You might be wondering why we need to talk about fats when the whole idea is that carbohydrates are the culprit in increasing our glucose levels which is the leading cause of peripheral neuropathy. The effect that high glucose levels have had on the capillary blood vessels, veins and arteries also happens to all organs including the heart. One of the major well known symptoms of diabetes is heart disease. Also consider however that because in most cases peripheral neuropathy is caused by the damage that glucose is causing to capillaries in remote areas of your body such that nerve cells are no longer provided the oxygen and other nutrients they need to survive. The addition of high cholesterol will only exacerbate this condition further by narrowing arteries and completely blocking capillaries that feed oxygen to the nerves.
When you focus on carbs in your diet you will also tend to lean so heavily on looking for low carb items especially meats, in which case you will likely overlook the unhealthy things in meats that could make your health suffer immensely while your are trying to lower your glucose levels.
First understand that not all fats are unhealthy and bad. There are in effect two categories of fats to consider: unhealthy fats and healthy fats. Unhealthy fats are saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. Let’s take a look at unhealthy fats first as we want to make sure you understand what they are and what types of foods have them.
Saturated fat raises your blood cholesterol levels which in turn are bad for your heart. The rule of thumb per the American Diabetes Association is to consume no more than 10% of your daily calories from saturated fats. For the average person that means no more than 20g of saturated fat per day. This can be a very challenging thing to do considering many dairy products and meats have more than that in one serving.
- Some of the foods with high saturated fats are:
- Meats like ground beef, sausage, hot dogs, bacon, bologna and spare ribs
- Dairy products like cheese, butter, cream cheese, whole milk, 2% Milk and sour cream
- Poultry skin of chicken and turkey
- Sauces and gravies like sauces from cream and gravies made with meat drippings
Like saturated fat, trans fat also has the effect of boosting cholesterol levels, ultimately impacting your heart health. There is a reason why trans fats are now banned for use in restaurants and smaller commercial bakeries in many states, counties and cities. They are however still used fairly abundantly in processed packaged foods made by national brands. Fortunately on 6/16/2015 the FDA announced that trans fats will be totally phased out from all foods over a 3 year period. That is how serious a health matter trans fat consumption has become. Studies have shown how detrimental trans fats are in causing coronary heart disease. Trans fats do occur naturally in some foods however they do not have any where near the levels of trans fat that are synthetically processed. Trans fats are synthetic forms of fat most often manufactured by turning vegetable oils into solid fat. The process by which this is accomplished is called hydrogenation which blends hydrogen with the vegetable oil to make the oil into a more solid form. Its important to understand that you should avoid eating anything with trans fats altogether. Unfortunately food labels can list trans fat as 0 (zero) grams if the food has 0.4 grams of trans fat per serving or less. Your best bet if that is the case is to also do a quick review of the ingredient list. If any of the ingredients are listed as hydrogenated or even partially hydrogenated, then it has trans fat but in lower amounts than those which legally need to be listed.
Some foods that still may contain trans fat are:
- Stick margarine
- Packaged processed foods like chips, crackers, muffins, cookies and cakes
- Fast food french fries fried in hydrogenated oil
Cholesterol – See Cholesterol for Peripheral Neuropathy
There are three types of healthy fats; monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids. They each have unique properties and the best approach would be to replace as many of the saturated fats in your diet to these healthy fats.
Monounsaturated fat is considered a healthy fat because it promotes lower LDL(bad) cholesterol levels. It is a natural fat that comes from plant sources, not meats. Oils that contain monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and turn solid when cooled.
Some foods that contain monounsaturated fats are:
- Canola Oil
- Olive Oil
- Sesame Seeds
- Peanut Butter and Peanut Oil
- Nuts like almonds, cashews, peanuts and pecans
Like monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat are also considered healthy fat because it promotes lower LDL(bad) cholesterol levels. They are mostly derived from various types of seeds. The oils are liquids at room temperature but the solidify when they are chilled.
- Olive Oil
- Canola Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Cottonseed Oil
- Sunflower Seeds
- Salad Dressings
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 Fatty Acids have many great properties. They decrease triglyceride levels, lower blood pressure slightly, slow growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque and decreases the risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats). The best source of omega-3 fatty acids are fish however some plant foods also provide a healthy source of omega-3’s.
- Rainbow Trout
- Albacore Tuna
- Canola Oil
- Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil
- Tofu and Soybeans
When it comes to peripheral neuropathy there are 2 key reasons for limiting bad fats 1) By focusing on controlling glucose by limiting the consumption of carbohydrates we tend to lean more heavily on foods that could have high fats. 2) High fatty foods increase LDL(bad)cholesterol which in turn is not only is bad for the heart but actually exacerbates the cause of peripheral neuropathy by clogging veins, arteries and particularly capillaries that feed oxygen and nutrients to the nerve cells at the farthest reaches of our bodies like our feet and hands.