)
  • Gallbladder pain (right side, under ribs)
  • Gallstones
  • Nausea after eating
  • Hormone imbalances, because fat is necessary to synthesize new hormones and eliminate old hormones

So what can you do if fats don’t sit well with your stomach?! (Fat Malabsorption Problem Solving): 

On top of a gradual progression of introducing healthy fats (see list above) into your diet—a little bit with each meal (especially coconut oil; known for being easily digested), a couple other strategies include:

  • Supplementing with OX Bile for a time. Ox bile is similar to human bile, and it works by helping breaking down fats in your digestive tract and improving bile quality so you can digest fats better in the long run. Take 1-5 tablets of ox bile – like this one– with each meal. Use it for weekly for up to 2-3 months. After 2-3 months, take a break from it for at least a couple of months, otherwise your body can get reliant on it and stop producing its own bile.
  • Supplementing with a pancrealipase. In addition, I also recommend Beta-TCP quite often to folks, and have found lots of success with it. I chew 1-2 of them with each meal that has fat in them to help support my pancreas and liver connection (two primary operating organs during digestion).
  • Drink your water. Water is hands down the BEST universal solvent and key to digesting ANYTHING. Ensure you are getting at least half your body weight in ounces each day.
  • Chew your food—all of it. Like water, a simple step you can take to impact your digestion (of anything) is thoroughly and mindfully chewing and enjoying your food. The first step of digestion starts in your MOUTH. Making or breaking your feelings of malabsorption on down the line.


The bottom line? Fat does a body good…

 

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