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What’s the skinny on fat?

For YEARS, we’ve been told that fat MAKES YOU FAT.

Ever since the 1950’s when research came out that linked saturated fat and cholesterol with heart disease, the low-fat food industry has flourished and we have avoided dietary fat like the plague.

It’s so ingrained in us that most of us cringe at the thought of dripping or lard. Even BUTTER…! And never touch the chicken skin, OMG!

The very sad thing is that the original research that started this all off has been invalidated. It turns out that saturated fat is not the main cause of heart disease. If that was the case, some high-fat eating populations around the world would have been wiped out. (One of these is the Inuit tribe of Greenland – they still eat high amounts of saturated animal fats, and have very low levels of heart disease, diabetes and obesity).

The low-fat disaster

I’ve been on a ton of low-fat diets (like many women in their 40’s!). They promise so much, and while I did lose weight initially, it always went back on (in spades!). And frankly they made me miserable! I now know why they are not a long term solution…

  • What do you replace it with? – the problem that the food industry had was that fat tastes good. So to take it out of a food meant putting something back that tasted good, and that was typically either sugar or artificial flavourings.
  • Missing nutrients – real food contains many vital nutrients, including fat-soluble Vitamins A, D, E and K. If you take the fat out of the food, you’re going to take these nutrients out too, putting you at risk of nutrient deficiencies.
  • High Carb – when you go low-fat, you invariably choose carbs instead. Fat fills you up. Carbs spike your blood sugar, causing the inevitable crash a couple of hours later, and another carb craving to replace the lost sugar. This leads to over-eating, excessive insulin and fat-storing.
  • Low-fat diets have been shown to reduce HDL (‘good’ cholesterol) and increase triglycerides, risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.

And it’s actually low carb diets that have consistently performed better for weight loss in the general population. Balancing your blood sugar by limiting high carb foods, means that your metabolism works more efficiently and you are burning fat rather than storing it.

So should we all start eating higher fat diets again? Like our grandparents did?

For many of us, the answer is YES – simply put, FAT CAN BE YOUR FRIEND.

Why do we need fat?

  • Cholesterol is the pre-cursor for all your steroid hormones, and is vital for the production of bile and Vitamin D
  • Your brain is made up of 60% fat
  • Every cell in your body needs fat for the membranes to work properly
  • It is needed to dampen down inflammation and keep your immune system strong
  • It helps to fill you up and prevent those between meal sugar/carb cravings
  • It helps you absorb your fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K)

Without adequate fat, your hormones are going to suffer. And we know the critical role that hormones have in regulating our metabolism, weight, energy, mood, brain function, fertility, libido, hunger, sleep and stress resilience. No wonder we can go a bit crazy on a low-fat diet!

But we all know that it’s not quite that simple. All fat is not equal, and all people are not the same.

There are good and bad fats and obviously the bad ones we definitely need to avoid. And everyone has a different genetic make-up, meaning we all metabolise and absorb fat (and other nutrients) in different ways.

Types of Fat

Fats are divided into 3 main groups;

  • Saturated fatty acids (SAFA’s) – short, medium and long chain
  • Mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA’s) – medium and long chain
  • Poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s) – long chain

We have been told for years to avoid SAFA’s and eat more MUFA’s and PUFA’s. Have a look at the list below. All foods that naturally contain fat have a mixture of different fats in them. You can’t separate foods by different fat types. They all have a bit of everything. Which is why it is so ridiculous to say ‘don’t eat red meat – it’s full of saturated fat’. It’s also got PUFA’s and MUFA’s!

Fats in foods table

The ‘good’ fats

As you can see the above list are ‘real foods’. Nature puts all the fats together in a food for a reason. We use them all for different things.

Coconut oil for instance is the single biggest source of saturated fat, yet it is now recognised as a hugely beneficial food for our health.

The body can make most of the fats it needs, apart from Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which is why they are referred to as ‘the essential fats’. This is why it’s so important to make sure you have enough in your diet and more importantly that they are both in balance. The problem is that the Omega 6 fats are plentiful in our modern diets (mainly from vegetable oils and animal products) and the Omega 3 fats are not as common (mainly from oily fish, some nuts & seeds). The ratio of omega 6:3 fats has gone up in line with the increased intake of margarines and processed foods, and the relative decrease in oily fish consumption. Too high a ratio can increase inflammation in the body, and seriously mess with our hormones!

So it’s important to make sure you are getting enough Omega 3’s in your diet. Plant sources such as flaxseeds and walnuts aren’t generally enough, as they need to go through a complex conversion process to get to the EPA & DHA omega 3 fats that the body can use. If you’re not eating oily fish (sardines, mackerel, salmon) regularly, you should consider a good quality supplement.

The ‘bad’ fats

When we start to mess with food by heating, processing, turning it into something convenient and increasing it’s shelf life, that’s when the fat content can be problematic. 

  • ready meals, sauces, salad dressings
  • margarine or spread
  • crisps & chips
  • cookies, pastries, cakes, biscuits, snacks
  • vegetable oils – eg soy, sunflower, canola, corn, grapeseed

Processed foods and snacks are made with vegetable oils. Why? Because they are very cheap! But they are also very fragile, which means they can easily oxidise when heated or processed. To you and me, that means they go RANCID. And rancid oil promotes inflammation, cell damage and will do nothing for your waistline!

According to Dr Mark Hyman, author of Eat Fat, Get Thin;

  • Saturated fats (palmitic acid and stearic acid) in your blood that cause heart attacks come from eating sugar and carbs, not fat.
  • Saturated fats (margaric acid) that come from dairy and butter show a reduced risk of heart disease.
  • Omega-6 fats from vegetable oils show no benefit and may increase risk of heart attacks.
  • Omega-6 fats from poultry, eggs, and beef (arachidonic acid) seem to be protective.
  • Omega-3 fats from fish are the most protective.

Your unique biochemistry

Your genetic profile and health history is totally unique. Certain variations in your genes can alter the way you metabolise and absorb fats (and other nutrients).

Equally, you can have problems digesting and absorbing fats due to other factors, such as nutrient deficiencies, underlying gut infections, inflammation, food sensitivities, stress and lifestyle factors.

So you may need to be careful with the total amount of fat in your diet. If you’d like to know more about genetic testing to identify your particular profile, contact me.

Summary

Eat;  Grass-fed meat, free range poultry, oily fish, organic full fat dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, avocadoes, olives, cold-pressed seed/nut oils.

Cook with;  Unrefined virgin coconut oil, lard, butter, goose/duck fat.

Avoid;  Processed foods, ready meals, fast foods, take-aways, margarine, ‘low fat’ foods, heated vegetable oils.

So if you’ve been on a low-fat diets before that haven’t worked for you, go ahead and enjoy your organic crispy chicken skin, cook your roasties in goose fat, and savour your full fat organic creamy natural yoghurt. Eating MORE fat might just help you LOSE fat.

Let me know how you get on!

Click here to get your FREE Hormone Balancing Guide.



 

Nicki WilliamsWhat’s the skinny on fat?

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