We all need some fat in our diets. The idea that we need to avoid all dietary fats, including healthful plant ones, is outdated and perhaps even harmful. But even if eating a very low-fat diet is perfectly safe, there is no evidence that it has any advantages over a diet that includes some fat-rich plant foods. Foods like avocado, nuts and nut butters, olives, dressings and sauces (home-made of course to avoid preservatives etc) add interest and variety to vegan diets. As always with diets that take veganism a step beyond what is necessary, very low-fat diets add a layer of restriction that can make vegan diets look limiting and unappealing.
What is Fat and Why Do We Need It?
Of the four main classes of food, fat is the most energy dense. It contains more than twice as many calories (kilocalories) weight for-weight as protein or carbohydrate. It is a good source of energy, both for immediate use and for laying down a storage depot (adipose tissue) for use when food intake is reduced.
Fat in the diet helps the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). It is a source of the essential fatty acids that the body cannot make itself. Fat also provides insulation, protects the body’s vital organs and acts as a shock absorber.
Fat’s more technical name is ‘lipid’ – a term that includes both fats and oils. Nominally, fats are solid at room temperature, oils are liquid, and dense brittle fats are called waxes.
Lipids in the diet can come from both plants and animals. Plants most often store their oils in seeds, such as nuts, sunflower seeds, soya beans and corn; and sometimes in fruits, eg avocados, olives and coconuts. Animals most commonly store fat within their muscles (commonly called marbling fat), between their muscles, under their skin and around their gut area.
Lipids in the diet are largely made up of molecules called fatty acids, attached to the molecule glycerol. Three fatty acids combine with one molecule of glycerol to form ‘triglycerides’. The fatty acids can be of three major types – saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, depending on how many double bonds they contain.
A certain type of unsaturated fatty acid – trans-unsaturated, or ‘trans fatty acids’ – is often considered separately because of its ill effects on health, and because it is largely created by the manufacturing process.
The human body cannot function without some fat, but it is eating the right kind of fat that is vital in terms of our overall health. According to the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy, most people should aim to get no more than 10 per cent (and preferably less than seven per cent) of their total calorie intake from saturated fat. Less than 10 per cent of calories should come from polyunsaturated fat. The 10 per cent figure for polyunsaturates includes one to two per cent of calories from omega-3 fats (Department of Health, 1991). Less than one per cent of calories – and preferably none – should come from trans fatty acids.
A couple of fats are classed as essential because our bodies cannot make them. The essential omega-3 fat is called alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). The essential omega-6 fat is called linoleic acid (LA). Omega-3 and omega-6 fats affect our immune system, brain, nerves and eyes.
If you are eating a varied and balanced plant-based diet, it is likely that you are consuming good sources of LA on a regular basis. These include hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts. However, eating enough ALA may require more planning.
For information on which foods to select – see the table alongside – Fats & Omegas – Table 1 – Foods
Omega 3 fatty acids play a role in every cell in the body. Omega 3 makes up cell membranes, keeps the nervous system functioning, keeps cholesterol levels in check, and staves off inflammation. There are so many health benefits associated with Omega 3 that it is no surprise how much hype the nutrient is now getting.
What Are Essential Fatty Acids?
Essential fatty acids are types of polyunsaturated fats. They are called “essential” because the body cannot produce them on its own. We must get essential fatty acids from food.
There are two types of Essential Fatty Acids:
- Alpha Linolenic Acid (Omega-3)
- Linoleic Acid (Omega-6)
Once consumed, the body is able to turn Omega-3 and Omega-6 into other types of fatty acids:
- Omega-3 -> Eicosapentaeonoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
- Omega-6 -> Arachidonic Acid (AA)
For more information on Omega-3 and 6 – download Advanced Nurition PDF. Please be aware of its size.
The purpose of these pages is not to suggest that you select ONLY these foods to supplement your deficiency, but to show you that if you are eating a healthy balanced diet, eating from the rainbow, and excluding toxic foods, restore your gut-health, then your body will automatically receive the nutrients it needs. The list of foods that we recommend you exclude from your diet is currently on our Daily Nutrition page – it is vital that in order to gain good health, you begin this exclusion process as soon as possible.
The Whole Food Plant based plate gives a good indication of the “The Four Food Groups”. For a balanced diet follow the recommended daily servings as indicated. Use this as a guide to get you started whilst eating the foods you enjoy, until you are familiar and comfortable with the quantities and volumes you need to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
The DBM Food Pyramid gives a good indication of types and volumes foods that we recommend to all DBM Patients/Clients. Please remember, you may only eat the goat cheese and other goat products as indicated on that pyramid, on the advice of your DBM Physician/Practitioner.
Ensure that when selecting fruits and vegetables you Eat from The Rainbow. Whole grains and legumes form an important part of this natural, balanced lifestyle.
By eating whole foods, a wide variety of fruit and veggies (eating from the rainbow) you will get all the nutrients your body needs. To show you how wonderful fruits and veggies are – look at the graphics on the Eat From The Rainbow page and you will clearly see that a wide range of fruit and veggies will more than provide for your needs.
Please be aware that external lists or websites we link to might include fish, meat, soya, or other foods that are restricted on all DBM programs. The links are retained as a requirement of copyright. The publishing of this list is intended as educational and certain foods that this article might be listed or linked to do not support DBMs philosophies or practices.
At all times, ensure that the foods you select are permitted by your DBM Physician for your health imbalance. Select only NON-GMO sources that are organic and/or sundried.
We are obliged to notify you that the information on this website is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Doctors Across Borders NPO t/as Doctors Beyond Medicine, the author(s) nor publisher(s) take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.