5 Signs You’re Not Eating Enough Healthy Fat
While the FDA’s guidance on fat and health may be lagging behind the science, it's now generally accepted that fat (of the high-quality, healthy variety), is our friend.
Still, even though fat is emerging from the dark corner of shunned nutrients, many of us are still not eating enough of it.
As a brief refresher, we need fat in our diets to absorb other nutrients, maintain heart health, promote brain health, encourage satiety, and perform so many other vital functions. Below are five signs you may be one of the many who need to eat more dietary fat:
1. Your morning smoothie consists of fruit, almond milk, protein powder, and kale.
While this is the beginning of a nourishing morning smoothie, a key component to a balanced meal is missing—fat! This is a common recipe among health-seekers and smoothie shops alike, but since it's lacking in fat, it will likely leave you feeling hungry in less than two hours.
A handful of nuts, seeds, nut butter, or full-fat yogurt would help to elevate this smoothie to meal-replacement status.
2. You rely exclusively on walnuts, chia, hemp, flax, etc., for omega-3 fatty acids.
While these foods are good sources of one type of omega-3 fatty acid, ALA, our body then needs to convert it to EPA and DHA to reap the full omega-3 benefits.
Unfortunately, our bodies aren’t super-efficient at this conversion, meaning that those following exclusively plant-based diets may be falling short when it comes to EPA and DHA.
Look to include fatty fish (salmon, halibut, sardines) if you eat it, and pastured eggs or otherwise try to include sea vegetables or a microalgae supplement (talk to your doctor or dietitian about supplementation to fit your individual needs).
3. You feel nauseated after taking your daily vitamins.
There are a few reasons you may feel nauseated after taking vitamins, but one common reason is that you take them on an empty stomach.
Most vitamins, especially fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, need fat to be properly absorbed in the body. Taking your vitamins after a meal containing healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, eggs, nut butter, etc.) may help to alleviate the nausea.
4. You consistently fall victim to the 3 p.m. slump.
Many assume that a lack of afternoon energy is inevitable for a desk-dwelling, nine-to-fiver. However, your lunch’s lack of healthy fats might be contributing to this crash.
I’ve worked with clients who report eating a (seemingly) healthy lunch of a kale salad loaded with veggies and grilled chicken breast with a nonfat Greek yogurt on the side. If you skip the dressing, this lunch is seriously lacking in the fat department.
Adding some olive oil or nuts to that salad or trying a 2 percent or whole milk yogurt will increase satiety and help stave off the dreaded 3 p.m. slump.
5. You experience extreme mood swings.
Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may help mild mood disorders. Besides including more omega-3s in your diet (see #2 above), reducing the amount of omega-6 fatty acids in the diet may improve the efficacy of those omega-3s.
While omega-6s are essential, most of us consume way too many of this type of fat, which can interfere with omega-3 function in the body. The biggest culprit of omega-6s comes in the form of plant oils (canola, sunflower, safflower, soybean, etc.) found in abundance in packaged foods.
Focusing on a whole foods approach to eating is an effective way to improve the omega-6/omega-3 ratio in your diet.
Kayleen St. John, MS, RD, is the director of nutrition at Natural Gourmet Institute.