The importance of Fat Soluble Vitamins is paramount in the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Diet. As are the Dietary Fats; Saturated and un-saturated fatty acids.
We have already discussed how adding dietary fats into a meal can offset the speed at which the body absorbed sugars. Now, lets talk about the benefits these fats have, DIRECTLY, on the health of our body, hormones, and reproductive organs. My goal today is to help you navigate the excited, confusing, and interested world of dietary fats. Which ones are good (specifically for PCOS), and which ones to avoid.
For more information on Differentiating your Dietary Fats, please click here…
Why Saturated Fats are NOT the Enemy
For decades, saturated fats have been touted as the worst of the worst in the diet world. All based off one study done decades ago that linked saturated fats with heart disease (they tested margarine, by the way). More research is now debunking this long held bad science.
The truth is, your body NEEEEEDS Saturated Fats!
Saturated Fats (and Cholesterol, more below...) are the building blocks of our hormones. Without enough saturated fats, the cell membranes are weak and without structure. 50% of the cell membrane MUST BE SATURATED FAT. Saturated fats are also necessary for hormones signaling, without enough saturated fat in our bodies, our organs lack to proper chemical signaling to produce hormones.
Saturated Fats are the best fats for keeping feeling fuller longer. They help with appetite control. Studies do show that increasing intake of certain saturated fats (medium chain fatty acids) leads to less adipose accumulation (body fat).
Saturated Fats are the best fats for transporting Fat-Soluble Vitamins. Other fats can help with this process too, but these are by far the most efficient as they naturally pull these fats into the cells walls (think Vitamin E). Fat Soluble Vitamins NATURALLY occur in foods rich in saturated fats.
Long Chain Fatty Acids (a type of saturated fat) are one of the best sources of energy for cells. Saturated Fats that are not consumed as energy are turned into triglycerides. I find this very interesting…Glucose is first form of fuel used in the cells, followed by saturated fat, and followed up by protein.
In a normal person, eating a normal diet, a portion of the cells energy would come from multiple sources, with an emphasis on fats. The cells respond better to fat energy sources than sugar energy sources. It is very common for women with PCOS to have high levels of TRIGLYCERIDES. What are these? This is the storage for of saturated fats (not bod fat). So to some extent, yes, saturated fats in the diet lead to heart disease because excess amounts become triglycerides. Here is the deal though, there is a power struggle going on in our cells, between Glucose and Saturated Fat for cell favorite.
As I said, Glucose is the first energy source. This source is instant, and strong, but it doesn't last long. This of the ups and downs of sugar highs. You rise really fast…feel really awesome, talk really fast, can't sit still, and then you drop just as fast and feel fatigued and drained. That is glucose energy acting on your cells. (remember that extra glucose is stored in body fat…okay)
Saturated fat energy is more sustained, more fluid, it is slow release, giving you hours of constant, leveled energy, with now sharp drops, but a slow, fluid decline. This gives you time to realize you are getting low on energy and find more food.
These two both have their place and the cells need some level of both, but too much Glucose energy blocks to utilization of Saturated Fat energy. So, what happens to this unused fat? It is converted into it's storage form…TRIGLYCERIDES.
As you can see, having a diet that is high in carbohydrates and low in fat would cause this reaction. Why the low-fat high carb diets didn't work! They make triglyceride levels worse, and heart disease more prevalent.
Our cells crave and needs more saturated fat based energy, with less Glucose energy. This is even more important for those who have issues with Glucose management. The more sugar in ones diet, the more of a bad wrap Saturated Fats get. It's not the fats, it's the sugars.
What's the Deal with Cholesterol?
Yet another wonderful nutrient brought down by bad science. Similar to Saturated Fats, Cholesterol has been the subject of abuse. It was hated for decades because of the rise in Cholesterol levels (much like the triglyceride levels) in association with low fat diets, more below...
Dietary Cholesterol IS the main building block of our reproductive Steroid Hormones, and Vitamin D. Without Cholesterol, they do not exist. The brain, endocrine organs, adrenals, and sex glands all needs and crave cholesterol to function properly.
Cholesterol provides a coating around nerves that carry electrical impulses, so is extremely important for neurotransmitter health.
Elevated Cholesterol levels are not a caused causes by too much Cholesterol in the diet, but not enough. The body will make it's own cholesterol, to some extent, from the fat we consume. 70-75% is made in the Liver. There are several scenarios that can change the norm. Excess environmental toxics, too much Fructose, Alcohol, and Medications can stress the liver and signal it to produce for cholesterol.
Another situation, that I mentioned before, is the high carbohydrate, low fat diet. The digestive system (like our cells) goes to work on sugars first (it starts in our mouths). When we eat a meal, bile is produced. The bile is designed, primarily, to digest fats and proteins. If we have a meal that is all carbohydrate and very little fat and protein, there is an excess of bile needed. What happens to this bile? It is reabsorbed into our bodies as….CHOLESTEROL! So, a diet that is high in sugars and carbohydrates, but low in dietary fats and cholesterol will lead to an excess amount of blood cholesterol.
