The Real Reason you Need Fibre

 

As with many nutrients, people have a general, preconceived idea about their need for dietary fibre. As with many nutrients, those notions come from ad campaigns: orange juice for vitamin C, bananas for potassium and fibre to keep you regular.

True, but only part of the picture (for all those nutrients). Fibre is a key ingredient in the Magic Looking Glass for Eating Right for more reasons than pooping well.

In exploring the beautiful reflection you see in your meals through the Magic Looking Glass for Eating Right, you are also learning to reflect a deeper care of yourself. This is self-love in action. Eating a balance of nourishing food you enjoy is one of the concrete ways you express self-love – it’s a form of radical self-care. Each of the nutrients in the looking glass framework offer you an important angle for eating right AND show you how you can nourish your best self.

FIBRE PLAYS A VITAL ROLE IN THE OVERALL NOURISHMENT OF YOUR BODY AND SPEAKS VOLUMES TO HOW YOU NOURISH YOUR LIFE.

(Be sure to read right to the end to get to this essential point!)

fibre nourishes your life

Let’s start with the fibre basics:

What is dietary fibre?

Fibre is a complex carbohydrate, that is, it’s part of our plant-based nutrition.

It holds the plant upright by holding water within the plant (think flower stem or celery stalk).

It protects and preserves the seed or fruit by preventing water from getting in (a grain’s bran, the coat of a legume, rind).

It holds the water necessary for the fruit/vegetable to grow, flower and reproduce.

Fibre is either soluble – it can dissolve in water, bulking it up and making it gelatinous or even slimy (tapioca, oats, seaweed, pectin) – or it’s insoluble, like the coats & stalks mentioned above.

Because of its structure, the human digestive tract cannot break fibre apart the way it can starch, sugars, protein or fat. Some fibre is so tough we can’t eat it at all (corn husks, shells, avocado or pineapple rind). That indigestibility and its propensity to hold water are exactly how fibre provides its essential functions to the body.

 

Why you need fibre

Each type of fibre plays a specific role in your body, though fibre in general has many advantages.

In your mouth, fibre-rich food require more chewing to break it down. Cooking will also break it down to a certain extent, depending on the method (think steamed, boiled, roasted or raw carrots). The chewing and/or cooking allow you to access the other nutrients bound within the fibre’s strands. As chewing is the first stage of both digestion and immunity in your gut, I’m all for anything that encourages you do it more!

While in your stomach & small intestine, fibre contributes to satiety – that satisfied feeling of having had enough. With fibre in your meal, you feel satisfied sooner and stay that way longer, because it takes a little more work for your digestive juices to access the goods. That is, it allows for a slow, sustainable release of glucose into your blood, as opposed to the burst and peaks & valleys from more refined choices. (Read more about good carb sources here.)

Soluble fibre swells with water. This could be as part of your meal, as in chia pudding or oatmeal, or after you eat, when it soaks up moisture from your digestive juices. Note: this capacity of all fibre to hold water is why it’s always important to hydrate adequately when taking fibre supplements and why Health Canada/ FDA put limits on recommended intake (more about that shortly).

The resulting swollen jelly acts as a sponge as it moves through your intestines. Specifically, soluble fibre mops up bile containing excess cholesterol, hormone bi-products and other fat-soluble toxins released by your liver while cleaning house, and sends them out for disposal. For anyone dealing with estrogen dominance, soluble fibre is an essential part of the nutritional protocols. This is also how soluble fibre (psyllium husks) effectively improves cholesterol and blood sugar levels. (1,2)

Both types will feed your gut flora as they move through. Well-fed beneficial bacteria add to your intestinal immune system and provide you with some vitamins B & K.

Insoluble fibre adds bulk to the bolus (the mass of food moving through your GI tract). Your colon is a large muscle that serves to reabsorb water and move the garbage out. The bulk acts as resistance training for that muscle, giving it something to work against so it can function more effectively. Yes, that’s how fibre helps you poop efficiently.

When working well that efficiency contributes to detoxification and weight management.

 

fibre in foodHow much fibre do you need?

Health Canada/FDA say women need 25 g, men 38 g. As with your caloric intake, that number can vary depending on your size, lifestyle and state of health.

One good way to tell if you’re getting enough? Read your poop.

Of course, this is something to consider in the context of your entire diet, your habits and any health conditions you have, but generally, if your stool is loose or unformed, you may need more fibre; hard & dry, you may need more OR you be getting too much/need more water.

