I can’t tell you the number of clients who come to me afraid of fat. They’re afraid of fat and they’re not alone. Fat has long been deemed the enemy, becoming one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented macronutrients within our standard western diet. Based on this confusion, questionably-colored, highly processed products have replaced butter and fat-free foods have flown off the shelves.
The truth is, fat is your friend. Your brain, immune system, hormones, cells, and energy levels all depend on healthy fat sources. When it comes to dietary fat and cancer, there are no easy answers. Yes, there are fats that contribute to disease, however, there are also fats that help prevent cancer and other life-threatening conditions.
It all boils down to the amount of fat, the types of fat, and the quality of fats you consume. So, what types of fats are there?
- Monounsaturated fats are most abundantly found in foods like avocados, olives and olive oil, raw seeds, raw nuts, as well as a number of nut and seed-based oils.
- Polyunsaturated fats are high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Foods high in omega-6 fatty acids include various seed oils (soy, corn, sunflower, etc.) and processed goods made from these oils, as well as animal products who were raised on a corn-fed diet. You should reduce your intake of these sources and increase your consumption of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as grass-fed animals, free-range eggs, fatty cold-water fish, kelp, wild game, raw pumpkin seeds, raw walnuts, hemp, and chia seeds.
- Saturated fats come from animal products such as meat, eggs, dairy, and butter, as well as palm and coconut oil. These sources of fat do not need to be avoided, just consumed in moderation. Also, the quality of these fat sources contributes to your health which we will discuss shortly.
- Tran fats are man-made found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine, fried foods, cakes, biscuits, crackers, and other commercial baked goods. These fats are a big NO-NO and should be eliminated from your diet.
What do these types of fat have to do with cancer?
Consuming foods high in omega-6 fatty acids, without consuming enough omega-3 leads to inflammation and an increased risk of cancer. We should be consuming an omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio of approximately 2:1. Unfortunately, the standard western diet ratio is closer to 30:1, creating an environment that supports tumor growth.
Excessive omega-6 intake has been linked to a suppression of natural killer cells which are your body’s natural cancer fighters. Basically, these natural killer cells bind to tumor and virus-infected cells, destroying them before they cause damage.
Most studies report that polyunsaturated vegetable oils promote cancer more than saturated fats or polyunsaturated fish oils do. In order to reduce your risk of cancer, you should eliminate trans fats, reduce omega-6 consumption, and increase your intake of omega-3 rich foods.
What does quality have to do with healthy fats?
When you source hormone-free pasture-raised animals that feed on green plants and insects, they contain an omega-6-to-3 ratio around 2:1. In comparison, when you source your meat and meat products from mass-produced commercial farms raised on a unnatural diet, the ratio is closer to 20:1.
You also need to be aware of stability. With the exceptional of coconut oil, oils tend to be fairly unstable. When exposed to air, light, and heat they rapidly break down. This leads to oxidization, producing molecules that cause cellular damage, known as free radicals. This why olive oil should be eaten in its raw form and not heated. Some other yummy and healthy fat options include:
- Walnut Oil: Raw walnuts and walnut oil provide your body with the omega-3 fatty acids you need to maintain optimal health. Although high in fat, a study found that their fat content did not promote prostate cancer growth. In fact, results showed the opposite effect. Walnut oil and raw walnuts slowed cancer growth, reduced cholesterol and increased insulin sensitivity.
- Avocado Oil: With the highest smoke point of 510 degrees, avocado oil can withstand high temperatures and is packed with healthy fats. According to a recent research published by Nutrition and Cancer, avocado oil not only helps guard against cancer, but it helps your body kill existing cancer cells too.
- Pumpkin Seed Oil: Once again, pumpkin seeds contain beneficial omega-3. This oil has been linked to a reduced risk of breast and prostate cancer.
- Flax Oil: Flaxseed and flaxseed oil contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a precursor to the essential omega-3 fatty acid. Flax oil can limit inflammatory reactions, reduce cancer risk, reduce aging, and promote healthy skin, hair, and nails. If you’re not a fan of cooking with flax oil, you can take in capsule form as a daily supplement.
- XCT or MCT Oil: Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) consisting of Caprylic and Capric Fatty Acids. MCTs are shown to easily convert into energy by the body, rather than stored as fat. XCT Oil supports efficient absorption of fat-soluble nutrients which promotes energy, nutrient absorption, weight management, and immune boosting benefits. This is a flavorless oil that can be added into matcha tea, coffee, or smoothies from 1-3 tablespoons per day.
- Grass Fed Butter: It’s high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats. In particular butter is a great source of Vitamins A, D, E, K, and K2 with grass fed butter containing 3X the vitamin D of conventional butter. Grass-fed butter is a great source of a fatty acid called Conjugated Linoleic Acid. This fatty acid has powerful effects on metabolism and has been shown to have anti-cancer properties as well as lowering body fat percentage.
Don’t Fear Fat!
It’s critical to remember that not all fats are automatically grouped together. Although some fats should be avoided and others should be limited in terms of consumption, you need healthy fats in order to survive. Embrace healthy sources in order to protect your health!