Understanding fat in your diet is essential for weight loss and longevity.
February 13, 2013 By Billy
Myth: We make ourselves fat by eating fat.
Every wonder why, as a nation, we’re getting fatter and fatter, and yet we all seem to be on “low-fat” diets. Something doesn’t seem to add up.
It turns out that there are healthy fats and unhealthy fats. But since “fat” is generally regarded as the cause of our obesity problem, we don’t differentiate the way we should. We see all fat as inherently bad for us. But fat is essential to health. First of all, healthy fats satiate. They make us feel satisfied and prevent overeating. We all know how we can sit down with a bag of potato chips and polish off the whole thing. Same with corn chips, crackers, popcorn, bread, cereal, pasta, and other starchy foods. Notice that these are mostly low-fat foods. It’s easy to overeat them, and what does your body do with the overflow of these starchy calories? It stores them as…fat!
Something else about fat. It’s a necessary catalyst for nutrients. Almost every vitamin and mineral is, to some degree, fat soluble. You can eat all the right nutrients, but if you don’t have the right amount of fat to act as the catalyst, you can actually become malnourished! Fats are also needed for healthy joints and connective tissues. And consider that the human brain is 80% fat! Not only have we become a nation of people getting fatter with our low-fat diets, we’re starving our brains. And so we’re getting crankier. And we’re tired all the time. Fat is fuel. It burns the exact same way as those carbs we’re overeating.
The secret is to eat more of healthy fats and avoid the unhealthy ones. Unhealthy fats are everywhere. A little history lesson: back in the 90s, food manufacturers came out with cheap ways to cook things. Suddenly we were all eating foods cooked in canola oil or safflower oil or soybean oil or really inexpensive hydrogenated vegetable oil. These unhealthy fats turned out to be one of the primary causes of putting on pounds. Why? Fats break down under high temperatures. Law of nature: when fats are heated or cooked, free radicals are produced that, when consumed, suppress the thyroid. You zap your thyroid and you zap your metabolism. Slow metabolism = weight gain!
So to offset that, we started reducing our intake of all fats. We started looking for low-fat alternatives and starving ourselves of (necessary) fats and buying into the calorie-counting protocol as a way to discipline ourselves. And that’s a recipe tailor-made for failure.
The trick is not to eliminate fat from your diet. The trick is to add the right fats. One-hundred calories of the right fat (what you might find in an avocado, for instance), is way more satisfying than one-hundred calories of chips, crackers, or other starchy foods. Same amount of calories, much different level of satiation.
The right fats – the elite fats – come in two categories: saturated and unsaturated. Easy to tell the difference. Saturated is solid at room temperature, unsaturated is liquid at room temperature. You need both. Yes, contrary to what you might have heard, you need even the saturated kind.
Unsaturated fats can be found in avocados, raw nuts and seeds, and oils like olive oil. Olive oil is the elite of the elites. Law of nature: cold-pressed olive oil is satisfying and you’ll never get fat on it. Impossible! Exception: when it’s heated, for the same reason as described above. Fats break down at high temps. (This, by the way, is why fried foods aren’t good for us even if they’re cooked in olive oil. Fried foods are the worst!)
Want to cook with oil? Then it’s essential to use saturated fats which don’t break down in heat. Butter or ghee (pure butter oil that is less likely to burn) or coconut oil. What? Butter?? Sure, I know I’m raising eyebrows but trust me on this. The key, of course, is moderation with the saturated fats. Too much saturated fat will raise your cholesterol (even cholesterol-free oil like coconut oil). But is one to three tablespoons going to raise your cholesterol? No, especially if you have a moderately active lifestyle. Want proof? Eskimos. Lots of fat, very little plant foods, active lifestyles. And almost non-existent heart disease.
Okay, some specific foods that I always get questioned about:
Eggs. Bad for you, right? Wrong. Eggs just might be the perfect food. Sure, they might be high in cholesterol, but they don’t raise your cholesterol. There’s saturated fat in eggs, but only to the tune of less than 1%. That’s why our ancestors (who never heard of heart disease) were able to eat them for thousands of years.
Animal products. Careful with meat. Beef, pork, chicken – these all require a substantial degree of moderation. These saturated fats can increase cholesterol and set a chain reaction towards weight gain. The leaner (and more seldom) the better. Animal protein in our diet is a debatable subject and is a separate topic entirely. This is a topic I will cover next month.
Dairy. It’s best to go with skim milk, right? Wrong again. The whole low fat dairy thing has been nothing less than a disaster. Two-percent and skim milk should just be called what it is: lactose concentrate. Or milk sugar. That’s all it is. And it’s harder to digest. This is why we’re all becoming lactose sensitive. Our bodies are rebelling. Drink whole milk – just drink less of it. And you’ll drink less of it because it’ll satisfy much quicker than the milk sugar stuff.
Processed carbs and sugars. Disasters. This is what we’re eating to try to get back that sense of satiation that we’ve lost to our low-fat diets. This stuff is weight gaining with zero nutrition.
Okay, so now the myth has been busted. Big picture: integrate healthy fats into your diet, preferably by integrating them with more plant foods. Soups and salads! Add olive oil to your salad. Butter or ghee or coconut oil to soup. Eat more raw nuts and seeds and avocados. Every body type is different. Experiment. You have way more flexibility with proportions between fat, carbs, and protein than you think.
I challenge you to go with this protocol for one month! If weight-loss is a priority for you, I am confident it will have some degree of impact. Not to mention the substantial impact on your overall health and longevity!
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All the best!~