Not enough fibre intake can set you up for diseases such as diverticulitis or colon cancer.

Too much fibre

  • causes constipation and/or dehydration (also caused by lack of water);
  • prevents the absorption of other nutrients, especially if things are moving through too quickly (ideally a meal should take 24-36 hours from plate to toilet – beets help determine that transit time)
  • can interfere with medication
  • can irritate the intestinal tract.

Best to let your holistic nutrition consultant help you find the happy balance.

That’s the physical part. What about…

 

THE SOUL OF FIBRE

Let’s take a moment to look at the qualities you gain from having enough fibre in your diet… in your life. They are the qualities we glean from plants as a whole.

Think about this as you look through the food sources, which ones you eat, and where you lack in your life.

Fibre can be found in its various forms, densities and solubilities in all parts of a plant. Each part nourishes our bodies in its own way; each part teaches us a life lesson in its own way.

Do you remember grade 9 biology, when you learned about photosynthesis? That’s when the leaves make sugar by binding water and carbon dioxide with the sun’s energy. Sugar is literally cosmic energy and the building block for all other parts of the plant. Those sugar molecules link together to make starch, and that most complex polysaccharide: fibre.

lacework of fibre

Lignin molecule

Fibre is a lacework of that energy. The densest expression of heat and light. It gives strength to the plant; sometimes likened to fibreglass in its durability. Yet it can also be flexible. (Remember, too much and you will become hard and dry in your being.

As part of the leaves, it allows that primal reaction to happen by reaching up towards that sunlight. Leaves and their concentration of magnesium nourish your heart, the part of you that reaches for that which you desire, that which lights you up.

The stalk reflects your human need for social order. Have you ever looked at the patterns in the way leaves emerge on a stem? The specific shapes of leaves are part of that order in that the shape denotes its purpose. Think of the large leaves of a rhubarb that shade its heat-sensitive stalks or the spines on a thistle that protect the land from invaders.

The stalk also speaks to your moral fibre. What do you stand for? Are you capable of standing up for yourself?

Fibre holds water, the vital basis of all life. Do your ideas, words and values hold water as well? Are you living in integrity?

Fibre is the stuff of life that requires you to decide what you must absorb and keep, and what you need to release.

Fibre digs deep with the roots that ground you to reality. The formative forces of the earth draw up to nourish that plant and feed your brain.

Much subtler – no fibre, but it completes the picture as the last expressions of a plan – is the vibrational energy you receive from plants. The colours, essences and oils that nourish your subtle bodies – your chakras, your emotions and your aura.

 

YOU WANT TO HAVE MORE INTEGRITY, TO BECOME A BETTER, STRONGER, MORE ENERGIZED, MORE LOVING, CONFIDENT AND FOCUSED VERSION OF YOURSELF WITH EVERY FIBRE OF YOUR BEING.

Could it be that eating plant food more consciously and conscientiously will help enhance those qualities you seek?

 

Now that you know that fibre is so much more than the All-Bran you sprinkle on your morning yogourt, which ways will you incorporate it into your life? Which qualities do you hope to gain from that addition? When you share your thoughts in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Share your insights and get your friends in on the conversation by clicking any (or all!) of the pretty green buttons.

 

1 Anderson, J.W. et al. “Long-term cholesterol-lowering effects of psyllium as an adjunct to diet therapy in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. June 2000
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10837282, June 21, 2018

2 Gibb, Roger D. et al. “Psyllium fiber improves glycemic control proportional to loss of glycemic control: a meta-analysis of data in euglycemic subjects, patients at risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, and patients being treated for type 2 diabetes mellitus” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. November 2015
https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/102/6/1604/4555168, June 21, 2018

Lighten Up! 3 Ways to Reduce the Winter Blues

 

Getting out of bed these days is brutal. After I finally drag myself up, only to be greeted by the cold tiles in the bathroom, I get to repeat the process with my son. Some days I never hit my stride and my sweet tooth is threatening to take over. I’ve got no zest for life; I feel washed-out. From about 5:00 onward, all I think about is going to bed, sleeping is all I want to do once I’m there.

Yup. I have a clear case of S.A.D.

Seasonal affective disorder shows up in an about 3-5% of Canadians – closer to 15% if you count the milder form of “winter blues”. It’s a very real form of depression that hits in countries at the northern- and southern-most parts of the planet.

