Are you confused about dietary fats?
If so, you’re not the only one! In this article, we will answer your questions about fats on GAPS. Questions like:
- Does the body need fats?
- What happens when we don’t eat enough fat?
- How much fat should one eat on GAPS?
- Which fats are really healthy?
- Where to source healthy fats and how should they be prepared?
- Plus, how to incorporate more fat into your diet with some delicious GAPS diet legal fat-rich recipes.
As a note at the end of this article, I include some information on why mainstream medicine and GAPS have such different fat recommendations.
Does the Body Need Fats? (Yes)
Yes, we need healthy fats. Here’s why.
Fats Are A Building Block
The brain is composed of mostly fat…about 60% of its dry weight.
Every one of our 100 trillion+ cells has fats composing its outer “lipid bilayer” or “membrane”.
The quality of the fats we eat determines the quality of our very cells.
These cells make up our organs, our tissues, our nervous system, our brain, and every other part that is “us”.
High-quality cell membranes allow for good messaging between cells and good transfer of nutrients, making it really important what types of fat you eat. You don’t want to be building cells from inferior materials.
Many hormones (our body’s messengers) and neurotransmitters (the things that carry nerve impulses from one neuron to another across a synapse) are made of fat.
Hormones and neurotransmitters are substantial players in our mental well-being. This makes fats extremely important in our diet. The body requires fatty acids, the smaller components of fats, for many functions. GAPS started out as “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” for a reason. And fats have a lot to do with mental health, as I’ll explain.
Fats are Required for Mental Health
Starving our bodies of fat, or just not getting “enough”, can cloud our brain’s perception and lead to seeing the world through the lenses of anxiety, depression, mistrust, anger, aggression, or mood swings. Combined with toxins, it can even lead to more serious mental conditions like bipolar, schizophrenia, addictive behaviors, or developing seizures and epilepsy.
Fatty Acid Deficiency Leads to Disease
Fatty acid deficiency leads to:
- Musculoskeletal issues
- Endocrine issues
- Cardiovascular issues
- Immune issues
- Allergies and asthma
- Neurological disorders
- Deficiency of fat soluble vitamins and the minerals which require them as co-factors for absorption
- Anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders
Fatty acid deficiency is epidemic today.
The Many Other Reasons We Need Healthy Fats
- Provide a steady source of energy, slowing the absorption of food for proper energy regulation. Note: usually, hypoglycemia and metabolic instability are the cause of excess body fat, not eating fat.
- Are necessary for healthy liver function: building healthy cholesterol and bile.
- Provide of fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, K.
- Are required for the adequate use of proteins.
- Serve as a protective lining for the organs of the body.
- Are imperative to manage the inflammation process.
- MAKE FOOD TASTE GOOD and help one feel satiated.
Fats on GAPS
How Much Fat?
Everybody is bio-individual, different bodies have different needs. That’s why there is a range of GAPS diets from keto or no-plant GAPS to more plant GAPS (see this article for more).
A general goal is for your diet to be 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fats.
Most GAPS people are deficient in fatty acids due to having consumed the popularly recommended low-fat diet, as well as having gall bladder dysfunction as part of overall digestive deficiency. This deficiency is the reason that eating lots of fresh animal fats is recommended on GAPS, in addition to eating cold-pressed plant oils on salads or as a finishing oil in soups, sauces, and mayonnaise. Dr. Natasha has even stated, “The more fresh animal fats your patient consumes, the quicker you will see recovery (Gut and Psychology Syndrome, 2018, p. 140).”
Fatty acid deficiency is resolved over time on the GAPS diet. Some people benefit by supplementing with an EFA oil that has a proper omega 6-3 ratio, such as Nordic Naturals Balanced Omega.
If you have a hard time with fats and they cause nausea or digestion issues try these measures:
- Start small and work your way to eating larger amounts.
- Try different types of fats, coconut oil, ghee, schmaltz, tallow, egg yolks and see if you tolerate some better than others. Gradually work up to being able to eat those that are more difficult for you to digest.
- Try drinking beet kvass just before meals.
- When juicing, add raw eggs or egg yolks or 24-hr GAPS sour cream to make a GAPS milkshake. This will help clear your gallbladder and increase digestion of fats.
- If you are still having problems after those measures, you might need the added support of supplements. Try our Digestive Supplements Mini-Course (it’s FREE), and if that’s not enough, consult with a Melanie to personalize your GAPS journey.
Which Fats are Really Healthy?
