by Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS in Nutrition
The American public has been brainwashed with a big fat lieóthat fats are the ultimate dietary killers. Whatís more, the lie has been extended to cover all fats, not just a few harmful ones. But fat happens to be an essential nutrient, necessary for the health and well-being of our bodies and brains.
Itís the Type that Counts
Although our waistlines are growing, many overweight individuals are suffering from an essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency. This deficiency may be contributing to the rise in breast cancer, attention deficit disorder, depression, diabetes, arthritis, immune-system dysfunction, and more. By eliminating all fats from the diet, many women actually gain weight, feel depressed, and suffer from mood swings, irritability, water retention, and breast tenderness.
Fats Are Essential
EFAs must be obtained from a food source or supplement. They are necessary for the production of the group of hormone-like chemicals called prostaglandins, which are essential for the bodyís cellular functioning. Healthy prostaglandin functioning is critical in the bodyís fight against a wide variety of conditions and boosts the functioning of the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and central nervous systems.
Evidence suggests that we have not been eating the right kinds of fats. Contrary to what most of us have been taught to believe (that eating fat will make you fat), supplementation with EFAs has demonstrated a significant reduction in body weight and fat by stimulating the oxidation of fat. Scientists and nutritionists now believe that the building blocks of the EFAs increase metabolic rate and positively affect the bodyís ability to burn fat.
The Satiety Factor
As the most concentrated energy source, fat releases a hormone from the stomach to the brain, signaling a message of satiety. Without that message, we continue to feel hungry and dissatisfied after a meal. When you reduce or eliminate fat from your diet, your brain doesnít receive a message of satiety and, while your stomach may be stuffed, you donít feel satisfied. Understanding this process enables us to see why people on low-fat diets often complain of feeling full but not satisfied.
EFAs to the Rescue
When you add EFAs back into your diet, you enable the body to send clear messages to your brain. You eat. You are full and satisfied. You stop eating until you are hungry again. This is the way your body was designed to function and the only real way to maintain a healthy weight over an extended period of time.
Of course, if you consume large quantities of fat without regard for your bodily requirements, you will gain weight. Eating moderate amounts of essential fats helps unlock the bodyís fat-storage banks and begin converting fat into energy. Taking in moderate amounts of healthy fats also stabilizes blood sugar. As a long- lasting nutrient, fat is metabolized slowly and can keep the appetite satisfied for up to six hours at a time.
Start Your Fat-Burning Engine
In order to effectively burn, rather than store, the excess fat you take in, itís important to activate the right nutrients. Gamma linolenic acid (GLA), a potent omega-6 fatty acid found in evening primrose oil, helps boost metabolic rates. After an initial weight-loss period, itís prudent to take omega-3s (from fish oil) along with GLA for optimum balance.
A diet rich in essential fats improves the entire system of energy production. With this increase in metabolism, weight loss is not only possible but also inevitable. Blood- sugar levels are balanced and food cravings become a thing of the past.
Research finds that omega-3 fatty acids benefit people with insulin resistance. I recommend omega-3s for anyone suffering from obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. In animal studies, omega-3 oils proved to be effective in preventing obesity, even in subjects who were genetically predisposed to obesity.
Putting It into Practice
In addition to taking EFA supplements, itís important to incorporate healthy fat (from olive oil, flaxseed oil, or nuts) at almost every meal. Be sure to have a variety of foods on hand, including fresh fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, organic eggs, healthy oils, and whole grains. When youíre shopping for oil, look for the words ďunrefined, low-heat, expeller-pressedĒ on the label. Be sure to choose a high-quality EFA supplement thatís free of contaminants.
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