You already know the 4-1-1 on fats. But there’s still a chance that you’re not getting enough fat in your diet. The macronutrient—which can help control hunger, support hormone balance, and ease muscle recovery—should actually compromise 30 percent of your daily calories. We spoke with registered Dietitian, nutritionist, and creator of the 2B Mindset™, Ilana Muhlstein to dig a bit deeper. Read on for five tells that you’re not eating enough fat.
An Important Precursor
To preface this information, Muhlstein notes the important differences in good and bad fats, and how each makes us feel. “If people are experiencing signs and symptoms of a fat deficiency in their diet, it’s likely due to a lack of healthy, omega-3 fatty acids coming from nutrient dense sources like flax, chia, salmon, nuts, and avocado, and not unhealthy fats coming from processed and fried foods. In fact, some people may be eating a high-fat diet, but still be showing signs of not eating enough of the good-for-you essential fatty acids,” she explains. Meaning, if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, a doughnut (sadly) won’t be your cure-all. Double check that the fats you’re consuming are primarily good for you.
If you’re experiencing any kind of inflammation, the last thing you might think to blame is your fat consumption. Yet, a lack of healthy fats in your diet can have this effect. “Inflammation is at the center of a multitude of issues, from rheumatoid arthritis and joint pain to asthma,” says Muhlstein. “If unhealthy polyunsaturated fats are replaced with omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, we can alter the fatty acid composition of our cell membranes, which can inhibit, rather than promote, our inflammatory response.”
Simply put, while some fats reduce inflammation, others only make it worse. If you find yourself swelling more than normal, try eating more omega-3s (like those found in salmon and flaxseeds). These healthy fats will also help lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
Dry Skin or Rashes
If you experience dry, flaky skin with no change in your skincare routine, weather, or water intake, look at your fat intake. “A lack of essential fatty acids [EFAs] in the diet can cause painful and severely dry and itchy skin,” Muhlstein informs. “Our bodies need to produce oily secretions in order to maintain soft and supple skin. If there’s a lack of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins A and E in the diet, then rough, bumpy, scaly, and dry skin can [emerge].”
These EFAs can’t be made inside of the body, so it’s paramount that we get them through our diet. Eat foods like cold-water fish, hemp seeds, flax seeds, olive oil, and dark leafy greens. “Adequate intakes of essential fats and vitamins A and E could be key to having moisturized and glowing skin,” says Muhlstein.
If you find that you’re more susceptible to getting sick, consider upping your fat intake. “Vitamin[s] A and D are essential vitamins for maintaining a strong immune system, preventing colds, and fighting infections. [These] are fat soluble vitamins, meaning they require dietary fat for optimal absorption. Therefore, signs you are not getting enough fat could be [that you are] frequently getting sick.”
If you’re eating foods rich in vitamin A (like carrots, sweet potato, and kale) and vitamin D (like mushrooms, salmon, and soy milk) without any improved immune boost, try adding more fat-dense foods into your meals. This will allow the vitamins to be easily absorbed and used by the body.
Increase in Appetite
A huge problem in fat-restricting diets is the amount of hunger you might end up feeling. This is because healthy fats (as well as protein and fiber) often help you to feel full and satisfied. “Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to modulate hunger signals and hormones and increase satiety. Studies have found that those who supplement their meals with increased intakes of healthy fat feel less hungry and more full after a meal,” Muhlstein says. Try adding more fat-filled foods to your snacks and meals if you notice yourself wandering back into the kitchen often.
“While all studies are not conclusive, some studies have found a link between omega-3 fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamin D supplementation and a reduction in depression and anxiety disorders,” Muhlstein adds. “Vitamin D and essential fatty acids play a role in the release of neurotransmitters (serotonin and dopamine) that affect brain function and development. Getting adequate amounts of essential fatty acids and vitamin D can help maintain a healthy mood and brain.”
In short, eating enough healthy fats comes with a host of benefits from decreased hunger and inflammation to improved mood. Take a look at your daily diet and find ways to slot in more of healthy fats.