Fats are essential to our health and have many vital roles in our body. Despite this, many fad diets and “health gurus” recommend cutting fats out and following no-fat or low-fat diets. Unfortunately, cutting out fats can have detrimental effects on women’s health. From hormonal imbalance and skin problems to poor energy levels and immune effects, low fat diets are problematic and risky. So let’s have a look at what the science says about fats and the signs to look out for that you’re not consuming enough. We’ll also look at which types of fats you should be eating more of for good health and how you can make sure you’re hitting your healthy fats targets. We interviewed Rebecca Gawthorne, Dietitian and Nutritionist, to tell us more about whether or not we’re getting our daily dose of healthy fats. Keep reading to learn more! You can follow Rebecca on Instagram here and TikTok here to learn all about nutrition.
These Are the Telltale Signs You’re Not Eating Enough Healthy Fats
What we need fats for:
Simply speaking, our bodies need healthy fats to survive. Along with protein and carbohydrates, fat is a macronutrient. It’s recommended that 25 – 30% of our total energy intake should come from fats. As fats play such an important role in our health, eliminating or restricting fats can have detrimental impacts on your skin, hair, hormones and energy levels and can put you at risk of developing serious health and metabolic conditions. Below are a few reasons why we exactly why we need them. Fats have many vital roles in our body including:
- Helping absorb and transport fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K)
- Protecting your organs
- Insulating and keeping you warm
- Reducing inflammation and keeping your heart healthy
- Providing your body with essential fatty acids which are required to build and maintain your cell membranes in our skin, hair, eyes, heart and brain
- Helping make and regulate hormones
- Helping you feel satiated and full after a meal
Here are the signs you’re not eating enough fats:
If you are not consuming enough fats, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Dry and scaly skin
- Always cold
- Dry hair/hair loss
- You’re always hungry
- You’re often sick
- Hormonal problems
- Loss of period
- Poor mental health or mental fatigue
- Fat soluble vitamin deficiencies
- Heart health problems
If you’re experiencing the above symptoms, it’s time to up your fat intake. There are different types of fats in food, so let’s look at which ones you should be eating more of for good health and how you can make sure you’re eating enough healthy fats.
The types of fats and which ones you need:
There are 4 different types of fats in our diet, each with different impacts on our health and well-being:
- Unsaturated Fats: These are classified as “healthy” fats and are essential for good health. They include polyunsaturated fats (Omega-3 found in oily fish, walnuts and flaxseeds, and Omega-6 fats found in some oils like safflower and soybean oil, along with some nuts & seeds).
- Monounsaturated Fats: These are also classified as “healthy” fats and are found in avocados, olive oil and nuts like cashews and almonds.
- Saturated Fats: These fats aren’t classified as healthy fats because eating greater amounts of saturated fat has been found to be linked with high blood cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease. These fats are found in animal-based products like dairy foods and meats and some plant-derived products like coconut cream, as well as processed foods like deep fried foods, fatty snack foods, packaged cakes and biscuits, pastries and pies.
- Trans Fats: These are classified as “unhealthy fats” because they increase your level of bad (LDL) cholesterol and decrease the level of good (HDL) cholesterol in the body, which increases your risk of heart disease. Trans fats are actually unsaturated fats that have been processed and behave like saturated fats inside the body. Trans fats are found in processed foods like deep fried foods, commercial baked pies, pastries, cakes and biscuits. Spreads and margarines can also contain trans fats.
How to eat more healthy fats:
For good health, we want to aim to eat more “healthy” (aka unsaturated fats) in place of saturated and trans fats. Fat is essential to your health and should not be eliminated from your diet. Watch out for signs that you’re not eating enough fats and make sure you find ways to include healthy unsaturated fats in your eating each day. Here are some ways to include healthy fats in your diet:
- Add a sprinkle of seeds (e.g. sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds or flax seeds) or nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts or pine nuts) to salads and stir–frys
- Use avocado as a spread and in salads
- Use extra virgin olive oil for salad dressings, baking and stir-fries
- Enjoy a serve (150 grams) of salmon, tuna and other fatty fish with your meals
- Snack on a handful of nuts and seeds
- Buy breads and crackers with seeds through it
- Add a sprinkle of chia seeds, LSA and nuts into your smoothies and homemade snacks like muffins.
- Try a small spread of nut butters and tahini
- Add a tablespoon of nuts and seeds to mueslis, porridge and yogurt