For many years we learnt that fat was the enemy, it will make us put on weight, it is detrimental to our health and should be avoided at all costs. Since the 1980’s the health messages have been about eating low or no fat foods, with this being the key to good health. It is only recently that this has been questioned, and we are beginning to understand that fat, admittedly the right type of fat, is important for our health and in particular our hormonal health.
Why Eat Fat?
Not all fat is equal, there are different types of fat that have different effects on our health. However, cutting out or minimising fat can be detrimental to our health. There are several ways the body uses fat:
Sex hormone production – our sex hormones are made from cholesterol.
For brain function – 60% of our brain is made of fat.
To help the body to absorb certain vitamins, namely vitamins A, D, E and K.
To protect bodily organs such as the heart and liver.
For cell membrane structure.
In terms of fertility, fat is key for producing sex hormones and for supporting egg and sperm quality. Omega 3 fats, for example, are important for both female and male fertility. They help to lower inflammation in the body, support progesterone production and increase uterine blood flow.
Fat is also important to support a healthy menstrual cycle. If body fat becomes too low, the hypothalamus in the brain will be alerted that the body is not getting enough fuel and will try to shut things down to conserve energy. Your reproductive system is one of the systems it may shut down, as it is not essential for survival, leading to absent periods, anovulation and subsequently impacting fertility.
Fat Does Not Make You Fat
There is a misconception that eating fat makes you fat. It is true that over consumption of most foods is likely to lead to weight gain and increased body fat. However, eating healthy fat is very satiating which can lead to a lower overall consumption of food as it fills you up more quickly. Fat has little impact on blood sugar levels. It is unstable blood sugar and increased insulin production that can lead us to store fat. Foods that tend to disrupt blood sugar are refined, heavily processed and sugary foods, so these are the ones we want to be minimising rather than healthy fats.
Fats to Focus On
Which fats should we be enjoying, and which should we be avoiding? The fats which do not promote good health are those that are heavily processed, such as in cakes, biscuits, and crisps, and cooking with vegetable oils, namely sunflower and corn oils, as they become fragile when heated and oxidise easily, forming damaging free radicals.
The focus therefore should be on healthy fats. These include monounsaturated fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds and olives, and essential fatty acids which are those that our body cannot make so we have to get them from our diet. Good sources of omega 3 fats include oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and anchovies, and walnuts and chia seeds. When it comes to cooking, aim to use olive oil for low temperature cooking, coconut oil, butter, or ghee.
Aiming for a source of fat with every meal is a good rule to stick to, so whether that’s extra virgin olive oil drizzled on your vegetables, nuts or seeds sprinkled in a salad or avocado with you eggs, there are plenty of ways to ensure we are getting these fantastic fats in our diet.
If you would like some personalised support with your fertility, contact me to find out about my 12 week Boost Your Fertility programme. Book your free discovery call to find out how I can help you.
Disclaimer: Nutritional Therapy is not a replacement for medical advice, practitioners always refer any client with ‘red flag’ signs or symptoms to their medical professional. The information provided here is general and is not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure any diseases or conditions.