Logical in these months of reduced daylight, though I’d say it gets compounded by the fact that we modern city folk tend to spend far too much time indoors, no matter what time of year. And when we do go out, we keep our skin covered and our eyes well shaded.

We’re systematically depriving ourselves of one of the most nourishing nutrients we have: the sun.

The sun’s rays on the cholesterol in your skin provides vitamin D. Sunlight also enter your eyes, hits your retina, stimulating your pineal gland. As the regulator of your entire system, this wise little nugget of fat, nerves and minerals controls circadian rhythms, both large (life cycles) and small (day/night).

The pineal secretes melatonin as daylight wanes in the evening, to make you sleepy and keep you knocked out until dawn. Daylight and the blue of the sky shut off its production so you can get up and go the next morning.

It’s logical that on the shorter days, the memo to ease up on the sleepiness gets delayed.

Were we smart and followed our animal nature around this, we’d honour the lack of light (and heat!) and slow down through these deep days of winter. Heck, those squirrels and polar bears sure know what’s what as they gorge, make a cozy bed, then nap for weeks. But we live in a society that clings tightly to a set schedule. That values productivity and being “on” more than listening to your personal needs.

Everything in Nature screams to slow down, have a nap, take it easy, yet we insist on driving through a snowstorm on icy roads to get to a meeting. When I asked my osteopath about her holidays, she guiltily told me about watching an entire season of Broadchurch in one day with her husband, then quickly went on to justify the “indulgence”.

Other than impairing your ability to go-go-go, this low energy state drags some of us into a full depression. Melatonin is made from serotonin – one of your feel-good neurotransmitters. With more of the latter being shunted into the former, your usual good moods and energy have quite literally gone into hibernation.

Serotonin, in turn, is made from tryptophan, so you crave starchy food in search of a source. More specifically, you want sugar, as it’s both the quickest route to more energy (albeit not a sustainable one) and another stimulator of the feel-good centres in your brain.

Many North Americans have learned the good habit of popping vitamin D through the winter months to protect bones, digestive tract, immunity and breasts from lack of sun on our skin. (If you haven’t got on this train yet, start!)

It’s just as vital to supplement the lack of sun in your brain.

Here are 3 ways to do just that.

1. Light therapy

The regular bulbs in your home and office aren’t enough to do the trick, though ironically, they’re enough to set your melatonin off-kilter when you’ve got them all on late into the evening.

As a bonus, this practice not only reduces the effects of S.A.D., it helps regulate all your cycles – sleep, menstruation, fertility.

You need full-spectrum light. Sunlight.

Get out into the daylight for a good 10-20 minutes every morning, without any type of lenses covering your eyes. Ditch the shades when you walk the dog or the kids to school. Go an extra couple of blocks before hopping on the bus. If it’s mild enough, have your morning tea on the deck.

Lunchtime is the next best time to do this.

Open the blinds in your office; move your desk so can see outside.

Even if you’re not getting direct sunlight – the sun’s only just coming up as I head out these days at 7:40 – you can still drink in the blue of the sky or the hint of brightness behind the clouds.

When I conscientiously look up at the sky rather than bow my head against the cold in the morning, it makes a marked difference to my energy levels and mood.

If you don’t have the luxury of an extra 20 minutes outside – I won’t harp on at the moment about all the ways this is good for you – then get yourself a full-spectrum lamp or two. Have it on in the room(s) where you spend most of your time each day.

2. Take some down time.

Remember, the pineal gland is about rhythms & cycles. Which means turning off just as much as being on.

If your energy wanes at this time of year, don’t fight it.

Honouring the fact that this is a season of drawing inward and quiet rest attunes your body and recharges your batteries for the more energetic times of the warmer months.

  • Switch from power yoga to restorative yoga. This delicious practice nurtures you with lots of gentle poses and support with blankets.
  • Have more evenings in than out. Jigsaw puzzles and board games come out more often at our house. They draw us together as a family or make a great excuse for putting on a pot of chili and having some friends over.
  • Choose a meaty novel or your journal over TV. Tackle the classics you’ve had on your shelf for years, or see what the library has among the new arrivals. (If you prefer an e-reader to paper books, be sure to put it on night mode.)
  • Get more sleep. By all means, go to bed a bit earlier. Sleep in a bit later on the weekend. The snow will still be there to play in when you get up.

