By Amy Medling, Founder of PCOS Diva
As a teen, I tried to avoid anything that sounded like it would make me fat. I confidently consumed foods that sounded “skinny” like fat-free SnackWell cookies and Diet Coke. They were fat (and practically calorie) free- how bad could they be? It turns out, pretty bad. It wasn’t fat that was the problem there, it was the lack of nutrients and sheer number of sweeteners and additives. Now I understand that the right fats are a critical part of my PCOS diet.
You Need Fat in Your PCOS Diet
In truth, fat is a biological necessity, and your body can’t live without it. Below are some of the known benefits of fats in our diet.
Cell Membrane Fluidity
- Our body seeks homeostasis all the time, and that includes fatty acid balance. Saturated fats and unsaturated fats help promote optimal cell membrane fluidity where the former makes cell membranes less fluid and the latter, more fluid. Basically, healthy fats help your cells function.
- Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are all steroid hormones. These hormones are responsible for muscle growth, bone health, reproductive health, and much more, and they all require fat (cholesterol) to be produced in significant amounts.
- Fat is required by the body to digest, absorb, and transport vitamins A, D, E, and K because of their fat-soluble nature. One study even concluded full-fat dressings improved carotenoid absorption (vitamin A) compared to salads with fat-free and fat-reduced dressings. *Note: Choose a dressing with healthy fat! Check out my Seasonal Menus or Jumpstart for recipes.
Increased consumption can lead to a leaner body
- Healthy fats help you lose excess body fat by improving metabolism, balancing hormones, and eliminating constant cravings. Healthy fat intake also leads to greater gains from strength training.
Improved brain function
- Your brain is mainly made of cholesterol and fat, most of which should be essential fatty acids, particularly DHA. Adequate healthy fat intake also helps prevent depression by maintaining serotonin levels, a hormone responsible for making you feel good.
- People who say fat, especially saturated fat, is bad for your heart aren’t up to date with recent findings. A 2010 study made use of an astounding 347,747 subjects, 11,006 of which developed coronary heart disease or stroke. They concluded, “There is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.”
Sources of Healthy Fats for PCOS
As it turns out, avocados are not only good for dips and spreads (and my favorite, guacamole), but also for increasing your body’s good cholesterol levels while simultaneously lowering bad cholesterol. Its secret lies in avocados being rich in monounsaturated fat. They also have plenty of vitamin E which is powerful antioxidant.
Extra Virgin Olive oil
My favorite dressing, olive oil, is able to reduce oxidative stress and help prevent heart disease.
The omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids found in butter promote proper brain function while support healthy
Virgin Coconut oil
The benefits of coconut oil are far too many to completely enumerate. Some of the benefits include improving good cholesterol levels, appetite suppression, and even brain health.
Nuts and Seeds
When you think about omega-3 and omega-6, you probably mean fish oil (DHA & EPA). For women with PCOS, fish oil can reduce testosterone and inflammation, improve insulin balance, hair and skin quality, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and manage mood and ovulation. It is difficult to consume enough safe fish to reap the benefits, and many women have a gene mutation which makes conversion into usable form inefficient, so many of us turn to 3rd party certified supplements. For more information about fish oil, read my article, The Fish Oil Fix.
Fats to Avoid
Despite fat’s bad press, the only fats you should be strictly avoiding are Omega 6 plant based oils (soy, safflower, cottonseed), those which are often GMO (rapeseed and canola), and hydrogenated fats. Hydrogenated fats are natural vegetable fats that have undergone hydrogenation to improve shelf life, cut manufacturing costs, and improve food palatability. It didn’t take long before scientists found out hydrogenated fat produces the dreaded trans-fat, a kind of fat that not only increases bad cholesterol, but also lowers good cholesterol. Trans-fat is linked to all sorts of diseases.
So, go ahead and mindfully consume healthy fats, especially in your salad dressings. Just avoid trans-fat and any “fat-free” processed foods.
Amy Medling, best-selling author of Healing PCOS and certified health coach, specializes in working with women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), who are frustrated and have lost all hope when the only solution their doctors offer is to lose weight, take a pill, and live with their symptoms. In response, Amy founded PCOS Diva and developed a proven protocol of supplements, diet, and lifestyle programs that offer women tools to help gain control of their PCOS and regain their fertility, femininity, health, and happiness.
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