What I’m about to discuss in this post is very controversial. I’m just getting that disclaimer out of the way. This is a summary of some of the facts I’ve been learning about fat in my nutrition classes. It’s really gotten a bad rap. Turns out fat is not generally the cause of obesity, nor the cause of high cholesterol. Each of these topics could be a lengthy novel within itself, so I’m just going to summarize briefly. It’s not a research paper, so I’m not going to cite sources or anything. I’m sure if you want to you can find lots of info supporting both sides of this big fat argument. Here we go with the roundup of fat facts…
Humans are adapted to eat large amounts of saturated fats. Before the development of agriculture approximately 10,000 year ago (which many also consider the downfall of our health) people survived off of what they could hunt or gather. This meant lots of meat, vegetables and fruit, and no grains. These primitive people weren’t selective about their meat cuts either. They ate the whole animal from eyeballs to tail. People who continue to eat this type of diet still enjoy lives with very few chronic health problems and greater longevity. In fact, the animal best suited for eating grains are birds, which obviously bear little resemblance to us.
Your central nervous system is made primarily of saturated fat. It is very well documented that people who eat low fat diets have skyrocketing rates of depression and other emotional disorders.
Here’s a funny fact: The same ratios of macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs) are used to fatten animals for slaughter as are recommended by the USDA to keep slim and trim. Doesn’t make much sense does it?
Saturated fat does not cause high cholesterol. There is no such thing as good and bad cholesterol. HDL and LDL are actually proteins that carry cholesterol to places where it is needed. Both have important jobs. There are multipe types of LDL protein, only one of which is harmful in any way. Reputable studies show time and time again that people with high cholesterol actually live longer than people with low cholesterol. The bad thing for your blood vessels is actually inflammation. Plaque buildup occurs when the body tries to heal the inflammation in your blood vessels which is caused by….sugar!
An increase in dietary saturated fat will actually raise HDL (the “good”). A reduction of dietary carbohydrate will also lower LDL (the “bad”).
Still cooking with canola or other vegetable oils? Toss them. These are polyunsaturated oils rich in Omega 6 fatty acids. We have a staggering overabundance of these in our diet and they are a major contributing factor to inflammatory issues. The best oils for cooking are coconut, lard (yes, the real stuff!), palm oil, and olive oil.
So now that you’ve been given permission to start frying your eggs in bacon grease again, here’s the catch. Fat is obviously very calorie dense (9 calories per gram vs. 4 calories for protein and carbs). Increasing the fat in your diet means watching your calories until you get the hang of it. Traditional nutrition recommends that no more than 30% of your calories come from fat. Fat advocates say you can easily raise that to 50% as long as you reduce your carbohydrates. You would be looking at a ratio of 50% fat, 30% protein and 20% carbohydrates.
Contrarary to what we’ve been told, carbs are not essential. Your body can produce glucose from protein. The only healthy people I can think of who might need extra carbs are elite athletes.
People who try this diet usually notice an immediate improvement in mood, body composition, decreased hunger, better sleep, and increased libido. Who doesn’t want those things nowadays?
You can get much more information about this, and enjoy yourself at the same time by watching the tongue-in-cheek documentary Fat Head by Tom Naughton (available on Netflix or at Amazon, or view a couple of clips here.)