Note: This article was adapted from an essay I wrote for the my certification program through the Nutritional Therapy Association.
Second Note: This is NOT a post about what dietary fats are good for you and what dietary fats are bad for you because those have been written many times. I am obviously referring to the good quality dietary fats that contribute to optimal health, and if you do not know what those are, please refer to any of the articles listed in the link above. Please do not use this as an excuse to eat deep-fried food and other bad fats and oils that are extremeley damaging to our cells and overall health.
Dietary fats are essential requirements for a healthy cell to function properly. Eating good fats in a diet contributes vital components to a healthy cell. But why is that so important?
We place a lot of emphasis on having properly functioning organs. Everyone can agree this is really important. It’s easier for us to relate to this concept because we can feel, and in some cases see, our organs. Through signs, symptoms, and bloodwork, we can usually tell if they aren’t functioning properly. When we aren’t feeling well and go to the doctor, we report back that we have a heart condition, or gallbladder attacks, or kidney disease.
For the most part, organs don’t just stop functioning properly one day for no reason. Basic biology tells us that organs are made up of tissues and tissues are made up of cells. Cells are made up of atoms and molecules, which come from the food that we put into our body after it gets broken down via proper digestion. The “You are what you eat” principle applies here. So any dysfunction and degeneration you are experiencing at some point began at a cellular level in your body. Since what we eat either feeds and provides energy for our cells, or contributes to the formation of new cells, it is absolutely imperative that we eat a proper diet in order to maintain proper health.
Carbohydrates and proteins are equally important to contributing to the health of our cells and overall health, but those two macronutrients get all the glory. Fats are wrongly demonized so I want to explain why they are equally as important.
Quality fats are essential to providing the first layer of protection for your cells and your genetic code; without them your cells do not function properly and you leave yourself vulnerable to disease. Lipids (fats) comprise several components of the cell’s structure. The lipid bilayer makes up the framework of the plasma membrane, which separates the inside of the cell from the outside and contains the cytoplasm. This cell membrane allows for exchange of nutrition to happen in the first place.
The lipid bilayer is made up of phospholipids, cholesterol, and glycolipids; all three of which are made all or in part from fat. If you are on a low or no fat diet, you will not have the components required to properly make up a healthy cell membrane. Since the membrane regulates what goes in and out of a cell, you leave the rest of the cell vulnerable to materials that don’t belong or could harm the function of a cell.
The cell also contains RNA and DNA, which has your genetic makeup, and uses that to reproduce new cells. You do not want to leave your genetic code vulnerable to foreign or damaged materials; doing so could trigger your gene’s predisposition to disease and then it reproduces more cells that contain this faulty information.
Along with glycoproteins, glycolipids (which are composed partly of fats) in the cell membrane are cell identity markers, meaning they recognize cells of its own kind so they can form tissues together; so in order to form or heal and regenerate properly forming organs, you need a healthy supply of proper fats. Cell identity markers also recognize and respond to potentially dangerous cells; if glycolipids are not present or functioning improperly due to a low-fat, no fat, or poor quality fat diet, then you risk dangerous foreign or unstable cells roaming free and reproducing in the body.
The quality of fats your body utilizes to make up cells or contribute to cellular function is very important. Your body will easily recognize and break down quality good fats (usually found in nature like wild or naturally raised animal fats, stable oils, etc.) into usable components of the cell. On the contrary, if you eat bad fats (anything refined, processed or unstable, as well as factory farmed animal fats), you are causing your body to work harder to break down these foreign substances that your body doesn’t recognize; bad fats are also unstable and damaged, so the cell membrane and cell identity markers of which they are comprised will also be damaged and not functioning properly. This leaves the organism vulnerable to cellular inefficiency and impairment, and eventually degeneration and disease of the whole organism, or human being.
This is simple biology and this information can be found in any human biology, or anatomy and physiology textbook. When you look at it from a holistic perspective, you can recognize how what you eat becomes the building blocks for your body and how it functions. What you eat and nourish your body with influences how every cell containing your DNA is produced; knowing you pass this information on to your offspring, you can recognize Pottenger’s Cats playing out.
The best way to stop physical degeneration (and turn it into regeneration, or healing) and organ dysfunction is to start making healthy cells by fueling them with proper nutrition, of which healthy fats are imperative.
Check out Part 2: Fats Provide Energy (and other important functions)!
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