We need a variety of healthy fats. Mainstream medicine focuses on PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) in the form of oils from nuts and seeds. GAPS focuses on fats from healthy, pastured animals, which the medical establishment recommends avoiding. (For more on why mainstream medicine has villainized animal fats, see the Resources section at the end.)
However, it is not quite so simple as plant vs. animal fat, since all good animal fats contain a combination of saturated and (mono)unsaturated fat. Coconut is a healthy plant fat, but it is highly saturated, unlike other plant oils.
For your brain and gut health, animal fats are the most nourishing and soothing.
Traditional healthy cultures cooked with animal fats such as goose fat, lard, beef tallow, duck fat, and butter. The powerfully anti-microbial fat, coconut oil, was also used in the tropics. Saturated fats (those that are solid at room temperature) are more heat stable and therefore should be used for all cooking.
Nut and Seed Oils on GAPS
Nut and seed oils from GAPS-legal plants such as walnut, olive, avocado, etc. are allowed on GAPS.
However, these fats are fragile and prone to rancidity. When eating nut and seed oils, follow these guidelines:
- Buy the highest quality, first press (extra virgin), cold extraction oils you can find.
- Store oils properly, refrigerating them after opening them, since these fats are fragile and prone to rancidity.
- These oils are great to drizzle over salads and finished dishes. They should not be heated.
- From a GAPS perspective, animal fats should be the bulk of fat consumption. Plant fats do not have the same vitamin A, D, and K content as pastured animal fats do. Omega 6 fatty acids from plant oils are inflammatory in high amounts and when not in a proper ratio with omega 3 fats.
Healthy Fats- A Table
These healthy fats should compose approximately 30% of your diet:
|Fish oil||Blackcurrant seed oil||Extra virgin olive oil||Coconut oil|
|Flaxseed oil||Evening Primrose oil||Hazelnut oil||Butter or ghee (pastured best)|
|Walnut oil||Sunflower oil||Avocado oil||Palm oil|
|Hemp oil||Sesame oil||Animal fats from pastured animals
(duck and goose fat, schmaltz, tallow, lard)
Note: Many of these fats overlap in other groups…these are just listed according to their predominant fatty acids.
*Remember, nut and seed oils should be first press, cold extraction oils, stored properly.
**Saturated fats are very stable and thus less susceptible to heat damage, which means they are good for cooking with. Duck fat and beef tallow are especially good for high heat cooking.
Fats to Avoid
- Do not eat trans fats, refined vegetable oils, and high heat vegetable oils, as they are rancid and processed with harmful chemicals.
- This includes Crisco, Pam, Better than Butter, and all the other margarine, shortenings, vegetable oils, spreads etc. Read why, and you won’t want to eat them anymore!
- The unsaturated fatty acids that are contained in these seed and plant oils are unstable and easily damaged. When put through high heat, high pressure, chemical extraction the structures of the fatty acid are chemically altered and become even more harmful.
- Here’s a clip showing how vegetable oil is made – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cfk2IXlZdbI 🤮
- On top of this processing, many are hydrogenated to stay solid at room temperature. This process also involves high temperatures (248 – 410 degrees F) in the presence of metals like nickel and aluminum. Remnants of these toxic metals stay in the hydrogenated oils and add to the general toxic load on the body. Toxic metals have been linked to brain & mental conditions such as Alzheimer’s, learning disabilities, dementia, and, more recently, yeast and parasite overgrowth.
- Also avoid foods that were fried in vegetable oil (pretty much anything you didn’t fry in a heat stable saturated fat such as tallow yourself).
Fat Quality and Sourcing
You will want to get fats from healthy animals for this reason – toxins are tucked away and stored in fats until they can be safely eliminated by the body.
So, healthy animal = fat that will be more nutritious and have fewer toxins.
The healthiest way to raise animals is on green grass in the sunshine. Cows raised on grass and sunshine actually have substantial amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, while cows raised on corn do not. Farm-raised salmon may have little to no Omega-3 fatty acids while wild-caught salmon are rich sources. Fats from pastured animals contain more fat soluble vitamins.
Get to know your local farmers and ask around at your farmer’s market. Often pig farmers will have lard they can bring you, a farmer raising beef may have suet that you can melt down for tallow in your crockpot. Roast a whole duck, and keep the ample fat drippings (store in your fridge). Your chicken farmer might just render chicken fat if you ask for it. Keep the drippings from pan-fried hamburger or bacon.
