Fact... Fat does not make you fat!
Did I just blow your mind? The first time I heard that, it DEFINITELY blew my mind…
The concept that ‘eating fat makes you fat’ makes sense… you eat too much of it and it ends up on your body (or on the scale) right? The “Eating Fat Makes You Fat” concept is one of the biggest myths in our food age today. And one that the food industry has played on us over and over, over the past 30 years. Click here to read an in-depth article on what has taken place over the past 30+ years in the food industry, and how the modern recommendations of diet have changed. So I won’t go into all that detail.
But the main take home point is this…. Based on faulty evidence and political propaganda, governments prematurely made recommendations that a ‘low fat’ diet was healthier than a ‘high fat’ diet, and that if we eat fat, we would not only get fat, but also put our lives at risk of developing heart disease.
Now I suppose it makes sense to think that when the doctor tells you your cholesterol and your triglycerides (fat in the blood) are high, you naturally think “oh! I need to eat less cholesterol and eat less fat!”.
But the truth is the contrary: (click here for a very thorough article with references on cholesterol and cardiovascular disease).
- Cholesterol is so important in the body that when we don’t eat enough of it, our body makes it! In fact, our bodies make ~75% of the cholesterol in our body.
- We need cholesterol to make our hormones – vitamin D and our sex hormone are all based on cholesterol as the building block. Cholesterol also helps us digest our fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E, K) as it is the main component in bile. It is also the building block for our cell walls!
- Triglycerides are indeed the unhealthy fat in the blood… but they are not elevated by eating too much healthy fat. They become elevated by eating too much refined carbohydrates (1, 2) like bread, pasta, rice and potatoes; by drinking too many sugary drinks like juice (all juice including 100% fruit juice), pop, soda, sweetened hot beverages from your local café; drinking too much alcohol; and by eating too many junky foods like chips, chocolate, cookies, cakes, pies, crackers, etc. It can also be elevated by eating unhealthy fats like trans-fats found in processed foods (you need to check any food that comes in a box!).
WHAT!?!?! Fat in the blood can be high because of eating too much sugar and carbohydrates?!?! So I guess what I’m actually saying is that sugar and too many refined carbohydrates can lead to heart disease (high Triglycerides are a risk factor for heart disease). Hmmm.. that’s not what conventional wisdom teaches…
So, then, if I am suggesting that people eat more fat, which fat should you eat?!? Good question!
The healthiest sources of fat to eat on a regular basis include: olive oil, olives, avocado, avocado oil, fish and fish oils, omega 3’s (anti-inflammatory fats), nuts, nut butters, nut oils, seeds, and seed butters. These fats tend to be unsaturated (which means in the chemical structure, they have some carbon double bonds).
The sources of fat that have been found to not be harmful (or benign) (3) in the literature include saturated fat – which means that in the chemical structure, the double bonds have been broken and 2 hydrogen molecules have bonded with the carbons (instead of the double bond). There are even some smaller studies suggesting they are beneficial (4, 5). These include: coconut oil, high fat dairy from grass-fed/pastured animals (including high fat cream, butter, ghee, coconut oil and coconut milk); and fat from pastured meats like lard and tallow!
Now, why do I suggest pastured cattle. Well, toxins eaten in foods are stored in the fat. Pastured cattle eat just grass – not corn and other foods which their stomachs were never meant to digest. Most corn, wheat, and soy are likely genetically modified unless labeling says otherwise. And usually they are genetically modified to be able to tolerate a pesticide which can then be heavily heavily sprayed to keep pests away, which means that, should you choose to eat their fat, you would be consuming any toxins and pesticides that the animals have eaten.
In general saturated fat tend to be the most stable under heat, as high heat can denature unsaturated oils and hydrogenate them (or break their double bonds and add hydrogens to the carbons)… this might sound like its not an issue, but the problem is that these usually form trans-fats (the hydrogen bonds form in a different shape than naturally occurring saturated/unsaturated fats, and are digested differently). For more information on saturated fats, click here for an excellent (and trust-worthy) article on it, click here for Nina Teicholz's book The Big Fat Surprise and click here for Gary Taubes's book Good Calories Bad Calories .
***Note. I do need to say that saturated fats may not be tolerated by everyone. If individuals have very high cholesterol levels and familial hyperlipidemia (and I’ll discuss cholesterol in a later email, or you can check out my online course called “staying off your medications” – I’ll email blast as soon as its available!), saturated fats may increase cholesterol or prevent you from lowering that number; additionally, some individuals just react negatively to saturated fat. So it might not be appropriate for all individuals to eat large amounts of saturated fats. This email is meant to provide education, not to diagnose conditions in any way.***
The fats I would limit as much as possible include oils that require a lot of chemical processing to extract. These include seed oils, canola oil and vegetable oils. They tend to be high in omega 6’s which when we eat too much of them, cause inflammation (6). It would be better to get our omega 6’s (which we do need in small quantities) from nuts and seeds.
Wait, let me back up… what do I mean by Inflammation…. So you know when you scrape or bump your knee, and you get all red and hot and puffy? That is inflammation. When we eat certain foods that are pro-inflammatory (generally in larger quantities and regularly), inflammation takes place at the cellular level. Some examples: when we eat too much sugar – our liver cells can become insulin resistant (7). When we eat too much other pro-inflammatory foods, we may see inflammation in other ways – heart disease (inflammation of the LDL cholesterol particles which become small and dense and atherosclerotic) (8 – showing inflammation is a marker of heart disease), arthritis – inflammation of the joints (9), and possibly dementia (inflammation in the brain) (10, 11).
As part of balancing our meals, we need to consider always eating fat with our meals and snacks. And I don’t mean a teaspoon here or there. I mean 2-4 tablespoons per meal, or a whole avocado. Being liberal with our fats, listening to our bodies and and letting our bodies tell us when we are full and satisfied. It also helps us eat less carbohydrates which will skyrocket our blood sugars.
Try balancing your meals and snacks with fat for a week, and let me know how you feel! ;)
Note: Evidence has showed that combining lots of sugar (or carbs) with lots of fat leads to a high fat high carbohydrate doughnut... and THAT will make us sick because it raises insulin levels plus forces us to store all the fat we have just eaten instead of using it as fuel. So if you are going to eat lots of fat, and I do recommend it, please don't do it while you eat a boat-load of carbs (chips, bread, pasta, rice, cookies, etc).
As always, if you have any questions, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Wishing you the best of health, Eliana