Fatty Foods: Why You Can't Live Without Them

Asparagus dish at a restaurant
Ross Woodhall

Dietary fat is more important than you may have previously thought. Of course, we know there are some fats that are essential for keeping inflammation at bay, but they are also deeply satisfying, providing a feeling of fullness and richness, and adding a flavor, texture, and consistency to foods that we like – and expect. Keep in mind that fats compose every cell membrane of all the cells in the body, and they are critical components of brain and nervous system tissue.

Additionally, fats are used to make hormones that affect blood pressure, blood clotting, immune function, men and women's health, and smooth muscle contraction.

Most importantly, without fats, we would not be able to properly absorb the fat-soluble nutrients including vitamins A, D, E and K, and the range of carotenoids, the nutrients that make foods orange like carrots and sweet potatoes.

Let’s talk about the fat-soluble vitamins.

Vitamin A

Generally, vitamin A can be classified into two categories: retinoids or carotenoids; animal or plant derived respectively. Benefits include specific immune, inflammatory, genetic, and reproductive-related functions specifically from the retinoid category. While the carotenoids function as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, most well known for their benefits for eye health. Great examples include spinach, kale, sweet potato, Swiss chard, carrots, romaine lettuce, chicken liver, cod’s liver oil, and more.

If you’re planning to have these veggies it’s best to cook them with a bit of fat, think olive oil, coconut oil or butter, or after steaming, dress them with a little extra virgin olive oil to help the body assimilate the vitamin A.  Of course vitamin A found in animal products naturally comes paired with fats.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is really a group of fat-soluble vitamins that are considered pro-hormones, or the precursors to hormones, and are essential to endocrine health. Vitamin D is also proving essential for bone health, immunity, as well as playing a role in preventing cancers and chronic disease. Vitamin D rich foods usually already come paired with fat naturally, think sardines, mackerel, milk, oysters, tinned salmon with bones (yes, they are soft enough to eat), and eggs from hens raised outside.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is also not a lone vitamin but actually referrers to a group of nutrients called tocopherols. Vitamin E protects your skin from ultraviolet light, helps prevent cell damage from free radicals, because it acts an antioxidant, allows for proper cell communication, and helps protect against prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s. Some excellent sources of naturally occurring vitamin E that you should add to your shopping list today include sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, chard, flax seed oil, papaya, asparagus, and more.

Vitamin K

Last but not least, vitamin K. Not surprisingly from what we know of the other fat soluble vitamins, vitamin K also refers to a group of vitamins; mainly K1 from plants and K2 from good bacteria in our gut.

Both are essential for normal blood clotting, bone health throughout life, keeping our arteries flexible and providing possible protection against prostate and liver cancer. Best food sources of vitamin K include natto, hard cheeses, kale, spinach, mustard greens, parsley, broccoli, leeks, prunes, chicken liver, and egg yolk.

Now that you know the importance of the fat-soluble vitamins, removing fat from your diet doesn't make much sense, as you wouldn’t be able to use these precious vitamins to maintain good health. Instead use healthy fats, i.e. fats that are liquid at room temperature, like olive oil and even coconut oil (not liquid at room temperature, unless you live in the tropics) and fats in fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel; tree nuts, avocados, flax seeds, and some of the foods mentioned above to stay healthy and vibrant!