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Are Fats Good For You?Do you still worry that fats will cause high cholesterol and heart disease? According to Ayurveda and modern science, good fats are essential to maintaining a healthy, beautiful body and a happy, loving demeanor. Not too long ago, low fat diets were all the rage. When heart disease rates started to climb in the 50s and 60s, scientists blamed fats for the growing epidemic. From then on, a low fat diet was recommended to help stave off heart disease and to help with weight loss.
In the last ten years however, scientists started taking a second look at fats. The higher fat diets of Italy, Greece, and Spain caught the eyes of nutrition researchers around the world, putting the "Mediterranean Diet" in the spotlight. The people in this part of the world enjoyed ample amounts of fat in the form of olive oil, fish, nuts, seeds, and small amounts of whole milk dairy products, yet still managed to have some of the lowest incidences of heart disease and chronic disease in the world. Perhaps fat itself was not to blame, but actually the type of fat.
Ayurveda agrees. In fact, good fats have a special place in Ayurveda both from a health and psychological perspective. Sneha, the word for oil, is also the word for love in Ayurveda. Essentially, fat is love in Ayurveda, a testimony to benefits of good healthy fats in your diet.
Ayurvedic Signs & Symptoms of Poor Quality Fats, or Too Much FatsEven if you don't have a background in the dietary science, you can still figure out which fats are good for you, and which are bad, through your personal experience. Last night we went out to a Mexican restaurant which unfortunately had poor quality tortilla chips. After the meal, we experienced some of the classic signs of eating a bad fat. Here are some of those signs:
Ayurvedic Signs & Symptoms of Healthy Fats, and the Right Quantity of FatIf you eat too much fats, you will experience the symptoms mentioned above. If you eat too little fats, you may feel anxious. The trick, as with all of Ayurveda, is to know your body through experience. Here are some of the signs you will experience after eating the right amount of good, healthy fats:
What Fats Should I Avoid?
What Foods Have Healthy Fats in Them?Western nutrition offers a few recommendations on which fats to choose and which ones to avoid:
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OILYIn Ayurveda, oily refers to anything moistening. More specifically, oily refers to building substances that increases fat, or are themselves fatty. For example, sugar is Oily.
EMOLLIENTSoothes & softens the skin. Often a topical demulcent or oil.
LIVOTONICAn herb that strengthens the liver. It is helpful for people with a history of substance abuse, chronic liver issues from hepatitis and hemolytic anemias. Generally, liver tonics are oily, cool, sweet, mildly sour, or contain beta-carotene.
SEDATIVESedative herbs create a sense of calm in the mind and body by specifically calming or quieting the nervous system. Excellent for anxiety, stress and chronic pain.
BUILDS-STAMINAPromotes strength, endurance and resistance in the body. Rebuilds weak tissues after a time of depletion.
CALMS-HEARTAn herb that literally calms the heart. These herbs are helpful in the treatment of anxiety, sadness, depression, or other emotional imbalances in the heart. Related to the Chinese Herbal Category 'calms spirit.'
NERVE-RELAXANT-GROUNDINGEncourages feelings of stability and heaviness. Makes you feel settled, mentally relaxed. Mildly sedates the nervous system to ease stress. Can bring a spacey or anxious person back to earth. Reduces agitation, irritation, stress and racing thoughts.
FATFat tissue (Meda Dhatu) includes adipose tissue and sebum (skin oil).
DOWNWARDDownward-moving (Adho Gati Marga) substances move food downward in the GI tract, settle the nervous system, and relax muscles.
INWARDInward moving substances promote introspection, self reflection, stillness, or slow the system down.
About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda biocharacteristics. His approach to Ayurveda is clinical, yet exudes an ease which many find enjoyable and insightful. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda, offering professional clinical training in Ayurveda for over 15 years.
John's interest in Ayurveda and specialization in digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, as well as public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well. Outside of work, John enjoys spending time with his wife and 6 kids, and pursuing his love of theology, philosophy, and language.
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What kind of cheese is healthful? Particularly for my eight year old daughter. What brand of coconut oil would you recommend for cooking?
I have been making my own ghee for a fews years now, as well as drinking warm whole milk. I can agree that these two changes alone have made a difference in balancing my Vata. Thank you for the clear description of fats. This was so simple to understand, and to know what ghee, coconut oil, whole milk as fats are titled in the western tradition. Great article!
How healthful is rice bran oil?
Deborah - generally coconut oil or ghee is recommended for high heat cooking because it is a more stable fat than others.
Cottage cheese and fresh goat cheese are some of the easiest to digest cheeses that I know of. Sharper, drier aged cheeses (as long as they aren't too salty) can be good for kapha. Kapha should avoid runny or heavy cheeses.