Why Fat is Good for Your Gut
(but it’s got to be the right kind)
Fat is bad for you and you need to eat as little as possible, right? Wrong!
So many of us (including me!) have been conditioned to think this though. To think that fat is evil, it’ll clog our arteries and it will make us fat. I spent years of my life buying low fat products, like Muller lights and 1 calorie Fry Light sprays, thinking I was so healthy. I was so scared of fat that I would avoid real butter, full fat milk, olive oil etc etc, convinced they’d make me fat and unhealthy. Now, I’m starting to think that this way of eating is probably partly to blame for the digestive problems I’ve suffered with (this is them!). As I’ve learn about fat, I’ve realised that it has a massive impact on your gut health (as well as you health in general!). Eating fat is good for you and your gut!
THE REASONS EATING FAT IS GOOD FOR YOUR GUT
It enables you to digest: this is the big one - you literally need fat to digest your food. One of the reasons for this is that some vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning they need fat to be absorbed properly into your body. If you don’t eat fat, your gut can’t absorb these minerals and can’t digest your food!
Helps maintain mental health: eating fat is good for your brain because 60% of your brain is made up of fat. Therefore, you need to eat it to regenerate brain cells. Without it, your mental health is affected and you can suffer from anxiety, stress, depression etc. I’ve talked previously about the gut-brain axis (check out this post) which means that what’s going on it your brain will cause symptoms in your gut. So, eating fat will help avoid this.
Helps keep you full: fat takes longer to digest than protein/carbs, so it will help to keep you feeling satisfied for longer. This will help keep your digestive system in balance.
It reduces inflammation: inflammation in your gut is one of the key causes of digestive problems. Eating anti-inflammatory foods can help to reduce these problems.
Aside from being good for your gut, eating fat is good for your whole body. You need it for your brain to develop, to produce hormones, reduce blood pressure, reduce chances of heart disease and to help maintain a healthy cholesterol level. The list goes on..
The truth is that your body needs fat to function properly AND it’s not going to make you fat. It can actually help you maintain a healthy weight. If you suffer from digestive problems, eating the right types of fats can really help you. Eating fat is good, but the key to improving your health is choosing WHICH fats you eat..because some of them are bad, some of them are good and some are in between!
SO, WHICH FATS SHOULD YOU EAT? THE 4 TYPES OF FAT
GOOD FATS NO. 1 - MUFAS (MONOUNSATURATED FATTY ACIDS)
Where you’ll find them: avocado (yay!), nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, olive oil
These fats are good for you! They help maintain heart health and a healthy cholesterol level, as well as providing all the gut benefits I mentioned above. Try to add these into your diet wherever you can.
GOOD FATS NO. 2 - PUFAS (POLYUNSATURATED FATTY ACIDS)
Where you’ll find them: salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, eggs, seeds, canola oil
PUFAs include Omega-3s and Omega-6s, which I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about. We know they’re good for us, but why? These fats are essential for your body to function but your body can’t make them itself. That means, it’s really important you get them from your food or your body won’t be able to build new cells, maintain brain health, clot your blood or build muscles. These fats are good for your heart, cholesterol and blood pressure, but they are also very anti-inflammatory. That makes them great for your gut!
OK IN MODERATION FATS - SFAS (SATURATED FATTY ACIDS)
Where you’ll find them: fatty red meat, lard, dairy, palm/cocoa/coconut oil,
I’ve read a lot of research studies on the effects of saturated fat and there is no definitive agreement on whether it’s good or bad for you. There isn’t much evidence that they’re bad for you and what has been concluded is that there is no relationship between eating saturated fat and any form of heart disease. There is also some evidence showing saturated fats can help maintain healthy cholesterol. However, it’s not GREAT for you, so I’d recommend eating it in moderation or replacing with good fats where possible. So, have just a little bit where necessary or you really fancy it! IIN recommends getting about 10% of your daily calorie intake from saturated fats.
BAD FATS - TRANS FATS
Where you’ll find them: processed baked goods, margarine, fried foods, any foods with ‘partly hydrogenated’ in the label
There are absolutely no known health benefits to trans fats. Trans fats are really inflammatory for your gut, which can lead to lots of digestive problems and even diseases. Aside from this, they will raise your bad cholesterol and can harden your arteries and lead to heart disease. Try to cut these out of your diet as much as possible and swap for any of the above.
WHERE TO START
So, you're ever so slightly convinced that eating fat is good for you. You think you do need to add more healthy fats into your diet, but where do you start?! If you’ve always thought fats are bad for you, it’s a bit overwhelming to suddenly try and add lots of them into you diet. That isn’t the right thing to do either. Although fat is good for your gut (and everything else) you still don’t want to be eating tonnes of the stuff!
I’d recommend starting small and making little introductions or swaps. I’ve listed the types of fats above in order of how good they are for you. At the end of the day, MUFAs & PUFAs are much better for you than saturated fats. However, saturated fats are much better for you than trans fats. Therefore, any small steps towards eating less trans fats and more good fats, will benefit you!
SOME IDEAS TO GET YOU STARTED:
Add one (or one more) portion of MUFAs/PUFAs into your diet every day. This could be a handful of nuts, a tablespoon of olive oil, a fillet of salmon or a sprinkle of flax seeds over a salad.
Swap one trans fat you regularly eat for a saturated fat, e.g. swap margarine for butter
Swap one saturated fat you regularly eat for a MUFA/PUFA, e.g. swap beef for salmon, or a yoghurt for a handful of nuts
Start small. Pick one of these and try it. See if your gut feels any better because of it. You can then make another small change and eventually you’ll be eating a great mix of fats and your gut will be thanking you for it.
Eating fat is good for you
Your gut literally needs fat in order to digest your food, so you need to be eating it!
The most important thing is the type of fat that you eat
You want to be eating:
More good fats, like olive oil, nuts, seeds, oily fish, avocado
Less trans fats, like processed baked goods and margarine
A small amount of saturated fats, like butter, meat and dairy products
Start small and try making small changes to your diet every day to move in the right direction
I hope this has been helpful and my challenge to you today is to pick one small change or swap you can make to either add more good fats or remove some bad fats from your diet. You’ll notice the effect on your gut.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. Which swap are you going to make this week? Let me know in the comments.