Fat does not make you fat. What? Seriously? For as long as I can remember, I was told fat would make you fat. We grew up on low fat this and non-fat that. As a teenager, I chose foods specifically low in fat: non-fat frozen yogurt, low fat or skim milk, low fat muffins, low fat cream cheese, low fat cookies, margarine, low fat frozen meals, etc. I always stayed away from heavy cream, blue cheese dressings, half and half, cut extra fat off steaks, removed skin from chicken, avoided red meat, tried being vegan on various occasions (for multiple reasons), tried being vegetarian. The list goes on.
When I was in my 20’s living in NYC, after a night of drinking and clubbing, I’d come home and order greasy burgers and fries. I put on a good 10-15 lbs which was a lot on my small 5’ 4” frame. For some reason, my intuition told me to stop eating bread and pasta. I also limited the amount of rice I ate and stuck to vodka. In about a few months, I dropped the extra weight but whenever I started eating bread and pasta again, I’d gain back the weight pretty quickly. So eliminating the carbs seemed to be the answer but I never understood the reason behind it. I just knew it worked. Then the Mediterranean diet was in the news and I had heard that healthy fats make you burn fat and that had made sense to me because when I eliminated the carbs, I didn’t eliminate the fat and still lost the weight. So, I wasn’t afraid of avocados and olive oil but I was still in that mindset being raised low fat that I would continue drinking coffee with low fat milk and opt to get non-fat frozen yogurts.
In the early 2000’s, the Atkins diet became the latest craze. Many of my friends started eating lots of protein, fats and almost zero carbs. A lot of us were alarmed and worried for our friends’ health but they were actually losing a lot of weight. We still wondered, how were their arteries? But Dr. Robert Atkins was really onto something.
Contrary to what we were told that saturated fat makes you fat, raising cholesterol levels and contributing to heart disease, saturated fat along with other healthy fats don’t make you fat nor unhealthy. It’s the exact opposite. There’s so much science supporting this that it makes me angry how we were told the wrong thing for so long and that millions of people have wrongfully died through this belief. What actually makes you fat and unhealthy is a low fat diet high in refined carbohydrates. The diet that the American Heart Association still to this day says is the diet that will prevent heart disease.
Sugar/refined carbs are actually what’s unhealthy and causes weight gain. Getting our blood sugar regulated should be our primary health concern. Refined carbohydrates turns into sugar in the body. White bread has a higher glycemic index than ice cream. What drives triglycerides up (the marker to pay attention to for cholesterol) is excess sugar/carbs in the blood.
When Americans had the lowest rate of heart disease, around the early 1900’s, they were eating lots of butter. It was when man made hydrogenate oils came into the picture and people stopped eating butter, that heart disease actually rose. A doctor named Ancel Keys started researching and based on his limited research, he thought saturated fat was the cause of heart disease. This lead the food industry, the medical world and the government informing us through the media and biased research that saturated fats were terrible for us and that a low fat diet limited to vegetable and hydrogenated oils only along with a high carbohydrate diet would prevent heart disease. Out with butter and in came margarine. Out with the red meat and in came chicken.
Fats are very important to maintain health in the human body. They provide energy much more than carbohydrates. Consider it like a log in a fire. While kindling is the carbs for energy, which burns through much quicker, the log is an even study burn that lasts longer. They are building blocks for cell membranes and hormones while aiding in absorbing fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. They protect our organs by lining them. Fats are also beneficial for optimal brain performance and memory. They aid digestion and also help you stay satiated. And very importantly, they taste so darn good!
The low fat diet causes digestive issues making us mal nutritious. When the food industry jumped on board with demonizing saturated fats, they produced low fat foods. However, without the good tasty fat, they needed to add more sugar and they added lots of it. I just mentioned earlier that excess sugar/carbs causes high triglycerides, the marker to look at when checking for cholesterol levels for heart disease.
Not all fats are created equal though. The vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils (primary source for trans fats) that Ancel Keys said would reduce heart disease in fact contributed to heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases and so on and so forth. The rise of such health issues in America has risen significantly since we started using canola oil, margarine, and replaced lard for hydrogenated oil such as Crisco in cookies, chips, cakes, donuts and other snacks. Cooking in these oils is incredibly toxic. These vegetable oils are not stable and so when they are heated, they become toxic. They also become rancid just left on the shelf over time and that includes olive oil. Saturated fats on the other hand have stability and are solid at room temperature. The density gives them a high heat point making them perfectly safe to cook with.
