Sunday, April 4, 2010

Eat Your Fat!

There's Joe, offering up some sort of healthy fat source he's brought home (white perch).

Recently I made a decision to expand my knowledge and return to school. I am currently taking a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant certification course and, when that is completed, I will be taking a Weight Management Consultant certification course.

I have never been much of a student and managed to graduate with a bachelor's degree without ever opening a book. There's irony to be had in the fact that I am reading text books from cover to cover and receiving only certifications but no matter I am definitely learning a lot and my confidence in the knowledge I am retaining is strong.

I am finding the text to be fascinating and while it bores my poor husband to tears, he engages in conversation about gastric protease, intrinsic factor and bacteria function in flatulence anyway--because he's a good man.

The current chapter I am on is all about digestion and I find it to be very exciting.

For example, did you know what the purpose of sodium is in the body? It floats about in the body's fluids (then called electrolytes) where it helps to regulate crucial body functions such as heartbeat and muscle contractions.

And then there's the topic of fats.

Healthy, unsaturated fats offer an array of benefits to our bodies. They are rich in antioxidants and omega-3s and have shown in studies to be beneficial to lowering cholesterol and disease risks. Saturated fats and trans fats do the opposite so limit and/or avoid (see The bottom Line on Fat and Cholesterol from the Harvard School of Public Health). Plus, the omega-3 fats have been linked to brain growth and development (our brain IS made up of 2/3 fatty tissue, really!).

As the study I linked to above suggests, we should be getting our omega-3s daily. I have been eating chia, flaxseed, hempseed and having grown up along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, I am a seafood baby through and through and eat fish omega sources at least once per week.

But what my nutrition textbook is teaching me on fats I had not a clue about. For example, many of the nutrients that we work so hard to get enough of each day are wasted without adequate fat in our digestive system.

Our mouths are warm and the temperature begins to melt fat the moment it lands inside to assure that we get that stuff down the hatch. The stomach leaves fats out of it's digestive processes almost entirely because it is needed later on for proper nutrient absorption. When bile is released into the small intestine, the fats begin to emulsify or thicken. Ever try to make homemade gravy? You cant just mix flour into chicken broth and get gravy. You have to have fat (butter, oil, pan drippings) to open up those starch molecules and convince them to absorb the liquid to thicken. Fat does the same thing in your intestines, thickening up some of the mineral and nutrients for the proper absorption of these minerals. This is especially important for all of the essential nutrients that cannot be made in the body (but are necessary for cell function and life).

Too much fat in the intestines slows down digestion and absorption. Oh, that's why you can't go potty. But... What happens when there is not enough fat in the small intestines?

So glad you asked! Since fat actually regulates digestion, too little actually speeds up digestion to the point of poor absorption. Not to be gross but since Jim's already accused me of toilet humor anyway (guilty), if you see food in your stool, there's a really good chance that you are digesting too quickly. Why bother getting green if your body isn't going to absorb the wholesome goodness anyway? (There are some digestive diseases and disorders that can effect digestive speed but those are things you should speak to a physician about). Oh, and because they take longer to digest, you feel fuller longer. Plus, your brain is happy so you feel all warm and toasty from being loved back by your food.

Should we be eating a good amount of healthy fats?  After reading this chapter, this gal's changing her efforts to YES, YES, YES!

Eat healthy fats. Some healthy fats to consider:

raw* pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
raw* walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts
raw* sunflower or sesame seeds
flaxseed (must grind)
flaxseed oil (wisk it w/ balsamic + garlic and pour over salad)
extra virgin olive oil
canola oil
fish/ shellfish
peanuts, peanut butter

*raw, uncooked nuts and seeds have higher concentrations of healthy fats and omegas that have not been burned off through exposure to high heat.

Eat healthy fats! Enjoy feeling great! And gosh darn-it, love the foods that love you back!

~ Lynn

1 comment:

  1. Great, informative post. So many of us have been brainwashed into avoiding fats at all cost. Thanks for the tips