FAT.

It seems as though our culture is either on one side of the spectrum or the other when it comes to this discussion. Many have discovered the Keto lifestyle and become huge supporters of it, while others still strive to eat as little fat as possible. While I believe there are supportive arguments for cutting back on fat AND increasing fat intake, I can’t stress enough how it is always on an individual basis! Every body needs different forms of support, so to make a blanket statement saying “everyone needs to be low fat,” or “everyone should be on keto” is super dangerous and incorrect! I’m not here to sway you from one end to the other. In fact, I want to maybe shed light on the ‘gray’ area that we all find so difficult to navigate.

Why does it seem like we always have to be all or nothing? I think it’s because we fear there is too much flexibility and room for err in the middle. If we don’t have definitive food rules telling us what we absolutely can and cannot eat, that means its up to US to decide for ourselves, which is just way too much pressure! I’m here to tell you that gray area is OKAY. You are allowed to have a diet that provides you with varied sources of proteins, carbohydrates AND fats! You are allowed to eat a diet whose boundaries are supportive, flexible and sustainable. In fact, I believe what can be most beneficial to anyone starting out with diet changes is teaching them how to create a balanced meal. Anyways, let’s discuss a little bit more about this cultural misconception about fat and what our bodies really do with it.

Fat In Our Body

In order to understand why we need fat, we must know what it does in the body and what we use it for.  Fat is an essential building block to every single cell we have in our body. It is used in our cell membrane to produce ATP [the body’s usable form of energy]. Fat helps our hormones from going out of whack and helps our blood sugar regulation by acting as a steadier form of energy. It is a vital for the absorption of certain vitamins and helps us digest protein as well. Fat can be considered the foundation for many bodily functions and processes! All these processes and functions have a cause and effect. If our bodily processes don’t occur properly, the effects and consequences can reveal themselves in negative health issues.

What we lack from consuming a low-fat diet usually gets made up for in the form of another food group, mainly carbohydrates. Since fats slow down food absorption and increase satiety, our body is more satisfied and fueled when it has a diet with healthy fats. We feel satiated and have supplied our body with the slow burning energy that it can use over time. Without proper fats, our body turns to carbs as a main energy source. Once consumed, carbohydrates break down into sugars, which the body turns into glucose. In modern times, we especially like to turn to refined and over processed carbs as this fuel source. These carbs/sugars cause our blood sugar to spike all throughout the day and does not provide our body with any long lasting fuel. We become more fatigued, feel less full, and then think, “what can I eat to not feel this down and crappy?” In turn, we eat more carbs, sugar or caffeine… because we know they will give us that quick pick me up feeling! This becomes a vicious cycle in which we just try and level out the lows and keep the highs. We begin to destroy our metabolism, our blood sugar and our energy sources. This also makes our body dependent on glucose for energy rather than fat for energy. When we become primarily sugar metabolizers, our body puts its fat adapted burning mechanisms to the side. Ever gotten hangry? That’s an actual physiological response to faltering blood sugar levels. [Go ahead and tell your spouse that, so they quit judging you when you catch a case of the ‘hangers.’] With excess refined and processed carbohydrates there is too much sugar rushing in at once that our body can’t instantly utilize. It then tries to store it in our cells. HOWEVER, this sugar burning metabolism shifts our ability to store the sugar as glucose, and instead turns it into stored fat. It’s okay to have glucose stores in the body; we need it for energy. But when we fill up all our cells and they cant hold any more fat, they lock their doors and refuse to let any more in. This in turn can lead to insulin resistance, diabetes, high cholesterol and hormonal imbalance.

The ratios of which fats we eat does also matter. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats are essential fatty acids, meaning we cannot make them ourselves. We must obtain them from food. A proper ratio of these fats reduce inflammation, reduce risk of cardiovascular issues and obesity related issues. In today’s food landscape, omega-6’s are more prevalent than Omega-3’s. This is harmful, because omega 6’s are more inflammatory than omega 3’s. We find omega 6’s in oils such as safflower, corn, sunflower, soybean, canola, cottonseed, rapeseed, peanut. These are essentially in every processed, factory made food. Take a look at random food labels sometime and you will really see how prevalent they are.

Fat In Our Culture

The misconception of the need for a low/no fat diet in our culture is one of the most recent and more damaging social myths that have occurred in relation to food consumption. This thought process that has led us to be influenced by products that market low fat, no saturated fat, or flat out no fat. This has had damaging repercussions on our health and on the obesity epidemic.  Our ideal image for women has nailed in our brains that ‘skinny is in!” and fat is the enemy. For men, we have been taught that every man should have a 6 pack and needs to be lean and muscular and a “mans meal” is one packed with protein and carbs. In reality, these misconceptions have fueled the increase in childhood and adult obesity at alarming proportions.

From a cultural standpoint, this low-fat mantra affects us not only internally, but externally through what we are influenced to buy and consume. Modern foods are over processed, and turned into almost zombie foods, in order for them to fit society’s ideal of what is “healthy”. Foods that naturally contained fat become pasteurized, hydrogenated and refined to become more appealing to us: the consumer who is certain we need low fat! Fillers and additives replace the natural vitamins and minerals that once were in the foods, and we feed ourselves with empty, nutrient-less, fat-less, fake food. For instance, saturated fat became the enemy several decades ago. We were told that is caused high cholesterol and was not heart healthy. This caused the invention of alternative fat sources that doctors, the FDA and the AHA convinced us were better for us. Hydrogenated oils, trans fats, canola oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil…all overly refined and mutated fats that our body struggles to even process. These “alternative fats” are very harmful and not natural to our body.

So what are good, quality sources of fats?

  • raw, unpasteurized dairy products from grass fed animals: butter, milk, cream, kefir, yogurt
  • fat from grass fed, organically raised animals: lard, tallow
  • raw nuts/seeds: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, pistachios, macadamia nuts, cashews, flax seed, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, hazelnuts
  • Nut or seed oils: avocado, coconut, extra virgin, red palm oil, macadamia nut oil, walnut oil, flaxseed oil, almond oil, sesame oil
  • NOTE: most seed/ nut oils are very delicate and should NOT be cooked with! avocado/ olive oil should mainly be used for heat applications.
  • ghee [butter that has been simmered long enough to remove the milk solids]
  • Avocados
  • Wild caught seafood 
  • pasture raised, organic eggs

I’ll say it again, QUALITY MATTERS! when it comes to oils, look for virgin, first pressed, cold pressed or unrefined on the label. For animal fats, look for organic, grass fed, pasture raised, or wild caught.

 

So go ahead, put that dab of grass fed butter on your sprouted grain bread. And don’t you feel bad about it!

Want to read more about fat?? Check out these books I enjoyed reading!

“The Big Fat Surprise: Why butter, meat and cheese belong in a healthy diet” by Nina Teicholz

“Put Your Heart In Your Mouth” by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride

“Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” by Dr. Weston A Price 

 

References:

Nutritional Therapy Consultant program by the Nutritional Therapy Association

“The Big Fat Surprise: Why butter, meat and cheese belong in a healthy diet” by Nina Teicholz

“Put Your Heart In Your Mouth” by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride

“Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” by Weston A Price, DDS

“Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine” by Elson M. Haas, M.D