I know I’m taking a big risk here by mentioning one of the most dreaded four-letter words in the universe, FATS. The truth is that fats are an important part of our diet. While I may not be a fan of all fats, why do I have such a love affair with good fats? Let me count the ways.
Energy and Tissue Stabilizer
For starters, fat is the most sustainable form of energy in the body. Since it burns at a slower rate than sugars and carbohydrates, it provides longer lasting fuel that helps balance our energy and emotions throughout the day. Essential fatty acids are just that, essential, for cellular development and function. They make up the cellular membranes that provide cellular stability and, as a result, healthy tissues. As they are not synthesized by the body, essential fatty acids must be consumed.
We need fat to maintain the myelin sheath that encompasses and protects nerve cells so they can deliver proper electrical signals throughout the body. In addition, the brain is comprised of 60% fat, giving new meaning to the term “fat head.” Now you see why fat-free dieting can be so stressful. The practice robs the central nervous system of the essential fats it needs to function properly.
Nutrient Absorption and Hormonal Balance
Fats store fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, D and K, so they are in stock and available when needed. Steroid hormones, lipids primarily synthesized from cholesterol, help control metabolism, inflammation, immune functions, salt and water balance, development of sexual characteristics, and the ability to withstand illness and injury.
The real key to fats is consuming the right amount and the right kind. Oils, one of the major sources of fats, have been a fundamental part of Ayurveda for thousands of years. They are used in numerous ways to help heal the human body. The Sanskrit word for oil is “sneha,” which also means love. For this reason and more, oils hold a special place in the hearts of Ayurvedic practitioners.
Oils are derived from nuts, seeds, beans or other oily vegetables. There are also animal fats. Ayurvedically-speaking, oils tend to be sweet or bland in taste, slightly warm in energy and sweet in post-digestive effect. They decrease Vata but can increase Pitta and Kapha. They also take on the properties of the foods they are manufactured from. Cooking with them, particularly frying, increases their heating properties.
In India, oils are prescribed for internal and external use based on dosha, season of the year and the disease or condition being treated. Some of the Ayurvedic favorites include almond, avocado, canola, castor, corn, coconut, flaxseed, mustard, olive, peanut, safflower, sesame, soy and sunflower. Herbal decoctions are also used to create medicinal oils with special properties for customized balancing of the body’s energies. Oils are typically used to calm, soothe, moisten and lubricate the body and the mind.
What’s Right for You
Consuming mass quantities of oil (or fat) is not recommended for most, but for some it can be extremely supportive. As indicated earlier in this article, in cases of debility or nervous disorders, oil could be just what the doctor ordered. In any case, everyone needs a certain amount of healthy fat in his or her diet.
If you’d like to find out which oils in which quantities are best for you, schedule a consultation and report of findings with Karen at Positively Ayurvedic. And the next time you’re feeling a little run down at 3 in the afternoon, instead of your normal cup of coffee, try a little healthy fat to help re-energize AND remain calm.
All remedies should be reviewed with your Ayurvedic practitioner and/or healthcare professional to ensure they are right for you and your current conditions.