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Nutrition Series Part 2: The Role of Fats in Recovery

Ever since we were kids, we’ve been bombarded with the idea that “carbs are evil” and “fats are forbidden”. But the reality is, is that we need a variety of each food group in order to live our lives to the fullest. Particularly in eating disorder recovery, our bodies have been through so much and it’s time we start to treat our bodies the way they deserve to be treated. Read up on the importance of each major food group, and how it can be beneficial to eating disorder recovery.


I still remember being in elementary school P.E., and our gym teacher showed us a list of “healthy” vs “unhealthy” foods (which is highly problematic in itself). One of my peers asked the teacher whether fats were unhealthy for you, and the teacher stupidly responded, “yes, you can tell by the name that you shouldn’t eat them too much”. Looking back, even just typing this, I can feel my blood boiling. So I decided to make fats my next topic of nutrition because they are SO SO important for everyone, particularly for people in eating disorder recovery.

There are 4 types of fats - Saturated Fats, Transfats, Monosaturated Fats, and Polyunsaturated Fats. Some are known to provide positive benefits, particularly Monosaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats. Monosaturated Fats can be found in foods such as olive oil, avocados, and nuts, and polyunsaturated fats are found in foods like sunflower oil, soybean oil, and some nuts and seeds, which all include essential omega fatty acids.

Benefits and the Importance of Fats:
  • Fats are used to give your body the energy it needs, and it is also used to support cell function.

  • They protect your organs and help keep your body warm.

  • Fats also help your body absorb necessary nutrients (specifically vitamins A, D, E, and K) and produce important hormones.

  • Fats keep your cholesterol and blood pressure under control.

  • Fats, especially monosaturated fats, are good for your heart; they increase good cholesterol in your blood and decrease triglycerides.

  • You will have better endurance for workouts longer than 20 minutes; when your body uses all available carbohydrates during a workout, it will look to fats for sustained energy to keep you moving.

What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough Fats?
  • Firstly, you may feel hungry all the time. Fats help you feel full and satiated and therefore without them, you may feel hungry… and hangry.

  • Your heart may not be healthy without the benefits it would typically receive from having fats.

  • You will notice physical symptoms, due to a vitamin and energy deficiency, including dry rashes, hair loss, and a weaker immune system.

  • Your body may become chronically inflamed without fats’ anti-inflammatory benefits.

  • You will have worse endurance in longer workouts without the backup fats to be used as energy.

  • Women may lose their menstrual period without fats to help regulate sex hormones.

Ideas for healthy, complex, nutritious fats:
  • Avocados

  • Oil-based salad dressings

  • Nuts

  • Olives and olive oil

  • Seeds, such as pumpkin and sesame seeds

  • Cooking oil (i.e. canola, peanut, olive, and safflower oils)

  • Coconuts and coconut oil

  • “Oily” fish (as opposed to white-fleshed fish)

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