The number one way to combat chronic disease and dementia is by eating a plant-based Mediterranean diet with the liberal use of healthy fat. Yes, eat more veggies and good fat! This may come as a surprise to you, as this goes against the grain of 30 years of low-fat nutrition guidelines in this country. We've had it wrong and it is time to make it right to reclaim vibrant health as nature intended.
From an evolutionary standpoint, Homo sapiens emerged about 2 million years ago and until the agricultural revolution, 10,000 years ago, we were all hunter-gatherers. Our ancient ancestors walked five to 10 miles every day just to be able to eat. Similar to the Mediterranean style of eating, their diet consisted of mostly plants, nuts, seeds, fish and meats. Fat was the most desirable food because of its calorie density and power to satisfy. What our ancestors didn't know is that fat is essential for better mood, skin, hair, nails and to prevent dementia, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Here's the skinny on fat.
Healthy fats include unrefined animal and plant fats from wild fatty fish like salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines, grass-fed beef and butter, pasture-raised chicken and eggs, avocados, olives, nuts and coconut oil. These fats tend to include a higher proportion of saturated and monounsaturated fats plus contain higher amounts of the essential omega-3 fats. These fats help prevent disease and make our brains happier and smarter. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish every week.
Unhealthy fats are trans fats (hydrogenated found in margarine and processed foods) and refined oils like soy, corn, cottonseed, safflower and sunflower and canola oil. These fats are high in omega-6 fats, also an essential fat because our bodies can't make them. The problem occurs because these fats tend to be consumed in large amounts and are highly susceptible to oxidation (damage) during processing which makes them unhealthy fats that hurt the body. It is the overconsumption of these fats that increase the risk of heart disease and obesity and produce inflammation, the root cause of most diseases. Radically reduce the intake of these fats to boost the absorption of the anti-inflammatory omega-3s.
Fat is essential for the proper function of the body. In addition to providing long-lasting satisfaction and reducing cravings, fat is needed to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Fat is part of the protective membrane surrounding each of our 60-70 trillion cells. Having a flexible fat membrane rich in omega-3s allows nutrients to come in and waste products to be removed easily from each cell for optimal function. By reducing carbohydrate intake and eating more fats, insulin sensitivity is improved, resulting in a higher metabolism, more energy and reduced inflammation.
Fat is especially important for brain and nerve function. Did you know you are a "fat head"?! It's a compliment, with 60-70% of the brain being made of fat! It also creates the myelin sheath that surrounds and insulates nerve cells. This supports better and quicker communication of the nervous system which controls every thought and move we make.
If you want to feel better, have more energy, lose weight, live independently and protect against cognitive decline, eating more healthy fat is where it is at. The American Journal of Clinical nutrition recommends 50 grams of carbohydrate a day is ideal for fat loss. For more science-based information, check out Dr. Mark Hyman's book, "Eat Fat, Get Thin." Try eating a delicious higher fat, low carbohydrate diet for 10 days to see how much better your body and brain feel today and for vibrant health throughout your life.
In addition to being an ACE-certified senior fitness specialist, Cate Reade, MS, RD is a registered dietitian with a master's degree in nutrition and physical fitness from NYU. She has been teaching, writing and prescribing healthy eating and exercise programs for over 25 years. She is delighted to be helping seniors regain strength and mobility as the CEO of Resistance Dynamics and inventor of the trademarked MoveMor Lower Body Trainer. Contact Cate at email@example.com or visit www.MoveMor.com.