3. Eat your way out of the blues.

Feed your brain with adequate protein and good fats to keep neurotransmitter and hormone levels up to par.

Nourish your need for sugar and comfort food with squashes and roasted root vegetables. Not only are these yummy choices packed with nutrients, you can think of them as concentrated sunshine – the sugar molecules literally being the sun’s energy in carbon and water.

How do you keep yourself energized through the winter? When you share your thoughts in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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Get your Daily Dose of Delicious

I used to have a list of “25 Rules to Live By” on my fridge. Don’t remember where it came from or who wrote them. It’s long since gone, but one of the rules has stuck with me:

What could be simpler?

Beyond food plans and reset diets. Beyond reading labels or trying to balance your meals.

What happens when you choose your food by how much pleasure you derive from it?

With one of my clients, we refer to it as the “yummy factor”. One day, while sorting through healthy variations to balance her blood sugar, she declared, “I want my food to be yummy.” And so it should be!

Delicious involves all 5 of your senses as you eat your meal.

Soak in the flavours, colours, aromas, textures and sounds as you eat.

Used effectively, though, you need to remember to stop when the pleasure subsides.

Marc David, director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, tells the story of a client he had who loved McDonald’s and ate it every day for lunch, in the car as he drove from job to job. Since he refused to give it up in his quest to settle his digestive pain and find a healthier weight, Marc made one suggestion: take the time to slow down and really savour his lunch.

So the man made the effort to pull over after getting out of the drive-through, and he took a full 10 minutes to eat his Big Mac. At the end of the week, he called Marc to say he hated McD’s. It’s salty and fatty and its only benefit was the convenience of grabbing it on the run.

Maybe you can’t relate to that guy, so consider instead what happened to me the other night.

We were out celebrating my son’s birthday and I let myself be tempted by one of the decadent desserts: salted caramel & roasted apple cheesecake, served in a waffle cone. It looked like an artfully spilled ice cream.

The first bite was heavenly. The second still yummy. By the 3rd, I was getting overwhelmed with the amount of sugar. With the next one, I started to think how that much dairy would wreak havoc on me the next day. I was no longer enraptured with the experience, yet kept shoveling it down unconsciously.

Rather than stay engaged with my sense of fun, relish the novelty of the presentation and savour just one or two bites, I let my inner glutton take over. Sure enough, I was painfully full all evening and congested the entire next day.

 

Delicious involves your sense of appreciation.

Appreciation for the art & skill that goes into good food – visual as well as taste.

Such sites as Yum and thousands of Pinterest boards owe their popularity to our hunger for their gorgeous food “porn”.

Even words can fill that need for delicious. When my husband reads out the recipe names from his latest copy of Fine Cooking, it’s like sweet nothings being whispered in my ear. Roasted Beet Muhammara, Poached Egg & Asparagus Toasts with Lemon-Chive Beurre Blanc, Crispy Potatoes with Lemon and lots of Oregano.

Appreciation for the company and the setting surrounding you during a meal.

Even when eating something you cooked yourself, alone in your own kitchen, you can revel in what you’ve created. Be grateful for the care you took to nourish your body.

Can you feel the difference in your body when you bite into something delicious?

Your whole body relaxes. (If you know anything about digestion, you know that’s the ideal state for it to work at its best.)

Your entire focus pauses, if only for the briefest of moments, to fully embrace the essence. Like those first soulful kisses with a new lover.

 

And that’s the thing.

Delicious isn’t all about food any more than nourishment is.

I know we sometimes have a hard time getting past conventions. (My mother still thinks all I do is tell people what to eat.) I remember finding it somewhat odd – yet oh so fitting – the first time I heard someone refer to an adorable toddler as “delicious”.

Infuse your entire day with delicious from morning until night and fall in love with your life in a whole new way. All it takes is a hint of conscious awareness of what’s already there.

The delicious stretch while still under the covers.
The delectable heat of the shower hitting your skin and waking your brain.
The luscious flow of your dress sliding down your body.
The gratifying tang of the fermented carrots on your scrambled eggs.
The scrumptious smile on your son’s freckled face as he waves goodbye for the day.
The exquisite pause of being quietly alone before heading to the car.

Need I go on?

Life’s too short to drink bad wine, read crappy novels or sit through a boring movie.

 

“If it’s not delicious, don’t eat it.”

