Are you eating a low-fat diet? Should you eat fat at all?
Dietary fat is a pretty vast subject. I’ve condensed it down to offer advice on the subject.
Throughout the late 1990s, eating a “low fat” diet was the solution the supposed experts discovered to reverse obesity and improve the health of society. They claimed eating low to no fat and eating mostly carbohydrates instead was a breakthrough in the Western diet.
What ended up happening, however, was people would seek out any food that was low fat, and food manufacturers began replacing fat with sugar and other processed carbohydrates, because that is what was selling at the time.
These ultra-processed packaged foods were devoid of any nutrition, and this craze actually caused people to become even more overweight and even more unhealthy. A valuable lesson was learned from this; the lesson is you need to eat fat.
Fats slow the entry rate of carbohydrates into the bloodstream, and they cause the release of a hormone, cholecystokinin, from the stomach. It tells the brain you’re satisfied and to stop eating which helps you feel full and eat less. This, along with eating adequate amounts of protein, is a very successful weight loss tactic.
The different types of fats get their name from chemistry. The types of bonds they have and the way they are chemically put together gives them their names. They are polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated, and trans fat.
From a macronutrient perspective, all fats are the same. They provide 9 calories per gram. But as far as health goes, there are some guidelines to follow. There are good fats to seek out, there are fats that should be limited, and there are fats to be avoided altogether. Let’s begin with the good fats.
Fat from the food we eat provides two essential fatty acids, linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. They are essential because the body can’t produce them on its own.
Linoleic acid, called omega-6 fatty acid, is a polyunsaturated fat, highly prevalent in the agricultural dominant Western diet, and is found in
- Vegetable oils (soybean oil, corn oil)
- Whole grains
Alpha-linolenic acid, called omega-3 fatty acid, is also a polyunsaturated fat and is found in
- Fish and other seafood (especially cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines)
- Nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts)
- Plant oils (such as flaxseed oil)
- Supplements such as fish oil, krill oil, cod liver oil, and algal oil.
Essential fatty acids play a major role in the body. They are responsible for
- Formation of healthy cell membranes
- Proper development and functioning of the brain and nervous system
- Proper thyroid and adrenal activity
- Hormone production
- Regulation of blood pressure, liver function, immune and inflammatory responses
- Regulation of blood clotting. Omega-6 fatty acids encourage blood clot formation, and omega-3 fatty acids reduce clotting.
- Crucial for the transport and breakdown of cholesterol
- Supports healthy skin and hair
A relationship exits between omega-6s and omega-3s. As you can see in the example above, regulation of blood clotting, omega-6 encourages blood clotting whereas omega-3 reduces blood clotting. This is just one example of the omega-6/omega-3 relationship. There are many others as well.
The ideal omega-6/omega-3 ratio is 4:1 or less. The typical Western diet has a ratio greater than 15:1. This contributes to cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory. Make it a point to seek them out and increase your consumption of them.
Another source of good fats are the monounsaturated fats
- Olive oil
- Macadamia nuts
- Almond butter
Monounsaturated fats are known as omega-9 fatty acids. Omega-9 fatty acids are not essential, because the body is able to produce them. Omega-9 fats are the most abundant fats in most cells of the body. Diets rich in monounsaturated fats are sometimes called the Mediterranean Diet. These fats improve insulin sensitivity, are anti-inflammatory, and improve heart health.
Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are the healthy fats. They don’t raise insulin levels, and they improve the healthiness of your blood chemistry profile.
Saturated fats are found in
- Whole fat dairy products (butter, cheese, sour cream, ice cream, whole milk)
- Coconut oil, palm oil
- Fatty cuts of meat
- Dark poultry and skin
- Fried foods
- Baked foods
Saturated fat has been said to cause heart disease, whereas later studies suggest it doesn’t cause heart disease, but raises heart disease risk factors.
Too much saturated fat can cause inflammation, however, and as noted in *LINK* Quit Sugar. NOW! Inflammation causes a defensive response by the immune system. Over time, excess inflammation can damage organs and systems in the body.
Saturated fat can also cause elevated insulin production leading to insulin resistance. This type of fat is found in a lot of foods, so try and limit the amount you get!
Lastly, and the fat to avoid most are trans fats. These fats are mostly man made but can be found naturally in very small amounts. Trans fats have been nearly phased out, but still remain in existence in these sources
- Anything containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil
- Crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies, and other baked goods
- Snack foods such as microwave popcorn
- Frozen pizza
- Fast food
- Vegetable shortening and margarine
- Coffee creamer
Trans fats lower good cholesterol, raise bad cholesterol, and increase risks for heart disease and stroke. If the food contains less than 1.0g of trans fat per serving (0.1-0.5), manufactures are allowed to “round down” to zero, claiming it does not contain trans fat when in reality it does. This can be misleading, so be extra cautious when eating these food products.
So, to make a long story short, keep your amount of calories from fat to about 30%.
Get your fat calories from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
Increase your omega-3 fat consumption and even consider supplementing this nutrient.
In the end, these fats will help keep weight gain in check, and will supercharge your health by helping to prevent heart disease and stroke.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and is not intended for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your physician.