Not all Poly-unsaturated Fats are Good!
There has been a big switch in "politically correct" nutrition to trade out saturated fats in the diet with poly-unsaturated fats. This is all well in good, if you are adding in large amounts of Omega 3's, but the majority of people are consuming WAY TOO MUCH!
One of the draw backs to consuming too much (PUFA) Poly-unsaturated fatty acids, I have already mentioned. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that PUFA's latch onto to prevent oxidation. By doing this, they tie up the Vitamin E in the body, leaving little for reproduction.
Another drawback is that many of them are inflammatory in the body, think Omega 6. They CAUSE inflammation. If you have PCOS you know that your body is prone to inflammation already.
Lastly, for now, when breakdown analysis is done of clogged arteries…74% was PUFA's, NOT Saturated Fats!!!
Most of the vegetables oils, and other cooking oils used in our modern cooking are various forms of PUFA's, and not the good kinds. The longer the fatty acid chain, the less inflammatory it is for the body.
EPA and DHA are the converted versions of Omega 3 Linolenic Acid (ALA) found in flax, chia, walnuts, etc.. In the body the ALA MUST be converted to EPA and DHA to be used in the body. We can skip this breakdown process by consuming or Omega 3's already converted by eating meat, especially fish.
Research points very strongly to the correlation between increased Omega 3's and a decrease in PCOS symptoms, but only, it seems, in the converted form or VERY HIGH amounts of ALA.
The opposite was found for other PUFA's, specifically short chain PUFA's like Omega 6.
How Much Fat Should You Have?
Of course this is a topic of heated debate. I personally believe that everyone needs more fat in their diet, and less sugar. Those with disruptions in their hormones need more. Much research points to a those with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) doing better with at least 30% fat, and up to 60+%. But be careful if you go higher than 50% to make sure you are getting enough vitamins and especially fiber.
The Mayo Clinic, in fact, suggests an almost full fat (lower protein and little to no carbohydrate) for the treatment of diabetes and insulin issues (it started as a treatment for Epilepsy). This is an extreme diet, and even they suggest that this is not a lifelong diet, but a reset button. The Ketogenic Diet is a 4:1 ratio of fat:carbohydrate (by grams) with adequate to low protein, it is also calorie restrictive at 1,000 calories per day. They idea behind this is to reset the system, give the pancreas the time and fats to heal and reduce the glucose load so that it can.
With the PCOS Diet is is important to make sure you are cutting out the excess carbohydrates and sugars, but giving your body enough to function (remember, we do need glucose). While balancing it with lots of healthy fats. There is no perfect number or ratio. Making sure that you are adding and eating healthy fats at every meal, and balancing them with vegetables and protein sources…thats the key.
You should have fats at every meal.
Breakfast #8 Apple Cinnamon Almond Flour Crepes
Makes 2 Servings
Heat a skillet over medium heat. 1/2 Tbsp Coconut Oil, Apple, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Cook until apples are soft and fragrant. Set Aside
In a bowl add Almond Flour. Add one egg and 1/2 the milk, mix till smooth. Add the remaining egg and milk, mix till smooth. Add Vanilla and blend. Heat a crepe pan over medium heat. Add 1/4-1/3 Tbsp Coconut oil. Pour half the crepe batter into the center of the pan. Using a crepe tool, spread the batter evenly. Once it begins to brown and solidify, flip. Fold on pan and remove. Repeat.
Top Crepes with Apple Mixture and Sprinkle with Chopped Almonds
Lunch #8 Italian Sausage and Vegetable Bake
Makes 4 servings
Preheat to 400
In a casserole dish, add vegetables, oil, and seasoning. Mix to Coat. Making room in the center place the uncooked Italian Sausage and arrange vegetables around it. Bakes until sausage is cooked through and vegetables are soft.
Dinner Out: Afghan Food
Tried a new restaurant tonight. Not gonna lie, it was good not to cook, although finding something that was on the PCOS diet at this place was hard. Everything came with rice, naan, yogurt sauce, the works.
I opten for the Korma Plate. A combination of Chicken and Meatballs in a tomato and lentil base. REALLY GOOD. I also avoided the rice on my plate (gave it to the kids, who just got a kabob).
It takes some time to really look through the menu's and asking some questions, but it can be done. And sometimes, by branching out, you get to try some really yummy things you would have otherwise skipped over.
PCOS Nutrition Part 1: Basic Dietary Principles
PCOS Nutrition Part 2: Avoiding Dairy
PCOS Nutrition Part 3: Sugar
PCOS Nutrition Part 4: Glycemic Index vs. Glycemic Load
PCOS Nutrition Part 5: Building Your Meal
PCOS Nutrition Part 6: Understanding Hormones
PCOS Nutrition Part 7: Fat Soluble Vitamins
PCOS Nutrition Part 9: Top 10 Foods for PCOS
PCOS Nutrition Part 10: Tips for Implementing the PCOS Diet