I spent 4+ years studying holistic nutrition. I keep up with the latest superfoods and hormone balancing tricks. I teach my clients to adjust their lifestyles for better digestion. In the end, it all revolves around that one simple rule that was right in front of my face all that time.

 

What were the 3 most delicious parts of your day so far? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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What is Whole Food?

You know that you’re supposed to eat whole food, but there’s a bit of confusion out there around what it exactly. Do you know why it’s so important?

When I ask my clients about it they say, “Sure, I eat whole wheat pasta,…I eat organic,…I shop at Whole Foods.”

While whole food my be organic, organic food isn’t necessarily whole.

Shopping at Whole Foods means that you are more likely to find items that are locally or sustainably grown, that are fair trade and made from healthier ingredients, however, this is only part of the whole picture.

Whole food is as close as possible to its natural state when you eat it.

  • Nothing (or very little) taken away – you might still need to peel or hull or skin/scale certain foods.
  • Nothing (or very little) added to it, not counting the lovely flavours we add to enhance a dish, preferably whole in themselves.
  • Not altered (or very little). You might need to cook (meat), ferment (soy) or add minerals (corn) to make certain foods digestible or to access the nutrients. You might need to dry, salt or ferment it to preserve it through the winter.

Using that definition, we can look at what foods we commonly eat along a spectrum from whole to processed:

Wheat berries – stone-ground whole wheat flour products – unbleached flour products – white flour products

(Whole has nothing to do with gluten or lack thereof: Brown rice – white rice – brown rice flour products – white rice flour products)

Meat is tricky because we rarely eat the whole animal, maybe a fish or small poultry  – sticking to chicken breasts only is a partial food – processed meat products are made from parts as well and have lots added to them.

That said, you can eat the entirety of a larger animal over a season, especially when you make bone broth and eat the marrow and the organs.

Egg – egg yolk/white – dehydrated eggs

Fresh whole milk – pasteurized/homogenized whole milk – 2%/skim/cream – powdered milk

A no-brainer whole food choice would be fresh vegetables and fruit. Eat more of those, and you’re golden.

 

Whole food is what was traditionally called, well, food.

Whole food is the opposite of many of the food-like products we find in the middle aisles of our grocery stores: refined and processed items. That is, It’s lower in the stuff that Health Canada tell us to avoid: added sugar, excess sodium and poor quality fats.

Now, many modern food have been formulated to include missing nutrients.

In terms of straight nutritional value, whole food provides a better profile of nutrients.  It’s naturally higher in the all the nutrients we need: fibre, minerals & vitamins, protein, essential fatty acids.

Whole food contains all the nutrients you need to digest, assimilate and effectively metabolise the core ingredients. It’s pure logic.

Take wheat again as an example: It contains a good store of starch – the carbohydrates we use for energy – as well as the B-vitamins, minerals, protein, fat and fibre we need to efficiently absorb and use that energy.

Strip away the bran & the germ to make pretty white flour and you’re left with straight starch – the “bad” carbs you are trying so hard to avoid these days. The impact of straight, refined starch (sugar) on weight, blood sugar levels and hormone balance is well-documented.

The commercial benefit of white flour is that it won’t go rancid because they’ve taken out the (good) fats. If you ask me, though, food that doesn’t go bad is a food devoid of life. The essence, the life-energy, has been stripped from the grain (for more on this concept, see this post on Fats).

 

Whole food has vitality, it’s got the energy you crave.

The vibration produced by the living aspect of the plant is what actually feeds and helps your organism stay alive.

As time went on in the modern food era, nutritional scientists gradually realised the folly of refining grains, when pellagra and other deficiency diseases reared their heads. To their credit, they started to “enrich” the flour with synthetic or extracted forms of some of the very same vitamins & minerals they had removed in refining.

What about the stuff they don’t replace? We’re all scrambling around trying to access it in other ways…can you say omega-3 supplement?

Without going on too long about it, this herbal example beautifully illustrates my point as well: Willow bark is a traditional remedy for headaches and fever. It’s active ingredient, salicylic acid, was researched, extracted and sold in a pill: aspirin. Trouble is, aspirin wreaks havoc on the stomach. Willow bark, however, has no such side effect because it contains other substances that work symbiotically with the active acid.

 

Whole foods are part of your body’s history.

Among those of us who grew up from the late 50s through the early 90s, I’ve had many conversations around “How did we ever survive?” We of the Alpha-Bits and Chef-Boyardee, Tang and McDonald’s generations. Sure, we survived, but did we thrive? We of the chronic-diseases-like-never-before generation.

