Remember the days when Snackwells cookies were considered a healthy dessert option? “They’re fat-free!” my mother would exclaim as she helped herself to a fourth guilt-free sugar laden cookie. And who could blame her? For years we were brainwashed that low fat = healthy, leading to a mentality that the lower the fat, the more freedom to indulge…
Welp, needless to say times have certainly changed. In case you didn’t get the memo, a low fat lifestyle is not considered healthy for the general public anymore. Yup, put those neon high tops away, the 90’s are over. Although I think neon high tops are back in style now…. anyway, I digress…
No doubt, this dietary lifestyle did not do us any favors: rates of obesity, type II diabetes, and mental illness have been steadily rising; while we can’t say this is entirely due to diet, it may have played a role. In fact, it is argued by Dr. Perlmutter, a well known neurologist and author of Grain Brain, that diets low in fat and high in grains negatively impact our long term brain health leading to brain fog, depression and even Alzheimers. Fortunately, science and common sense have helped welcome fat back to the table as it is good for the heart, brain, immune system and much human physiology.
There is emerging evidence linking healthy fats in the diet to brain health, according to studies aggregated by Dr. Perlmutter. Among 937 subjects in a recent study who were cognitively normal at baseline, 200 developed incident MCI or dementia. The risk of MCI or dementia was elevated in subjects with high carbohydrate diet, but was reduced in subjects with high fat/high protein intake. A relatively high caloric intake from carbohydrates and low caloric intake from fat and proteins may increase the risk of MCI or dementia in elderly persons.
Why is fat so important? Simply put, the brain is made mostly of fat (estimated to be about 60%), therefore it is beneficial to nourish it with ample healthy fats. Omega 3s, avocados, raw olive oil, seeds, and nuts/nut butters all offer healthy fats that are integral to our brain health. According to Dr. Mercola, dietary fat is also important for a healthy metabolism. He explains that “our body can use both carbs and fat for fuel, but they're in no way equal. When your body burns glucose as its primary fuel, it actually inhibits your body's ability to access and burn body fat. With an ever-present supply of carbs, your liver downregulates the entire fat burning process because it's not needed. So, if you eat the standard American diet, chances are you've radically reduced your ability to burn body fat for fuel.” Some ways we can counter act this is by eating more healthy dietary fats while also limiting net carbs. Fat in your diet is used by your body more efficiently than carbs. It is thought that you may need as much as 50 to 85 percent of your daily calories to come from beneficial monosaturated and saturated fats from the appropriate sources (such as eggs or coconut oil, etc.).
Of course eating fat-centric does not mean you should replace those Snackwells (do they even make these anymore??) with bacon grease, nor does it mean to reduce your veggie consumption, but rather it means incorporating more plant derived healthy fats into the diet such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats while easing up on grains and empty carbs (such as added sugars). Gut destroying grains such as wheat and rye in particular should be reduced, if not eliminated entirely.
While this topic is still somewhat controversial in the wellness world, there is no doubt that more and more research is coming to the surface which mostly supports the use of increased healthy fats in our diet. Although I am not personally an advocate of completely eliminating any major food group from the diet, I do know from my own personal experience of consciously making an effort to reduce grains and sugar from my diet to eat more #paleo style has noticeably helped sharpen my mental performance while also helping me to maintain a healthy weight.
I’m not gonna lie, reducing grains isn’t easy. It sucks. Breakfast in particular is a challenge; sure, eggs are grain free but who has time to make a hot breakfast daily? No one! …except for maybe Donna Reed, or Alice from the Brady Bunch. That’s why I created this recipe for Almond Butter Coffee Breakfast Cookies that are gluten free and very low grain. Yes, I said cookies for breakfast - brain nourishing, delicious, quite filling and convenient all while providing ample healthy fats. These cookies contain almond butter (heart healthy monounsaturated fat), chia seeds (omega packed) and flaxseeds (more omegas!). Make them ahead of time (they’re a quick bake) and enjoy them throughout the busy week!