Here are some online fat purchasing options:
- US Wellness Meats
- Tropical Traditions – High-quality coconut oil and other natural products
- Fatworks – they offer hard-to-find fats like duck-fat
- Wilderness Family Naturals – A good site for real mayo, coconut oil, and other products
Fat Rich Recipes
Once you’ve got your healthy fats, here are some recipes you might want to try. Eat more healthy fats, and enjoy the health benefits along with tastier, more satiating food!
- Bake with it, saute with it, put it in soups, on anything and everything!
- Preserves the delicate fatty acids in fish, via “cooking” with acidities like lemon or lime juice.
- A simple google search can bring up many other recipes for ceviche.
- The same idea as ceviche, this is a homemade version of lox that preserves the omega fatty acids in wild-caught salmon.
- Tastes great served with 24-hour GAPS sour cream ;), lettuce and tomato, a soft boiled egg, fermented veggies, a slice of lemon, and meat stock.
- A recipe for a decadent dessert! Can substitute coconut cream if dairy is not tolerated.
- Try with burgers, deviled eggs, over veggies, or as an ingredient in sauces and dressings.
- Serve over fish, poached eggs, and veggies.
- You can drink this any time of the year 😉 but it’s especially good on a winter evening!
Raspberry, Strawberry, or Mango-Cherry Ice Cream
- For summertime enjoyment of nourishing fats with some sweet fruit flavors.
Still have questions? Have comments you want to share? Please post them below!
Why Our Culture Has Villainized Fat
As a culture, we weren’t always scared of fat. This modern phenomenon is mostly due to erroneous reporting by a researcher named Ancel Keys in the 1960s.
Big agriculture got involved because you could make a lot more money from cheap, subsidized mono-cropped grain/seed-based vegetable oils, than sustainable pasture-raised healthy animals.
That led to a period of 50+ years in which people were led to believe that natural and traditional fats were harmful rather than necessary for human health, while grains and vegetable oils were pushed as the most necessary part of our diet.
Since then, we are much less healthy physically, with chronic disease rates up 700% since 1935.
Scientific American reports that actual clinical trials data do not support Ancel Keys’ conclusion:
Analyzing the reams of old records, Ramsden and his team found, in line with the “diet-heart hypothesis,” that substituting vegetable oils lowered total blood cholesterol levels, by an average of 14 percent.
But that lowering cholesterol did not help people live longer. Instead, the lower cholesterol fell, the higher the risk of dying: 22 percent higher for every 30-point fall. Nor did the corn-oil group have less atherosclerosis or fewer heart attacks (emphasis added).
Full article here.
The Guardian reports that sugar is the actual culprit and our nutrition advice has caused disease to increase:
Today, as nutritionists struggle to comprehend a health disaster they did not predict and may have precipitated, the field is undergoing a painful period of re-evaluation. It is edging away from prohibitions on cholesterol and fat, and hardening its warnings on sugar, without going so far as to perform a reverse turn.
Full article here.
Professor Andrew Mente of McMaster University in Canada uses his background in epidemiology to study the effects of diet on certain biological metrics. He first stumbled on the Keys controversy after publishing a 2009 survey of nutrition research.
None of the data in Mente’s meta-analysis showed the same correlation between high-fat diets and negative health outcomes that Keys’ science would have predicted (emphasis added).
Mente has since studied Keys’ work closely and found Keys selected to study countries that would support his theories most intensively. He also identified issues with Keys’ methodology and the fact that it has not been replicated since.
Full article here.
The Connection Between Metals and Candida and Other Parasites
For more on the role of toxic metals and overgrowth of Candida Albicans, check out this paper on how Candida actually performs biosorption of heavy metals:
The objective of this work was to study the resistance and removal capacity of heavy metals by the yeast Candida albicans. The resistance of some heavy metals was analyzed: the yeast grows in 2000 ppm of chromium, zinc, lead, and copper, 1500 ppm of arsenic (III), 500 ppm of silver, and little bit in cobalt (300 ppm) and mercury and cadmium (200 ppm). Analyzing its potential to remove heavy metals, it can efficiently remove is as follows: Cr(VI) (76%), lead (57%), silver (51%), cadmium (46%), fairly arsenic(III) (40% with the modified biomass), cobalt (37%), mercury (36%), copper (31%), little bit zinc (22%), and fluoride (10%).
Full text here.
Also see this article from Dr. Becky Plotner:
Metals and Neurotoxicity
Even More on Fats
For more on omega 6 and omega 3 fats see this article: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0952327818300747
And last but not least, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig includes the history of dietary advice, healthy fats, traditional fats, and traditional foods recipes.