Whether you eat a low-fat diet or high-fat diet, you probably know by now that healthy fats are needed for the body to thrive and feel its best. Fats do more than just make our foods taste good and satiate our cravings; they also do a number of important tasks within the body that most of us aren’t even aware of. The human brain is comprised of approximately 60 percent fat, and though glucose fuels the brain, fats also play a part in neurological function, certain organ functions, digestion and even the prevention of disease. Whatever level of fats work for you, it’s important to always choose plant-based, unrefined sources of fats instead of animal fats, oils or other refined fats that are not whole foods. These contain more nutrients, they are essentially as natural as it gets, and are overall much easier on the body to digest and assimilate.
Here’s what plant-based fats can do for you:
Plant-based fats are anti-inflammatory, which prevents hardening of the arteries, prevents inflammation in the brain, can alleviate muscle pain and soreness after workouts or high levels of activity, and can help protect our cells on an overall basis. Plant-based sources of omega 3 fatty acids, for example, also offer more alkalizing benefits than animal sources such as fish.
They Boost Serotonin Levels
All fats will boost serotonin levels, though plant-based options have been found to come with extra benefits for the brain. Some of these include: B vitamins, magnesium, trytophan, omega 3 fatty acids, and gamma-linolenic acid or GLA, a beneficial omega 6 fat found in hemp seeds. Serotonin function is important for helping prevent depression, helping you sleep, and also for relieving and preventing anxiety. It’s important to focus on adding a little fats to your day if not at each meal so that your brain gets what it needs to help you feel your best. See other foods that boost your mood for more benefits of optimizing serotonin in the brain through your diet.
They Help You Absorb Nutrients
Fat soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K , which can not be absorbed in the body without sufficient dietary fat intake. It’s best to eat foods with these vitamins directly with a source of fat whenever possible versus eating them separately. Foods that contain high amounts of some of these nutrients include carrots, greens, sweet potatoes, winter squash, mushrooms, celery and goji berries. Nuts, seeds and avocados are rich in both healthy fats and vitamin E which makes it pretty easy to benefit from them even more. Fat soluble vitamins play a crucial part in your immune system function, hormones, skin, digestion and your blood health but you can’t benefit from them if you fear fat. We don’t need more convincing to eat a little more chia, flax and pumpkin seeds each day, do you?
They Prevent Memory Loss
Mono-unsaturated fats, such as those from nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, and dark chocolate have been shown to improve memory function and possibly play a role in preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Mono-unsaturated fats specifically help prevent heart disease and they fuel neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine that help with general memory and learning. This means you won’t just prevent disease by eating these healthy fats, but you might just perform better at work and school too!
They Assist With Liver Function
Though many fruits and veggies can boost liver function, plant-based sources of saturated fats such as coconut meat have also been shown to improve liver function and overall health. What’s even more is that coconut does not lead to heart disease like meat because saturated fat from plant-based sources are naturally free of added dietary cholesterol, but can still help the body produce enough cholesterol on its own that it needs to function well. Coconut’s fats are also used immediately by the liver for energy function and for overall detoxification. Raw cacao, which has beneficial fats for your brain and heart, is also a good source of sulfur, an important mineral for boosting liver function. Even cashews have a little more saturated fat than other nuts and seeds, so enjoy these creamy nuts a little more often.
For more information on plant-based fats and their benefits, see a Green Monster’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition: Healthy Fats, where you’ll also get recipe ideas and more information. Remember, you don’t need a lot of these beneficial fats to get the benefits; you should still be eating healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, and leafy greens before reaching for fats every time you’re hungry. However, as you can see, healthy fats aren’t the enemy and may even benefit you more than you would have imagined.
What’s your favorite source of healthy, plant-based fats?
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