From the body’s perspective, we’ve been asking it to deal with products that don’t resemble the fare our organs evolved to recognise and digest. To that end, we lack enzymes to metabolise certain foods. In some cases like dairy, not knowing what to do with it, the body either pockets it away in our tissue (joints and breasts, in particular), or it feeds the pathogenic bacteria in our digestive tract, or the body mounts an inappropriate immune response (allergies and auto-immune disease).

How can something nourish you if you can’t even access the nutrients?

Is the long-term poor nutrition perhaps the reason why we’re all desperately loading up on superfoods and supplements – food that over-compensates for the nutritional gaps we had growing up?

 

Here’s a thought:

We were the generation raised on the standard North-American fare: processed (convenient), fast and altered food.

We’re also the generation that walks around talking about “not being enough” – not smart enough, not thin enough, not rich enough, not creative enough, not healthy enough,…

My husband calls us the searchers: perpetually looking for the purpose, the career, the diet, the guru, the man/woman that will solve all our problems…that will make us feel enough. That will make us feel whole.

Could it be that we’re feeling this way because we are, in fact, lacking in some way? That by refining away and destroying nutrients – the essence of the food we’d been eating for years (during our formative years at that) – we are indeed undernourished? Lacking in a way that goes much deeper that the nutrient itself?

 

The solution? Eat whole food.

Eat colour – this is where the plant world stocks up all those antioxidants, the immune system of the plant. Convenience: buy the items pre-cut.

Eat fresh – avoid anything without a best before date, or anything that doesn’t expire until next year. Convenience: frozen vegetables; canned beans or fish (rinse them well to reduce the salt)

Eat what your grandmother cooked. As a bonus prepare it the way she did. (The true bonus is the way she enriched all her meals with love.)

 

Now it’s your turn: Do you feel your body’s been deprived from eating less-than-optimal food? What do you do to make up the difference? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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The Skinny on Fat

What better time to talk about fat than the lead-in to the holidays and the prospect of all the deliciously rich food on offer.

In exploring the beautiful reflection you see in your meals through the Magic Looking Glass for Eating Right, you are also learning to reflect a deeper care of yourself. This is self-love in action. Eating a balance of nourishing food you enjoy is one of the concrete ways you express self-love – it’s a form of radical self-care. Each of the nutrients in the looking glass framework offer you an important angle for eating right AND show you how you can nourish your best self.

Let’s first clear the air by saying that fat isn’t bad for you. It’s absolutely necessary to your health. Eating fat doesn’t cause you to put on fat…unless you eat it in poor qualities and excess quantities.

Why You Need Fat

Your brain is made of 60% fat, and your nerves are coated in the stuff. Without that insulation, all those electrical signals flying around at light speed would go haywire.

Your cells are surrounded in fat, keeping their functional molecules contained away from the watery medium of your body.

Your sex hormones are made from fat (cholesterol, to be precise), and your body fat is necessary to certain stages of their production & metabolism. I’m talking estrogen, progesterone, testosterone: your ability to reproduce. Not to mention all the fun & games to get you there!

Cholesterol is also the base for vitamin D (for your bones and immune system), and for bile, so that you can digest, you got it…fats.

You know all the hype about getting enough essential fatty acids, vitamins A and E? Unless you eat a variety of fat, you’re not getting these goodies.

The fat under your skin insulates you from temperature changes. Boring? That fat also keeps your skin soft & silky.

I know you’d like some of that padding to go away, but it’s actually a protective layer for your vital organs.

Fat & oil in food, when heated, carries the aroma of a meal. It’s why your food smells so delicious: Nature’s way of stimulating your appetite.

When you eat a bit of fat in a meal, it actually slows the digestive process, so you’re satisfied sooner and feel full longer. (Yes, fat, just like fibre, helps you eat less!)

Now tell me, how is any of that bad for you?

“But it’s so high in calories!”

True. A gram of fat has 9 calories, where protein and carbohydrates have 4. There’s a reason for that.

Fat is a storage molecule.

(Technically, we refer to these molecules as lipids: oils in plants, fat in animals/humans.)

The sun’s heat gets trapped when a plant makes sugar (carbs) – we release that energy when we eat the plant (or eat an animal who’s eaten the plant). The plant concentrates that heat into the seed as oil, ensuring it has what’s needed to endure the winter and sprout again come spring.

