Eating fat does not make you fat

Most people are surprised to know that eating fat does not make you fat. Despite what many doctors have told us over the last 25 years, fat is not the enemy.  Healthy fats do not contribute to heart disease, they don’t raise your cholesterol and in moderate quantities they most certainly don’t make you fat.

The 1980s zero fat trend

In the late 1908s, western health professionals declared war on fat, holding them accountable for those extra kilos and heart disease. People began to replace traditional fats such as coconut, lard and butter with more highly refined, often hydrogenated vegetable oils. Fat consumption fell dramatically, “low-fat” products became all the rage but the heart disease and obesity epidemics exploded. Instead of getting better, we got a whole lot fatter and sicker.

Meet the fats

Fat type Monounsaturated fats
Form Liquid at room temperature
Good sources Avocado, nuts, olive/sunflower/sesame oil
Benefits Improves blood cholesterol, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, improves blood sugar control and insulin levels.

Fat type Polyunsaturated fats – Omega-3 fats
Form Liquid at room temperature
Good sources Salmon, sardines and other fatty fish, eggs, flaxseed, walnuts.
Benefits Improves blood cholesterol, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, decreases risk of type II Diabetes and hypertension.
Note Omega 3 fatty acids derived from animal products are more easily absorbed by the body, thus offer greater benefits than their plant-derived counterparts.

Fat type Polyunsaturated fats –Omega-6 fats
Good sources Walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, soybean and sesame oils.
Benefits Improves blood cholesterol, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, decreases risk of type II Diabetes and hypertension.
Note Despite what modern medicine may tell you, avoid Omega-6 rich margarine at all costs. It is an inflammatory food product that results when liquid vegetable oils rich in omega 6 fats are hydrogenated to produce trans fats (see why to avoid these below).

Fat type Saturated fats
Form Solid at room temperature
Source Grass fed organic meats, organic dairy products, coconut, palm oil, palm kernel cocoa butter
Benefits Improves cardiovascular health, lowers cholesterol levels, healthier lung function, healthier brains tissue, improved nerve signaling, stronger bones, genetic regulation and a stronger immune system.
Note The body needs saturated fats in order to efficiently use other essential fatty acids such as Omega 3s.

Fat type There are two types of trans fats: naturally occurring and artificial/ manufactured/ synthetic trans fats
Form Solid at room temperature
Sources Foods containing hydrogenated oils/ fat such as deep-fried foods, baked goods and many types of take away meals.
Benefits Naturally occurring trans fatty acids (Conjugated Linoleic Acid [CLA]) can be found in animal products. Some studies have shown CLA to reduce the risk of heart disease, including the risk of heart attacks and atherosclerosis.
Note What most people are familiar with are the trans fats used in processed foods – these should always be avoided. Look out for and skip foods whose labels contain “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” fats or oils. These are man-made, industrial trans fats, which comprise of a different chemical make up to the CLA in animal products. Manufactured trans fats are considered especially harmful as the raise total cholesterol while lowering healthy HDL cholesterol.

Fat keeps you feeling full & energetic

Healthy fats help you lose weight by making you feel more satisfied at the end of a meal (they slow down how fast the stomach empties). Ingesting fats also promotes blood sugar regulation by lowering blood sugar levels a little while longer after eating. Consistent blood sugar then prevent energy crashes throughout the day that could potentially lead to hunger pains or the urge to binge later on.

You need fat to absorb fat-soluble vitamins

Going “lite” or “fat-free” can lead to deficiencies in fat-soluble vitamins A,E,K and D. Upon ingestion, these vitamins require fat to dissolve in in order to be absorbed. Fat also transports these vitamins through the stomach, intestines, blood and liver where they are stored in the body for later requirements.

When you are deficient in any micronutrient, your body goes into what Jon Gabriel refers to as a “nutrition famine”. There are many types of “famines”, and to the body being devitalized is one and the same thing. What this means is if you aren’t absorbing your nutrients, your body thinks it’s about to be starved….. and guess what? It starts to store fat. So optimum nutrition and absorption is imperative to weight loss.

Fat-free dairy products may be carcinogenic

Fat-free dairy products are a lot less healthy than you think. To break down and remove fat from a dairy product, the milk is heated thru the process of homogenization. To do so the milk is heated, increasing the fat’s rancidity that is highly oxidizing and carcinogenic to the body.

Conversely, this scientific study correlated the intake of high fat dairy products with a reduced risk of central obesity, and low fat dairy fats with a higher risk of central obesity. So always skips “lite products” and keep your eye out for a minimum of 4% fat on dairy product labels.

A word about cooking with oils

Different oils are suited to different culinary uses. They contain different “smoke points” – the temperature at which the oil begins to decompose. When the smoke point is reach, the oil loses any nutritional value and free radicals form (these contribute to DNA and cell damage). Additionally, when oils pass their smoke point they potentially create carcinogens (cancer causing compounds) that appear as smoke you may potentially breathe in.

Best oils for all-purpose cooking
Avocado, almond, coconut, sunflower, sesame oils

Best oils for light sautéing and sauces
Black sesame, toasted sesame, olive and coconut oil.

Best oils for frying
Coconut and black sesame oils.

Best oils for salads
Extra virgin olive oil, Borage oil, Cold-pressed flaxseed oil

Inflammatory oils to avoid completely
Canola, soybean, peanut, palm and cottonseed oils.

 Ten easy ways to get more good fats into your diet

1. Include fatty fish in your diet at least 3 times a week. Eat them with cooked veges, salads or on top of wholegrain crackers/ toast. Good options include: Red/ pink canned salmon, Salmon fillets, Herring, Anchovies, Mackerel, Sardines.

NB: When buying canned fish, always shop sustainably, always buy the fish in sunflower/olive oil or brine, always check the labels for inflammatory oils and follow the national guidelines if trying to conceive/if pregnant or breastfeeding.

2. Snack on sprouted nuts and seeds. Good options include walnuts, almonds, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds.

3. Add a teaspoon of cold-pressed flaxseed oil to smoothies or drizzle on top of your cereal in the morning. Stoney Creek is a great brand you can find in the fridge at most health food stores.

4. When taking your multi vitamin or any supplement that contains vitamins A,E,K and D, take some fat in as a chaser. This might be in the form of some cod liver oil, a smoothie with some oil (as above), or a very small handful of nuts or seeds.

5. Use organic butter or avocado on your toast in the morning.

6. Consider supplementing with a high quality cod liver oil.

7. Use extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil on top of salads, steamed or blanched vegetables. Salt to taste.

8. At the supermarket or grocery store, always buy milk and other dairy products that contain more than 4% fat.

9. When ordering cafe coffees, skip the milk completely or in the least avoid skim milks where you can. It is a much healthier option to have a less full fat-fat milk than a whole cup of skim. Ask for a the milk on the side so you can control how much goes in, or go for a piccolo or flat white with a little extra hot water instead.

10. Cook roasted vegetables with organic ghee, duck fat or butter. Yum.

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