Why eating fat doesn't make your fat (and what does!)
July 15, 2016
In the early 1980’s, scientists looked at the alarming increase in the rate of heart disease and decided that it was caused by the consumption of fat. Fat. Apparently, a product humans have been consuming since the beginning of time had just started causing disease. What scientists ignored was everything else that was taking place in society.
About a decade earlier, the consumption of mass processed foods was taking over the grocery store shelves. Rather than a meal of meat and three vegetables families were consuming frozen meals that went from the freezer, into the microwave, onto the dinner plate. The processing of our foods meant we were consuming mass amounts of processed salt (read my blog post on when salt is good for you), processed sugar, trans fat and heaps of inexpensive starches.
Today, more than 30 years later, the low fat fad is rapidly declining as people come to understand that fat does not cause heart disease and limiting fat is causing a whole host of other problems.
Fat is a vital part of the food we consume. Foods should always be eaten as a whole. If you consume dairy, it should be as full cream milk and full fat cheese and yoghurt. Meat should be eaten with the fat and vegetables should always be consumed with fat, whether that be as a dressing of olive oil or with nuts or avocado. This is because foods in nature are designed in a way that provides all the necessary elements to process that food. The fat in milk for example helps the body to break down the various parts of milk enabling us to get the most out of our food.
Every meal or snack should contain carbohydrates, protein and fat. This does not mean that you should have pasta or bread with every meal or snack! Almost every food type contains some element of carbohydrate and protein and many contain fat. But it does mean that it is really important to eat fat with your vegetables. Some vitamins are only soluble in fat. This means that if you don’t eat them with fat, you may as well not be eating them at all.
When we eat, our bodies use the carbohydrate portion of our food first (carbohydrate is a form of sugar). It’s the easiest to convert to energy and we burn it fast. This makes foods such as bananas a great snack if you need some instant energy. The body then uses the protein. This takes a little longer to digest but provides the body with a longer range of energy spanning a few hours. Fat is the last thing the body digests. This means that when we consume fat we stay fuller for longer and our brain does not get sent the message that we need to eat. If we listen to our body (rather than watching the clock or eating for emotional reasons), fat will enable the body to control sugar and food cravings and only eat the amount of food that is required. When we consume fat with our food, we are fuller quicker and stay fuller for longer. This doesn’t mean that we should consume a diet of fat alone. We are not designed to survive on avocados, nuts and meat alone. Vegetables should always be the biggest portion serve on your plate but eat your fat with joy!
There is another really important reason why fat must be a part of every healthy diet. Our brains are 70% fat. When we eat a low fat diet, we are literally starving our brains to death. And when we look at the staggering rise in brain disease such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia, we can see the powerful impact the low fat fad is having on our population.
The low fat fad must also take its share of responsible for the mass increase in the number of people who are overweight or obese. The numbers are staggering and alarming. When companies remove the fat from foods, they need to replace the flavour that is lost. This is almost always replaced with sugar. So rather than having people eat a natural, whole product, they are consuming enormous amounts of sugar which instructs the brain to store excess energy as fat. Many foods that are touted as low fat are also touted as low sugar due to the use of chemical substitutes of sugar. These are just as bad as they fail to allow the brain to hear the message that we are full which leads to over consumption, excess energy requirements and the storage of more fat.
There are two really important issues regarding fat that we all need to know – where our meat comes from and trans fats.
Our bodies are able to process toxins through a number of ways in the body. When we are exposed to too many toxins however, we store those toxins in the safest place our bodies have – our fat cells. When we eat a lot of processed foods and drinks (that are laden with chemicals) and we live a life that exposes us to a large amount of toxins, we put on weight because our body needs to protect us from those toxins. We get fat and we store our toxins in our fat. The same is true for animals. When we consume the meat from animals, we are consuming the toxins in their fat. This is why it is important to eat meat that is ethically raised, grass fed and organic or biodynamic when possible. If you eat meat and poultry that has lived a good, clean life, their fat contains many wonderful vitamins that are critical to your health and wellbeing.
Trans fats are those fats that are produced in a factory. You will find them in processed cakes, pastry and biscuits. Read the labels carefully and put anything that lists trans fats straight back on the shelf. The World Health Organisation recommends that we eat 0% (that’s right – absolutely NO trans fats). Many countries have banned trans fats however there are still many many foods on the supermarket shelves of many countries that contain even small amounts of the fat. Trans fat is the one type of fat that is absolutely detrimental to your health and should be avoided completely.
Now that you know how awesome fat is, you can eat the skin on your chicken, put butter on your vegetables, gobble up that guacamole with organic corn chips and snack on those raw, activated nuts! And don’t worry, eating fat doesn’t make you fat. There are two things that make us fat – eating too much food and eating sugar. Read my blog posts on sugar here and weight loss (coming soon) for more on that.
Enjoy changing this little habit in your life and reap the rewards of more energy, a less foggy brain, more joy in your food and possibly even some weight loss!