Animal or human, the fat stores on the body ensure we’ve got the energy to make it until the next meal. (Don’t forget, we’ve evolved through eras of feast or famine.) Like the plant, or the squirrel in your backyard, you have the capacity to store up for a long cold winter.

As a keeper of calories, lipids hold your heat.

Let’s look at what that means at a deeper level.

During the height of summer, a plant’s oils evaporate & disperse into the atmosphere as its perfume. Its essence. It’s how the flower expresses itself, declares its presence to the world, attracts the bees & butterflies that ensure its reproduction. It’s part of what we love about flowers.

Could we say that our essence also manifests through our lipids?

The thoughts, memories, emotions sparking around your brain; the decisions you make and your ability to carry them out, via nerves, to your motor activities…they’re all facilitated and made efficient because of fat.

Your femininity – your curves, your ability to nurture, be receptive and creative, your ability to attract a mate and have a baby – all of it flourishes because of your fat.

Every cell in your body, the houses of your DNA, the machinery that builds and rebuilds the physical aspects of your being, would fall into chaotic disarray without the lipid membrane that keeps it whole.

You solidify the boundary of who you are and you glow with inner light because of the fat in your skin (like an oil lamp).

Just as the flower attracts others with its scent, your own essence – the heat you give off to the world by being fully present in your life – sparks connection with others. In love, in friendship, in work, in community.

 

To ensure that you’re glowing to your fullest potential, there are, of course, a few guidelines. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of this already, but it bears repeating.

Fat Quality

You need to eat a balance of 3 types of lipids for your body to work at its best.

Saturated:

These fats are easily recognized because they’re more solid at room temperature. Mainly from animal sources (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, butter & cream), they’re also found it coconut and palm oils.

The plant form of saturated fat are very easy to digest and actually help burn other types of fat because they’re made of shorter chains. That is, they provide easily accessible energy.

Egg yolk also contains a fatty compound known as lecithin, which eases your body’s ability to get the fat where it needs to go without damaging any arteries along the way.

Monounsaturated:

Found in poultry fat, which is why it’s more viscous than lard from beef or pork.

The best (and yummiest!) sources are avocado, olives and olive oil.

Polyunsaturated:

We know these as the essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6.

Omega-6 are in animal meats, poultry, nuts & seeds and plant oils (corn, safflower, sunflower, etc.), i.e. in fried foods.

Omega-3, the mood-calming, anti-inflammatory fat, comes in leafy greens, fish, grass-fed animal food, seeds such as flax, chia, hemp; nuts like walnut.

We need both types in proper proportion, but our over-use of the one kind has displaced the other and increased our need for it, hence the view that one is better than the other.

Fats and oils are “bad” when they’re out of proportion or no longer in their natural state.

Overheated, these lipids are damaged and lose their nourishing effect beyond the calories they add. (Different oils can withstand different temperatures.)

Processed – hydrogenated, heat extracted, bleached, deodorized – they are stripped of their natural properties, stripped of their essence, their subtle energy.

Which means that your body won’t necessarily recognize them as usable material.

These altered molecules (such as trans fats), when not assimilated effectively into your body, create more work for your liver. Plus, they hang around as free radicals – the scavenger molecules that wreak havoc, leading to inflammation, cardiovascular disease and cancer (among others).

Quantity of Dietary Fat

You need 20-30% (some even say up to 40%) of your calories from fat. If you’re that average person who eats 2000 calories a day, that translates into 44-66 g (88 g) of fat each day.

To give you a practical idea, you need 3-5 servings a day…not a lot:

2 tsp of butter, oil, nut butter = 10 g
2 egg yolks = 9 g
½ avocado = 15 g

You need 1/3 of each type; saturated, mono & polyunsaturated (in equal proportions of omega-6 and omega-3).

As you indulge this holiday season, you’re storing up some extra heat for the winter.

Remember that, as you curl in with more quiet, indoor activity through the cold months, you give your soul a chance to feed its essence for your re-emergence next spring.

No matter what you do eat (or skip) this holiday season, make sure you’re doing so from a place of joy and celebration. (If you missed it, you can still listen to last year’s webinar to help with this.)

In the comments, I’d like to hear how you struggle with the idea of fat or the enjoyment of fatty-rich food. When you share your thoughts, you open the possibilities for others.

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