There are three classification of fats: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. We need all of these fats in our diet to maintain balance. Some fats have all three of these fats like grass-fed red meat. Eating predominately fats heavy in saturated and monounsaturated is the healthy goal. Here is a list of some recommended healthy fats:
|Saturated||Monounsaturated||Polyunsaturated (Omega 3’s and 6’s)|
|Grassfed Ghee/Butter||Heritage Pork Lard||Walnuts|
|Raw Dairy||Olive Oil||Sunflower Seeds|
|Coconut Oil||Avocado Oil||Almonds|
|Palm Oil||Olives||Pumpkin Seeds|
|Grass-fed Beef Tallow||Avocados||Hemp Seeds|
|Pasture raised animals||Macadamia Nuts||Wild Atlantic Salmon|
|Sesame Seed Oil (equal amount of Polyunsaturated Fat)|
|Macadamia Nut Oil|
|Wild Sockeyed Salmon|
Eating more polyunsaturated fats like nuts can throw you off balance and can affect weight loss. Keeping that below 10-5% is optimal. However, each person differs in this so the recommended amount can change for each individual. For more information on the different kinds of healthy fats, Chris Kesser, an important figure in functional medicine explains this in detail. This is Chris’ fat pyramid that’s very helpful.
Important to note: not all fats are equal for cooking! This is very crucial to understand because some fats do not have high cooking points so should be avoided at all costs. And whatever you do, ALWAYS avoid Canola oil and any hydrogenated oil which means man-made oil. These oils are toxic to the body. The fats I use to cook are: grass-fed ghee/butter, coconut oil, beef tallow and lard. I do not cook with olive oil as it does not have a high heat point and you also lose the taste once you cook with it. I heavily use fresh olive oil after I cook with another fat. And it’s important to note that you should always get a high quality olive oil in a tinted bottle or can. Olive oil sitting on a shelf long enough can go rancid. And same with Flax seed oil. It’s perfectly fine when you open it but halfway though its use, it becomes rancid so I avoid Flaxseed oil entirely.
Currently, I am studying to become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner attending NTA and one of the reading materials is this book is the New York Times best seller The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz. I first came across her in this interview from Ben Greenfield podcast and couldn’t wait to read the book. I was thrilled to see that her book was on my school reading list. This is a history book that is quite tragic about the decline of health in the modern American diet and the world. For a book about fats and how we were mislead, it was quite the page turning book. I was glued to 340 pages of information I had not known. It helped me understand how most of the diet fads that I went through were manifested.
When I was sick with Rocky Mt Spotted Fever, my naturopath told me I needed to eat organic meats or else I wouldn’t heal. I was dumbfounded because I thought the vegan diet was most healthy for you only to learn in the NTA program that scientifically that is not so. Robert Atkins was looked down upon the medical community thinking that he was promoting heart disease by his high fat minimal low carb diet but in actuality it promotes weight loss and health. There was a scientific study done on his diet and it was proven that it did not affect heart disease. The Big Fat Surprise goes into detail about the research and the story. I highly recommend reading this book as it’s filled with an incredibly thorough research about how it all went wrong and a detailed explanation on the science and valid research on why saturated fats are good for you.
Now that I’ve given you some info about fat, don’t go pouring it all over everything and eating a stick of butter. Everyone is different and how much fat one needs depends on your own bio individuality. And if you are going to eat a bagel and smear it with grass-fed butter, that will not help you lose weight or help you to be healthier. Replace sugar with healthy fats and eat enough fat to help you stay satiated.
We live in a society where people are imbedded with the thought that fat makes you fat. How we were misled is very disturbing and the damage has been done but I am hopeful that things are changing. There’s a lot of misinformation and fear around red meat and fat. The American Heart Association still recommends a low fat high carb diet. Skim and low fat milk is still more popular than whole milk. Non-fat frozen yogurt shops are still popular. Chicken is still the preferred meat when it has the least amount of nutrition of all the meats. And not to mention, in the past, chickens were raised only to give us eggs, not to eat them.
Writing about fats in the hopes of helping someone get healthy has been a great joy. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Your health is important. It’s the basis of everything. Hope this information helps and would love to hear from you if you’ve got anything to share.