Fat: The Macro for Flavor and Functional Hormones

If you asked 10 random people off the street their pre-conceived thoughts on the role of fat in a healthy diet, you probably wouldn’t find too many people living in the middle ground. It seems many are still under the impression that ‘fat causes heart disease and makes you fat’ and will preferentially select low-fat items in their weekly grocery haul. Then you have the other camp of ‘Keto Warriors’ that thrive off a high-fat diet, and there’s no such thing as too much.

The past 50 years have brought a complete 180 flip in the overall recommendation behind dietary fat in the standard American diet, and this divided opinion makes fat a confusing macronutrient to sort out. Let’s start with the many metabolic benefits of including dietary fats:

  • Fat is important for normal cell and brain functioning, and nervous system function.
  • Fat supports satiety and appetite control.
  • Dietary fat is necessary for normal hormone production, particularly sex hormones.
  • Fats are a sustainable, long-lasting source of energy.

The body requires fat — healthy, natural fat sources that are used both moderately and appropriately. Those who practice a low-fat diet often see issues in thyroid hormone production and sex hormone productions. However, fats are also the most caloric dense macronutrient, so it’s important to be mindful of portion sizes to avoid over-eating. So long story short? Healthy fats can and should round out our diets. Fats offer flavor and richness as well as essential nourishment in our food. The key is to optimize nutritional benefit while maintaining moderation.

What are the best sources of healthy fat? The processed foods that figure so heavily into our food supply these days are loaded with unnecessary, often unhealthy fats that can lead to significant health and weight problems. Instead, we want to focus on healthy sources of dietary fat such as nuts, seeds and many oils, as well as the naturally occurring fats in meats and some vegetables.

How much fat is enough? How much is too much? Dietary fat needs will vary between genders, and is incredibly dependent on one’s current hormone status. Individuals that commonly live below 50 g of fat / day will probably notice their body crying out with symptoms such as low sex drive, absent or irregular menstrual cycles, hair loss, brittle nails, and poor sleep. This makes sense, considering cholesterol is a precursor for sex hormones. These are all indicators in how we’re doing ‘under the hood’ & a good indicator of overall health. It’s our body’s way of telling us to make changes to nutrition & lifestyle⁣.

Be aware, though, that TOO much of a good thing can become a bad thing. Dietary fat may slow down digestion or cause constipation, bloating, or excess hormone (like estrogen) being reabsorbed⁣. No gallbladder? Consider keeping fat lower (~60-70 g / day). A good reference range to start with would be aiming for 60-80 g per day and adjusting based off how your body responds.

If you aren’t using these types of fat sources, or you have some meals that are just blah and leaving you hungry, start adding some options! Add a serving of your favorite nut butter to your afternoon apple. Add some avocado to the salad you are already having at lunch. Ditch the egg white omelette at breakfast for whole eggs! And make sure you have some dry roasted cashews on hand for a grab-and-go snack! The opportunities are there if you look for them.

As always, if you need help identifying your ideal nutrition plan that aligns with your current health situation & goals, get in touch with me through my ‘Coaching Services’ or “Contact’ page.

❤ Lo

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