Eat More Fat
In my Nutrition Therapy training, I've been learning about the necessity of fats in our diet. For years, we’ve been told that fat should be avoided, especially saturated fat, but now a tub of coconut oil (saturated fat) can be found in most homes. So what happened? What kinds of fats should we actually be eating and in what quantity? Sadly, there are so many myths about fat in our culture and we have been believing them for years. The flavor that fat has historically added to food is now often replaced by sugar. Anything that is “non-fat” most likely has loads of sugar in it. This fat-free lifestyle has led to a lot of health problems that, in most cases, can be avoided: allergies, musculoskeletal issues, endocrine issues, cardiovascular issues, and even depression. Luckily, a lot of the anti-fat messages are being pushed back by the research of influential nutritionists and scientists today.
I write this to shed some more light on this ever-controversial topic. Fat is not something to be avoided. It is necessary for energy, cell formation, hormone regulation, protein use, absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), protection of body organs, and increased satiety. Our bodies were made to burn fat – so we need to give it to them!
For a balanced meal, we should aim to have 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat. However, everyone’s nutrient needs are different, that ratio is just a general guideline. Most Americans are very lacking in the fat portion, which has led to the health issues I listed above. I personally eat a lot of carbohydrates, some fat, and low protein, so I need to work on this balance more than anyone! Some things I’ve been incorporating into my diet to work on this balance have been eggs and smoothie bowls with protein powder (for increased protein), and yogurt, avocados, and mixed-nut granola (for fat). The cereal, pancakes, and toast we all grew up eating will actually weigh us down after breakfast if we don’t balance it with fat and protein. For example, one piece of toast with 2 eggs and 1 avocado is much more balanced than 3 pieces of toast or a big bowl of cereal (all carbs). Fat actually slows the abortion of carbs, so eating fat with carbs helps keep us fuller longer!
The common belief that you should avoid fat when trying to lose weight is completely false. Eating more fat can actually increase your success at losing weight because fat is satiating. Fat keeps you full longer. Therefore it will help you have prolonged, steady energy and lead you to choose healthier foods when you do eat. In turn, you will crave less, snack less, and ultimately lose the weight.
The proper use of fats, specifically oils, is an area where there needs to be more education and awareness. For example, we should never buy oils that are sold in light colored bottles. Light easily damages oils, and it makes them unstable and dangerous to consume. Oils like flax and hemp seed can be beneficial, but should never be heated. They are too unstable to cook with and become rancid easily. They should only be consumed raw (ex. added to a smoothie or salad). Another thing to be aware of is that hydrogenated oils (ex. Margarine) are dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.
The three types of fat are:
· Saturated (ex. coconut oil, palm oil, grass-fed meat and dairy)
· Monounsaturated (ex. olive oil, avocados, avocado oil, lard, and poultry)
· Polyunsaturated (ex. wild caught fish, fish oils, and flaxseed)
Good Sources of Fat:
The list below includes healthy sources of fat. I suggest eating a wide variety of all of them. Don’t just eat 3 avocados a day (as tempting as it may be!) and rarely try any other sources of fat. Our bodies thrive off of change, and creating variety actually helps you absorb more nutrients! Also, be careful not to buy any food with the “low-fat” or “non-fat” label on it, because as I stated above, those typically have loads of sugar added to them. Low-fat food depletes you of the wonderful benefits fats provide!
Butter has antimicrobial properties that boost your immune system. Tip – look for yellow butter. It is much more nutrient dense and (usually) less processed than white butter. Butter is naturally yellow! Ghee butter is another great option, but is typically on the pricier side.
Many people are fatty-acid deficient today because they eat grain-fed beef. There are little to no fatty acids in grain-fed beef. Grass-fed beef, however, is a wonderful source of necessary fatty acids.
Fish and Fish Oils
Lard and Beef Tallow
Best for cooking at high heats.
The healthiest, most stable oils for cooking and baking are coconut oil, ghee, lard, beef tallow, lamb tallow, and red palm oil. Saturated fats like coconut oil provide the body with quick energy, keep us metabolically active, and help us sustain energy for longer periods of time. For quick sautéing and low simmering, olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, peanut oil, and macadamia oil are great sources of fat. However, these oils need to be used with caution. When looking to buy them, look for “expeller-pressed,” and cook them under 400 degrees. Olive oil is sometimes sold as a combination with other oils that are not safe – like sunflower or canola oil. These oils are most nutritious in their organic, cold-pressed form, drizzled on a salad or added to a smoothie, but should not be heated like olive oil.
As a very general suggestion, use lard and beef tallow for cooking, coconut oil for baking, and olive oil for dressings/dips/extra flavor. Why does all of this matter? if you slowly increase your intake of healthy fats, working toward a more balanced diet, you will lower your chances of having cancer, heart disease, and even depression. Fats are necessary for prolonged energy, cell formation, and even a stronger immune system. So, I leave you with this simple message: Eat More Fat!