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Healthy Fats Can Improve Your Mental Health

Fat is a key component of a healthy diet.  How much each person needs varies due to age, activity level, gender, the season, medical conditions, and other individual factors.  The Serotonin Power Diet includes adequate fat for nutrient needs yet not so much that it impedes weight loss. 

The Type of Fat Matters

It’s clear that the type of fat you eat matters.  The reason is twofold: to get the health and nutrient benefit of healthy fats, and to avoid the negative effects of unhealthy fats.

Healthy fats support mental health which is good reason to choose the right ones.

Sifting through the information available about fat is overwhelming.  We read about saturated, unsaturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and trans fats.  Consideration of fish oil, cholesterol, and plant vs. animal fats play into our dietary choices.  And what about omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids?

More Information Means More Questions

Trying to learn about it all can lead to more questions than answers.  Should I limit how many eggs I eat?  Probably not if you eat organic eggs high in omega-3.  Is it OK to eat peanut butter?  Yes, if it’s natural and without hydrogenated oil and sugar. Is canned tunafish OK?  Yes, especially light tuna or those labeled low in mercury; however, canned mackerel is probably better.  Is grass-fed beef worth it? Definitely.  Can I eat cheese?  Yes, if it’s unprocessed, and check with your doctor to see if it’s OK for you to eat fermented or unpasteurized varieties. 

The amount of information about fats is enough to make one’s head spin!  

Keep It Simple

When it comes to mental health, focus on a few concepts: 

  1. Increase your consumption of omega-3 fats 
  2. Choose fats that are raised or grown by organic and un-manufactured means 
  3. Avoid processed fats and deep-fried foods

Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

People who eat more omega-3 fats have a lower incidence of anxiety and depression.

Omega-3 fatty acids contribute to general cell health, overall metabolism, and mental health. Most of us get plenty of omega-6 fatty acids due to the high amounts of polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as soybean and corn oils in our modern diets.  But an abundance of these high omega-6 polyunsaturated fats can lead to an imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This can contribute to generalized inflammation and poor metabolism.  

Foods That Are High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, cod, and bluefish, herring, lake trout, tuna, and cod liver oil are high in omega-3 fatty acids.  Other good sources include nuts, especially walnuts, nut butters, seeds especially flaxseed, hemp seeds, and chia seeds, and seed butters like sunflower butter. 

Peanuts, a legume, and peanut butter without added sugar or hydrogenated oils are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and contain magnesium and iron that support mental health. 

Organic and Grass-fed Meat and Dairy Products

Eggs, beef, chicken, yogurt, and milk raised on organic feeds and grass have a higher ratio of omega-3 fats.  They also generally have more nutrients such as vitamins A, B6, B12, iron, and magnesium all of which support mental health.

Aim for unprocessed cheese and, if you get the green light from your doctor, choose unpasteurized, fermented types which have a positive effect on blood cholesterol in addition to supporting the gut biome which in turn supports mental health. And choose unsweetened, unprocessed yogurt with live cultures and milk from grass-fed cows.   

What About Canola Oil?

Many clients ask about Canola oil which is a particular type of oil derived from rapeseeds formulated to be palatable.  Of note, rapeseed oil has been used as far back as 4000 years ago in India and notably in 13th century Europe where it was used as lamp oil.  Its name is derived from “Can” from Canada where it was developed, and “ola” to convey that it is low in acid.  

The Healthiest Oils

While Canola oil has a reputation as a healthy oil, it’s more of a relative qualification in comparison to other vegetable oils like corn and soybean oil.  Plus, some people are wary of the fact that most canola crops are genetically modified (GMO).  There are other oils that are better.  For example, sunflower and peanut oils are well-suited for high cooking temperatures as is ghee which is clarified butter without the proteins that are not heat stable.  Olive, avocado, and coconut oils are great for frying at moderately high temperatures.  And for other purposes like salads or to add to foods after cooking, sesame and nut oils such as macadamia and hazelnut are healthy and delicious options.

Avoid Processed Fats and Deep Fried Foods

Avoid margarine, lard, shortening, processed baked goods and snacks, and trans fats.  These fats can contribute to weight gain and generalized inflammation in the body which increases the risk of anxiety and depression not to mention heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.  

It’s best to limit or avoid deep-fried foods.  Typically deep-fried foods are prepared using trans fats; also, the oil is often re-used which can make it break down and penetrate foods more readily leading to excess calorie intake.  Certainly not ideal for optimal mental health. 

Your mental health matters.  Eat accordingly and enjoy feeling your best.

 

If you’d like support and guidance around how to optimize your diet to support your mental and physical well being and to achieve and maintain your goal weight, we’re here for you!  We invite you to sign up for a consultation to learn more.

 

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