Friendly Fats and Why They're Essential for Paleo Living
Specifics of the Paleo diet, eating like a cave man, often surprise people. If the term friendly fats seems like an oxymoron, this information is for you! Your brain has been hijacked by low-fat, no-fat thinking, but you are evolved to eat naturally occurring fats (called fatty acids) to build your best body.
Essential fats refer to fats that your body can't produce on its own. These fats, important for all systems of the body, must be obtained through the food you eat. Your skin, heart, lungs, nervous systems, brain, and all internal organs are improved and maintained by eating fatty acids. Plus, fats make food taste good and help you feel satisfied. What's friendlier than that?
The two essential fats are known as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. You've probably heard about omega-3 in relation to heart health, but these fatty acids are inflammation busters and also aid in other conditions, including diabetes, some cancers, skin disorders, arthritis, cholesterol, and depression.
Get the right ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fats with the Paleo diet
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in animal sources, such as the following:
Cold-water fish, like salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and black cod
Wild game, like venison, bear, rabbit, and boar
Omega-6 fatty acids are found in unfavorable sources, such as canola oil, corn oil, and other processed fats known as industrial oils, which are best avoided. But omega-6 fatty acids are also found naturally and more healthfully in the following nuts and seeds and the oils extracted from them:
Wondering what a healthy omega-6 to omega-3 ratio looks like? The number-one pick for nuts is macadamia nuts. With a ratio of 6:3, they're definitely Paleo approved (and delicious).
Unfortunately, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in the modern diet is between 15:1 and 22:1 — that means that most people are consuming far too much omega-6 fatty acid. About 15 to 20 times too much!
How did this happen? Non-Paleo-friendly fats are used to produce many processed foods found on supermarket shelves, and those types of oils are used almost exclusively in restaurants. Additionally, modern grain-fed meat supply means that the conventionally grown meat is also high in omega-6 fats. The critical balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is teetering the wrong way.
Avoid unhealthy fats when eating Paleo diet foods
Here are some common fats that aren't Paleo-friendly. These refined oils have very unbalanced fatty acid ratios — corn oil is 57:1!
These fats are also sensitive to the damaging effects of heat and are often rancid on the store shelves, before you even add them to your grocery cart. Your body isn't adapted to process these oils, and they should be eliminated from your kitchen and your plate.
Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
These fats can cause more inflammation in the body. Inflammation causes illness, premature aging, and weight gain. These fats are not naturally occurring, and when you eat fake fat, you get fat.
Eat healthy, natural fats in Paleo diet foods
Here are some smart, healthy choices for friendly fats:
Monounsaturated fats: Monounsaturated fats (MUFA) are liquid at room temperature and solidify when chilled. Good sources include green or black olives, olive oil, macadamia nuts, macadamia oil, avocado, and avocado oil. These fats aren't recommended for cooking because heat can oxidize them, turning them from friend to foe. Use MUFAs on salads or to drizzle on cooked foods.
Saturated fats: Saturated fats have suffered an unfair reputation as a heart disease villain. The truth is that saturated fats have been an important and beneficial part of the human diet since your cave man ancestors gnawed on a nice, fatty chop.
Saturated fat is solid at room temperature. Coconut oil is ideal for cooking because it can withstand higher temperatures. Coconut flakes, coconut milk, and coconut butter are also delicious, healthful options. You should also feel free to indulge in the luscious fat found in organic, grass-fed, pastured meats and poultry, eggs, and wild-caught fish.
Polyunsaturated fats: Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), found primarily in nuts and seeds, are higher in omega-6 fatty acids and should be consumed in moderation. The best choices for PUFAs are almonds and almond butter, Brazil nuts, cashews and cashew butter, pistachios, and pecans.
When you enjoy Paleo-friendly fats, all your body systems function more optimally, and you fight fit, ready to ward off many modern ailments, like cancer, autoimmune diseases, neurological problems, heart disease, obesity, and a host of other issues that deficiency brings. Fake fat makes you fat — natural fats help you thrive.