7 Signs You Need To Eat More Fats
Even though fats are often demonised, a certain amount of healthy fats in your diet is essential for your well-being. Here are some signs your body isn't getting enough dietary good fats.
Fats catch a lot of flak for being unhealthy, but a certain quantity of this macronutrient is essential for maintaining our health, and a balanced diet involves some amount of healthy fats. From being a source of energy to absorption of nutrients, fats have a role in ensuring proper functioning of bodily functions. They also aid in cell growth — "The outer membrane of every cell in our body is made of fat, called lipid bilayer, so fat is needed for smooth functioning of the body. Fats also help in wound healing and blood clotting," says Dr. Lakshmi Kilaru, Ph.D Food Science and Nutrition, University of Georgia (USA), and Head Nutritionist, URLife.
There are different types of fats, and they affect our body in different ways. We often hear the terms "good" fats and "bad" fats. It's important to understand what that means. The major categories of fats are unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), saturated fats, and trans fats. Of these three, unsaturated fats are beneficial or good for our health, while saturated fats and trans fats are considered unhealthy. Trans fats, particularly, found in fast foods, fried foods and processed food items, negatively impact your cholesterol levels and thus should be avoided as much as possible. The opinion on saturated fats is mixed—found in things such as red meat, cheese, and palm oil, it is generally recommended that consumption of saturated fats should be limited.
Polyunsaturated (PUFA) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), the "good" fats, help improve cholesterol levels, fight inflammation, and aid heart health. A review published in Circulation presented that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat can help in the prevention of coronary heart disease. Essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 are polyunsaturated fats that are involved in many important biological functions of the body, and a balance of these fats is important for your health. Some healthy fats to eat come from nuts, fatty fish, seeds, and vegetable oils such as olive and sunflower. Here are some signs that your body might not have enough healthy fats.
Dry, Inflamed Skin
Healthy fats play an important role in maintaining skin health, especially when it comes to the moisture barrier. "Essential fatty acids help to regulate the skin's oil production and maintain hydration. They also have an impact on signs of ageing. Less fat can lead to scaly skin or dermatitis," says Dr. Lakshmi.
Fatigue and Hunger
Not having enough good fats can cause both physical and mental fatigue. "1 gram fat provides 9 kcal of energy, and endurance-based activities like marathons use fat as fuel. Fats are your largest reserve of energy," says Dr. Lakshmi. Fats also take time to get digested and can thus keep you full, and a dearth can make you feel hungry more frequently.
Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins. Dr. Lakshmi says, "The body can absorb and transport them only in the presence of fat. These are the antioxidant vitamins essential to prevent cancer and help in various metabolic funtions. Hence, it's important to provide the body with essential fat sources in the right amount." Not having enough good fats can manifest as a deficiency of these vitamins.
Inability to Concentrate
A major component of the brain is lipids. A review in Acta Neurologica Taiwanica mentions that fatty acids are crucial for the brain's ability to perform, and studies have linked deficiency with impaired brain performance. "Diets low in PUFA are linked to effects on mental health like depression and low concentration," Dr. Lakshmi says.
"Omega-3 or the essential fats provides nutrients for hair growth and prevents hair follicle inflammation, something that leads to hair loss," says Dr. Lakshmi. A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology showed that supplementation with specific Omega-3 and Omega-6, as well as antioxidants, acted efficiently against hair loss in women.
Pain in the joints could be a sign that there's not enough Omega-3 in your diet. An article published in the Mediterranean Journal of Rheumatology presented that Omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and may have an effect on the number of swollen and tender joints.
There can be many reasons behind your periods being irregular, and a deficiency in fats could be one of them. Sex hormones are synthesised from cholesterol, and healthy fats affect the levels of good cholesterol in your body. "Since all the hormones in the body essentially require good fats for their production, diets low in good fat may cause irregular periods due to hormonal imbalance," says Dr. Lakshmi.