Fat is necessary. It just is. But people will definitely try to tell you otherwise.
I can remember (not too long ago) the great lengths that the media, nutrition field and doctors would go to in order to keep fat out of our diets. “Fat causes heart disease.” “Dietary fat will raise your cholesterol.” Or…”Eating fat will make you fat.”
While admittedly, these all sound like valid concerns, there's actually been no evidence to support fat causing heart disease and plenty of evidence that has shown us dietary fat has little impact on your cholesterol.
For example, in one meta-analysis, 350,000 people were followed for 14 years. Of the 350,000, there were approximately 11,000 people who did develop heart disease. However, after analyzing this data from over 20 studies, the conclusion was that the relationship between saturated fat and heart disease that we were all pushed to believe was in fact false.
Sorry, not sorry… there is no cause and effect relationship between saturated fat and heart disease.
Those last paragraphs may have gave you pause…and maybe even made you a little angry or ashamed of the dietary choices you've made.
I'll be the first to out myself for blindly following these anti-fat statements.
Yup, I was a fat-free, vegetarian who was 100% convinced I was doing what was best for my body. After all, I was getting a degree in nutrition and those were best health recommendations of the time.
But were they?
All evidence points to the benefits of a diet high in vegetables. This is well accepted and understood.
But what did we see when we were told to eat fat free and load up on grains?
Personally—I had more joint pain than a young 20-something should and a libido that also contradicted my age. (Read: I had no libido.)
I was a wreck.
After years of following a so-called “healthy diet,” I was having to ask the question—just how healthy is this diet?
After spending over 15 years in the nutrition and health arena here is what I want to share with you (it's what I share with my patients too!)…
8 Truth Bombs About Fat
The dream of the 90's is over…
Ok. I couldn't help myself. After all, I do consider myself a Portlander (#ForLife).
Forget anything about nutrition that you learned in the 90's. High grain, low fat diets do no one any favors.
What about your brain…
Your brain NEEDS fat to function. A whole 60% of your brain is fat, so this makes sense, right?
Get too low in fat and you'll notice your memory and mood start to suffer.
Every single cell…
Fat is part of every cell in your body. What more is there to say? Structurally, you have to have it.
Show your hormones some love…
Fat is essential in hormone production. Want to kill your libido? Eat a fat free diet.
Progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, DHEA, and testosterone all have one thing in common—cholesterol.
Cholesterol (you know, that alleged villain causing heart disease) is the backbone to your hormones. Don't eat it? Then you don't make hormones.
It happened to me and I see it a lot with patients. But all hope is NOT lost! When you start giving your body the essential nutrients it needs to make hormones, it will. You're body is smart like that.
The bottom-line on your waistline…
Fat doesn't make you fat. A diet that is rich in processed foods, lack of movement, sitting too much, inflammation, hormonal imbalances – that makes you fat.
Can you eat too much fat and gain weight? Sure. But that type of logic applies to carbs and protein too. Just because it has more calories per gram (9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories for protein and carbohydrates) doesn't mean that is necessarily going to all to be deposited in your own fat cells. It actually takes a whole lot of energy to break down fat.
All that aside, if you're having trouble with weight, diet is one place to start, but in my experience there's usually a whole lot more to it than just diet alone.
Where are you going to get those vitamins anyhow?
Fat is rich in … wait for it … fat-soluble vitamins like A & E. And hello, omega-3 fatty acids! Those guys kick inflammation booty and boost brain power. Holla!
Plus, those tasty little egg yolks everyone was telling us to dump are actually an amazing source of choline. Low choline alone can cause insomnia, memory issue and fatigue!
And choline is crucial for fetal development. If you're pregnant, you should NOT be passing on the fat (or the yolks)!
A pleasurable palate…
Fat tastes good. And good tasting food is just awesome!
Plus, as humans, we are designed to seek out pleasurable food. There's no shame in enjoying your meal. In fact, it improves your digestion. Win!
Blood sugar savior…
Fat keeps you full, which impacts blood sugar regulation in a positive way. And it seems to buffer the blood sugar spikes that refined or easily digested carbohydrates can have on your body.
Blood sugar regulation is at the heart of health hormones. Download my free hormone guide to learn more about dietary approaches to amazing hormones.
Some of my favorite fats: cold water fish, grass fed butter, ghee, avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, Palm kernel oil, grass fed tallow, lard, duck fat. You get the idea, right?
How much fat should you eat?
That's a very individualized question. Your focus should be on a whole foods diet, including healthy fats, lots of vegetables, fruit and high quality protein.
While the point of this is to say, “Fat is Not Bad!” That doesn't mean you want to go overboard and eat only fat. Find your balance. Eat whole foods. And enjoy life!
Now go eat some fat and drop some delicious nutrition knowledge. Hell, go start a whole foods revolution!
Also, I have to credit “Truth Bomb” to Steph from Stupid Easy Paleo. Those are totally her words and I love them.
Diet is the Foundation
What you put on the end of your fork absolutely influences your health, your hormones and your happiness. And this should bring a level of comfort to know just how much you can change your health outcomes by the choices you make.
But diet may not be enough.
Yes, it is a must that we focus on your diet and that we improve upon your nutrition. But if that is the only place we focus, it just might not be enough to move the needle.
It is not only important, but essential that you work with a doctor who values nutrition and understands that your individual needs must be addressed in the context of what you are experiencing—your symptoms.
I know that most doctors “don't get it.” I know this because I spent many years studying nutrition and working as a nutritionist before I stepped into the role of doctor.