A lot of women feel like they need to cut fat out of their diets to lose weight or maintain their current weight, or because they have been told they have high cholesterol so need to cut out saturated fats. But did you know that cholesterol is the building block of all of our sex hormones (progesterone, testosterone, pregnenolone, estrogen, DHEA?) By cutting out fats in our diet, we may be inadvertently impacting our hormonal health.
If you are struggling with hormonal or fertility issues, it’s important to get those fats in! In fact, there are studies showing that full-fat dairy products were associated with a lower risk of ovulatory infertility while low-fat dairy products (including skim, 1%, and 2% milk, yogurt, or cottage cheese) were associated with a higher risk.
However, not all fats are created equal, and some may actually negatively impact our hormones and even thyroid health. Polyunsaturated vegetable oils (such as soybean oil, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, corn oil or cottonseed oil) are highly unstable fats which are very easily oxidised and can cause inflammation in the body. They have also been shown to be a thyroid suppressant (which in turn will have an impact on our hormones) , causing weight gain as well as having an estrogenic effect on the body. These types of fats are found in a lot of packaged and processed foods, fried foods, oven chips, crisps, mayonnaise and even foods marketed as healthy such as hummus and plant milks. If you are eating takeaway food or eating out at a restaurant, you will most likely also be consuming these oils. Always read the label!
Saturated fats such as coconut oil, butter, ghee and fats found naturally in good quality animal products such as grass fed dairy and meat, and eggs, are a lot more stable and are great for hormonal balance. Coconut oil is also a fantastic antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory fat. Butter and ghee contain vitamin A, D, E and K which are essential for reproductive, skin and immune health. The key here is to include them in the correct amounts in the diet in order to balance our blood sugar and give the body what it needs to produce.
So, which fats should you be using?
In general, I advise using the following oils to cook with: coconut oil, butter/ ghee if tolerated. Extra virgin olive oil is great drizzled on food, and avocado oil is great for mayonnaise (@hunterandgatheruk makes lovely avocado oil mayos!).
If you are struggling with hormonal issues and would benefit from some support, I would love to chat with you! Click here to book a free discovery call and see how some bespoke diet and lifestyle changes can help your hormones flourish!
Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner B, Willett WC. A prospective study of dairy foods intake and anovulatory infertility https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17329264/
Estrogen-like activity in vegetable oils and mill by-products https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/13802678/
Anti Thyroid effect of PUFAs and Herbs https://www.researchgate.net/publication/268515453_ANTI-THROID_EFFECTS_OF_PUFAS_POLYUNSATURATED_FATS_AND_HERBS#:~:text=Polyunsaturated%20fats%20(PUFA)%20suppress%20thyroid,the%20thyroid%20slows%20the%20metabolism