Exactly Why You Need Healthy Fats For Thriving Brain, Hormone, and Gut Health
Long gone are the days where fat is a taboo ingredient. In fact, the more we learn about fat the more we see just how much our bodies need this nutrient to thrive. It’s something I have seen firsthand in my telehealth functional medicine clinic so much that I wrote my first book, Ketotarian, on the subject of using healthy fats as your foundation for a healthier you. Let’s take a deeper look at why you should be rethinking the way you look at fat.
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What are healthy fats?
The idea that all fat is bad has been oversimplified. See, there are bad fats, but there are healthy fats as well.
Bad fats include hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and polyunsaturated industrial seed oils such as corn, vegetable, soy, and canola oil. These are all linked to cellular congestion and inflammation, which can lead to chronic diseases like heart disease.
However, diets high in saturated fats and cholesterol don’t raise inflammation, blood cholesterol levels, and other negative biomarkers in most people. Instead, they have been shown to support healthy inflammation, cholesterol levels, and so much more. Foods that contain healthy fats include:
- Coconuts/Coconut oil
- Avocados/Avocado oil
- Olives/Olive oil
- Wild-caught fish
- Grass-fed beef
- Grass-fed dairy products
Research has shown that Omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA are especially important for your health. These can be found most abundantly in wild-caught seafood and certain plant sources like hemp, flaxseeds, and algae.
Benefits of healthy fats
Considering they play a role in almost every area of your health, healthy fats have many benefits. These are just a few of the main reasons why you should consider upping your fat intake to facilitate optimal health.
1. Cognitive function
Your brain is the fattiest organ in your body, composed of 60 percent fat, and as much as 25 percent of the body’s cholesterol is located in the brain. So why would you want to deprive your brain of its very makeup?
For example, arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids are two forms of fat that play an important role (1) in brain health and the MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) found in coconut oil have been shown (2) to improve cognitive function.
2. Balanced hormones
Healthy fats are the building blocks of healthy cellular membranes. And since cell communication is key in hormone health, by eating a diet of healthy fats you are building up the pathways of communication throughout your body. This makes it easier for your hormones to convert and get where they need to be, helping you be hormonally balanced.
3. Stable blood sugar
Most people believe that we need sugar and carbohydrates to give us energy. And while it is true that these give us a boost, that energy spike is only temporary, leaving us instead with high blood sugar, insulin spikes, and a slew of metabolic health problems like chronic inflammation, diabetes, and weight gain.
Fat on the other hand is a more sustainable form of energy because it does not impact blood sugar levels the same way that glucose does with increasing evidence showing that healthy fats like omega-3s - specifically EPA and DHA from fish oil - can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. (3)
4. Gut health
Since your gut is the foundation of your entire health, it’s important to always be facilitating a healthy microbiome. MCTs can work as a powerful antimicrobial by helping kill off pathogenic bacterial infections to promote a healthy microbiome balance. Adding more fats into your diet and less sugar can also increase the good bacteria in your gut.
5. Cardiovascular health
Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that lowering dietary saturated fat and cholesterol did not decrease heart attacks. (4) In fact, studies have actually shown quite the opposite with cardiovascular disease being directly linked to low omega-3 fatty acid levels in the body. (5) The good news however, is this same study found that blood pressure, heart rate, serum lipid levels, and aortic wall thickness all improved with the addition of EPA and DHA supplementation.
How to get more healthy fats
Following a high fat, moderate protein, low carb ketogenic diet is one way to take advantage of all the health benefits of fats. But not everyone can or wants to go keto. Even though I do believe food is foundational, it can be difficult to get enough fat through food alone - especially if you aren’t planning on making a huge dietary shift.
That’s why I formulated my supplement The Omega+ to help you get in your daily dose of essential EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.
Unlike other fish oils that can be hit or miss in terms of bioavailability, The Omega+ is formulated with MaxSimil® monoglyceride fish oil that has a three times greater EPA+DHA absorption rate than an equivalent dose of other leading fish oils. This patented lipid absorption enhancement technology (PLATform), allows for maximum bioavailability to provide the most benefit for your health.
The MaxSimil PLATform is a novel monoglyceride delivery system that enhances absorption of lipid-based and lipid-soluble nutraceutical and food ingredients. Due to the fact that monoglyceride oils are intrinsically emulsifiers and are, by nature, in a readily absorbable form, they can bypass the body’s normal fat digestion process. These qualities make The Omega+ an excellent method for delivering omega-3 fatty acids, especially if you have any underlying gut dysfunctions.
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- Kiso, Yoshinobu. “Pharmacology in health foods: effects of arachidonic acid and docosahexaenoic acid on the age-related decline in brain and cardiovascular system function.” Journal of pharmacological sciences vol. 115,4 (2011): 471-5. doi:10.1254/jphs.10r39fm
- Reger, Mark A et al. “Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults.” Neurobiology of aging vol. 25,3 (2004): 311-4. doi:10.1016/S0197-4580(03)00087-3
- Albert, B., Derraik, J., Brennan, C. et al. Higher omega-3 index is associated with increased insulin sensitivity and more favourable metabolic profile in middle-aged overweight men. Sci Rep 4, 6697 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/srep06697
- Did butter get a bad rap? University Of North Carolina Health Care 2016. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-04/uonc-dbg041216.php
- Morin, Caroline et al. “Effect of docosahexaenoic acid monoacylglyceride on systemic hypertension and cardiovascular dysfunction.” American journal of physiology. Heart and circulatory physiology vol. 309,1 (2015): H93-H102. doi:10.1152/ajpheart.00823.2014
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.