Does fat make you fat? Many of you have probably heard that eating too much fat is a bad thing. We see a lot of low-fat, or fat-free, or reduced-fat versions of products on the shelves in our grocery stores. We think if we eat low fat we are eating healthy and doing our bodies good because we have been told to make sure we don’t eat too much fat.
I say this is not true.
Fat is one of the most important nutrients you can feed to your body. You need fat for so many processes in your body, and not to mention your cells are made up of fat. Without fat you couldn’t absorb certain vitamins like Vitamins A, D, E, and K. So if you are eating a low fat diet, you will more than likely be deficient in at least one of these nutrients. These vitamins are so important for immune function, eyesight, skin and bones so it is important that we are not lacking in any of these.
One important thing to know is where the fat you are eating came from. The quality of the fat is so important. I would say that the quality is more important than the quantity when it comes to health. There are “bad” fats out there that are in processed foods that we need to avoid AT ALL COSTS. Not all fats affect the body in the same way. Many have beneficial effects but some have damaging effects.
Saturated fat is known as “bad” fat in the mainstream health community. In school they teach that saturated fat increases your cholesterol and in turn increases the risk for heart disease. I want to show you that there is new evidence out there showing this is not necessarily the case.
Saturated fat is the form your body stores for energy use. I won’t go into all of the chemical details behind this, but they comprise 75-80% of the structural parts of most cells. It’s also important for bone health by helping calcium get into the skeletal system. It supports immune function and protects the liver from damage by certain toxins. Those are just a couple of the many benefits to saturated fat.
Saturated fat is present in foods like whole milk, beef and coconut oil. Coconut oil is 87% saturated fat. This is why a lot of people say to avoid using coconut oil; because they think it’s too high in saturated fat and will raise your cholesterol.
For most healthy individuals, the evidence is weak that eating saturated fat will cause heart disease. There are certain situations where individuals need to moderate their saturated fat intake, but if you aren’t one of those you are safe to consume good quality saturated fat.
Another form of this fat is called medium-chain saturated fat. This is present in coconut milk and breast milk. They are very easily digested and a great source of energy. These fats also promote weight loss and fat burning. New research is also showing that saturated fat may promote fertility.
All in all, if you are a healthy individual with no major health problems, you are safe to consume things like whole milk, ground beef (20% fat), coconut oil/milk, butter and ghee.
There are also other forms of fat that are healthy such as monounsaturated fats (in foods such as avocados and macadamia nuts) that are very beneficial to your health. These fats reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL). They may reduce the risk of heart disease and they help to reduce blood pressure. Other food sources are olives, olive oil, egg yolk, and almonds. Feel free to eat these liberally.
OMEGA 6 FATTY ACIDS and OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS
You may have heard the term omega-6 or omega-3 fats. These fats are forms of polyunsaturated fats. These are also important for many cellular functions including forming cell membranes and regulating gene expression. They also have an effect on inflammation. Omega-3’s are known for being anti-inflammatory (good) and Omega-6’s are known for being more pro-inflammatory (bad). Inflammation is not something you want to have in your body. Forms of inflammation in your body are things like eczema, acne, and arthritis.
We want to have a balance of omega-6 and omega-3 in our body. Omega-6’s are good for you, but not excess quantity. Think of it as a weight balance scale with each one on opposite ends. We want to take in the same amount of these fats so that our body will be in balance.
The problem is that we do not eat a lot of foods high in omega-3 fats in America. The foods highest in omega-3 fats are fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and shellfish. Most of us aren’t eating these every week. I know I don’t, mostly because of the cost. I can buy chicken and beef for a cheaper rate. However, the recommendation is to eat at least 10 ounces of fish each week. Omega-3 fats are also in fruits, vegetables, and nuts and seeds like walnuts and flax. However, your body cannot use the omega-3s from these foods as well because our body cannot convert them to the forms that provide the benefits (EPA and DHA). The fish is what provides the EPA and DHA that our body needs.
Omega-6 fats are found in foods like poultry, avocados, nuts and seeds. They are also present in large quantities in processed and refined oils found in our processed foods. Examples are soy oil, corn oil, safflower and sunflower oil. If you are eating processed foods you can bet that you are probably eating these oils. The problem is that we are eating so much of this oil high in omega-6 fatty acids we are going into an inflammatory state because we are not getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids to compensate for it. This can cause things like arthritis and acne like I listed above.
The imbalance of these fats are partly the reason why are see a rise of obesity, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune disease and cardiovascular disease.
My recommendation is to eat fish high in omega-3 fats as much as possible and to minimize your omega-6 fats from processed foods as much as possible. If you don’t like fish, I recommend supplementing with a cod liver oil supplement even though it will not be as good as eating fish. I use Green Pasture Fermented Cod Liver Oil. Eat omega-6 fats from whole foods like nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables instead of industrial oils. This means to try and avoid eating packaged foods.
One last thing. Trans fats are the fats you want to avoid at all costs. DO NOT CONSUME. Trans fats are present in processed foods like frozen foods, cookies, chips, crackers, etc. They are also found in “instant” packaged foods like microwave popcorn and instant soup. If you see the word “hydrogenated” or “partially-hydrogenated”, then it has trans fats.
Trans fats promote inflammation and they damage good cholesterol in the body. They have no beneficial effect on the body and cause harm. It is best to avoid these.
Below is a list of fats that are healthy and fats that are not so healthy.
Nut oil (unheated)
Cold-water Fatty Fish
Whole Dairy Fat
Soy, Corn, Canola Oil
I hope this post helps you to see that fat is so good for you and that you should not limit it in your diet. Fat does NOT make you fat! It actually does the opposite. Eating whole, unprocessed foods with good quality fat is so beneficial to your overall health.
That’s it for now! Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list to receive weekly updates when I post on my blog!