As we start to connect more with our bodies through yoga, many people naturally start to pay more attention to the connection between our food and how we feel. It’s hard to sort out all the different opinions about what to eat, and what not to eat. As always, paying attention to what works best for our own bodies is always the best way to work out how we can thrive most. Since we all live different lives and have different energy needs, we’ll all need different things from our diets.

One nutrient that has gotten a bad wrap over the last few decades is fat. It’s time to revisit fat and its bad reputation. If you lived through the 1990s, you likely remember the low fat craze of cookies and even potato chips with low or no fat. (Remember Olestra? It actually made TIME Magazine’s 50 Worst Inventions list. Those super-processed chips did pretty uncomfortable and embarrassing things to people’s digestive systems!)

Sadly, as companies took the fat out of our foods to better market “healthy” foods to us, they replaced the missing taste with lots of sugar. Sugar does all kinds of things to our bodies. It overwhelms our liver, which can lead to disease as well as making us just plain feel bad. It can create metabolism problems that cause weight gain. It impacts our hormones, again causing us to not feel great, and can even lead to cancer development. If you’d like more details on these risks, check out this blog on Authority Nutrition.

Pass the Fat?

The Mayo Clinic writes that, “Fat is essential to your health because it supports a number of your body's functions. Some vitamins, for instance, must have fat to dissolve so they can be used by your body.”

Not all fats are great for us, but as usual, fats that have been heavily processed end up on the bad side of the tracks. These include saturated and trans fats, which are usually solid at room temperature. Beef fat, pork fat, butter, shortening and stick margarine are all types of these fats.

The Mayo Clinic notes that monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega-3 fats are the best for us. It writes that:

  • Monounsaturated fats are found in a variety of foods and oils. Studies show that eating foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. Research also shows that these fatty acids may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.
  • Polyunsaturated fats are found mostly in plant-based foods and oils. Evidence shows that eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. These fatty acids may also help decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Omega-3 fats are found in some types of fatty fish, appears to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease. There are plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. However, it hasn't yet been determined whether replacements for fish oil — plant-based or krill — have the same health effects as omega-3 fatty acid from fish.

While it might not be easy to remember all these different types of good fats, basically, eating fats from foods that come from farms rather than factories is generally a good choice. The less processed our foods, the better they tend to be for us.  Studies show that fat helps our brains function and boosts our immune systems. And while we’ve been taught that fat will make us fat, in reality, fat in whole foods helps us sooner notice that we’re full and stop eating.  

Of course, we all have different dietary needs and react in different ways to different foods due to our lifestyles and even the different bacteria we’ve encountered throughout our lives. If you choose to experiment with eating more whole food fat from avocados, nuts, coconut milks, cheeses, and more, notice how you feel. Observing how we interact with what we choose to eat and choose not to consume is the best way to develop long lasting health that fits our individual needs.