GOTCHA! Click bait initiated.
Fat doesn’t make you fat. Plain and simple. Following a “low fat” diet isn’t going to shed pounds overnight, and it certainly isn’t going to make you healthier.
Healthy isn’t about eating less, looking a certain way, or restricting ourselves. It’s about fueling our bodies with what it scientifically needs, to sustain life.
I think we often forget that food is supposed to be fuel. It isn’t supposed to be eating for “points”, for pleasure or for taste. It’s survival. It’s eating all macronutrients and whole foods because our body needs them; it’s not eating 0 calorie foods to “save” calories for shit snacks at night. I promise you, science is going to be right 100% of the time, especially over the fitspo you found on the internet.
With that, let’s talk about why we NEED healthy fats in our diets, what they are, and why low fat or zero fat foods are your enemy!
Why We Need Healthy Fats
A lot of questions arise when it comes to fats – good or bad? omega-3’s or omega-6’s? saturated or unsaturated? coconut oil or olive oil? The list goes on and on. It’s not secret fats have a bad rap. The media has instilled fear in us telling us fats are bad and that we shouldn’t have fat if we are trying to lose weight. The secret here is….we need healthy fats, but it comes at a cost.
Fats are high in calories (9 calories per 1 gram) which is why when people are trying to lose weight and cut calories, they cut fats first because they are “expensive” to have in your diet budget. But if we totally cut them out, what are we actually doing to our bodies?
A few key things fat does in our body is…
〉 support immune function
〉insulate internal organs
〉regulate body temperature
〉maintain healthy skin
〉 absorb fat soluble vitamins
〉provide energy for the body
〉Maintain brain matter and mental health
〉 Effects hormones and fertility
〉Regulate blood sugar
I don’t know about you but I would love for all of these things to continue occurring in my body, without be having to tell it to…are you with me?
What are Fats
There are three main categories of fats…saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
Chemically speaking, these fats have no double bonds (meaning the carbon atoms are totally saturated with hydrogens) which makes them solid at room temperature (butter, lard). These make great cooking sources because they are less likely to breakdown and because oxidative during heating.
There are also a few more categories in saturated fats like long chain, medium chain and short chain – which just classifies them by their length.
Long chain – primary storage form of energy (making up 70-80% in our body).
Medium chain – or (MCT’s) are easily digested fats because they don’t need bile to be broken down and instead go directly to the liver. Enhance fat burning by thermogenesis, resulting in ketones which benefit the brain.
Short chain – not typically found in our diet but instead is formed when gut bacteria ferments dietary fiber. These are also great for gut lining health.
These fats have one double bond and only one carbon molecule is unsaturated (hence the mono). Monounsaturated fats are things like avocados, olives, some meats and , macadamia nuts. They are beneficial in decreasing risk of heart disease – lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol.
Polyunsaturated have several double bonds and open carbons. This means they are always liquid at room temperature but are also highly susceptible to oxidation. There are two types of polyunsaturated fats:
Omega 6’s: This is an essential fatty acid because it is not made in the body and can only come from your diet. Linoleic acid is the most popular as it is found in almost all processed foods on the market from grain fed meats, crackers, cookies and cereal. “Excess LA has been shown to cause vitamin E depletion, gut dysbiosis, and inflammation, as well as contribute to weight gain, liver disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, and premature aging.” states Chris Kresser from the Kresser Institute and Co – Director of California Center for Functional.
Omega 3’s: These fats are the “good” polyunsaturated fats. Things like walnuts, flaxseed, salmon, shellfish. Omega 3’s help us decrease inflammation and absorb vital nutrients that are usually taken over by omega 6’s.
Trans fats are the final piece of the puzzle. Some are naturally occurring in grass-fed meats and diary, but most are artificial. You want to REFRAIN FROM TRANS FATS in any kind of packaged food. These are found to increase risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity and other inflammatory diseases. They can also damage fragile lining of blood vessels, increase LDL, and reduce HDL. Basically….a chemical shit storm you want to avoid that has no nutritional value to the body.
List of Healthy Fat Sources
I thought I would make things easy for you and list out a bunch of healthy fat sources. There will always be people who have their opinions about certain foods (remember that coconut oil debacle?) so just go with your gut. All of these have huge benefits in the body and are key factors in preventing disease, not creating it!
Eat These Often:
• Coconut oil
• Coconut milk/shredded coconut
• Grass-fed butter
• Olive Oil
• Macadamia Oil
• Lard (grass fed)
• Tallow (grass fed)
• Dairy fat (natural, not processed. Meaning NO low fat, or zero fat)
• Grass-fed meats
• Wild caught seafood
Eat these in Moderation:
• Sesame Oil
• Flaxseed oil
• Avocado Oil
• Nuts and Seeds
• Nut Butters
Eat these Never:
• Soybean oil
• Vegetable oil
• Peanut oil
• Canola oil
• Sunflower oil
• Safflower oil
• Corn oil
These never oils are terrible, here is a full blog post that breaks down what exactly they do to the body!
Why You Should Avoid Low Fat Foods
While low fat diets still seem to be popular, they really do come at a cost. Let’s think about the foods we are buying that are “low fat” or “zero fat”. They’re processed. And with this processing, companies are using cheaper oils (that also breakdown to be bad news for our body) but also adding in more sugars and chemicals to try to keep the same taste.
Take a look at this image below…one side is Kraft Skim Milk Cheese, and the other is Tillamook Sharp Cheddar Cheese.
That ingredient difference is insane! If you are anything like me, you probably grew up eating Kraft singles (or maybe you still do). It wasn’t until I was at my grandparents house one time and my grandpa asked us to go get him cheese. And to my dismay he said “And get me real cheese, not that cheese food you kids like.” Wait, what? You mean to tell me the cheese I eat is cheese food and not just cheese?! What is this sorcery. When I tried it I realized it was indeed way more delicious, but I had no idea. I just knew Kraft was the cheese king, or so I thought…
This is just a great visual to show you what the difference in ingredients is. Dairy is meant to have fat, so taking it out is not something our body knows how to properly use.
Now imagine “low fat” or “zero fat” crackers, cookies, chips, yogurt, milk etc. There are packed full of chemicals to get the same taste, without all the calories.
It’s no good, and our body doesn’t know what to do with it except store it, and create inflammation that could potentially lead to chronic disease down the road.
My opinion? EAT THE FAT – I would rather eat a homemade chocolate chip cookie with real butter and oil than a “low fat” chemical shit storm to save calories….