Busting the Myths about Fat
Yes, it’s true, fat is an essential macronutrient necessary to keep the human body running efficiently. Many still believe that low fat is a healthy option since it has been promoted for at least 50 years by mainstream and government as the way to eat healthy.
Dietary fat has long been the bastard child of the macronutrients but is slowly regaining favor. The popularity of fat is increasing due to education and the availability of scientific data to most anyone.
Eating ample portions of natural (healthy) fat will allow the body to use fat as a fuel instead of carbohydrates. This makes it an excellent nutrient to promote fat loss. Combining this with a well designed strength and conditioning training program can build muscle while shedding body fat.
Consider these fat facts:
- Solid scientific evidence is readily available documenting the many benefits of fat intake. See resources at bottom.
- More is now known about how the body functions in relation to fat and solid evidence shows that a low carbohydrate diet is anti-inflammatory.
- It is evident that natural saturated fat is not only not harmful but essential to health.
- Both saturated and unsaturated fats play key roles in healthy cellular function.
- Fat aids in absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
- Average human stores more than 40,000 calories worth of fat and approximately 2,000 calories worth of glycogen or carbohydrate fuel.
- Creates satiety, flavor and texture.
Sources of healthy fats: almonds, almond butter, almond milk, almond oil, avocado, avocado oil, grass fed beef tallow, blue cheese, brazil nuts, grass fed butters, ghee, most full fat and raw milk cheeses, chicken fat(free range), coconut oil and coconut butter, fish oil, ghee, full fat yogurt, organic heavy whipping cream, lard from natural raised pork, tallow from grass fed cows, macadamia nuts, olive oil, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, sour cream, sunflower seeds, walnuts, brazil nuts, mayonnaise, eggs, bacon, duck fat. Coconut oil, being a medium chain fatty acid does not get stored in the body and is immediately used as a fuel.
Avoid or reduce: fat from conventional grain fed animals, farm raised fish, refined polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as corn, soybean, canola, safflower, cottonseed, peanut, grapeseed. Avoid all synthetic trans fats. Small amounts of natural trans fats are in butter and animal fats but are not harmful.
I frequently get asked what kinds of oil or fats are the healthy ones and what types to cook with. In reference to the chart below, once the temperature passes the smoke point the oil starts to break down and oxidize into some nasty compounds that should not be in the human body. For high heat cooking choose the ones with the highest smoke points. Extra virgin oils and butter should not be used at high heat and are best used on already cooked foods.
Smoke Points Of Healthy Fats
Adapted from “The Paleo Cure” where one will find the most common healthy fats and oils listed from highest smoke point to lowest.
Fat Smokepoint Avocado 520 Ghee 485 Olive oil (extra light) 468 Palm oil 455 Coconut Oil (expeller pressed) (refined) 450 Macadamia oil 413 Beef tallow 400 Duck fat 375 Lard (pork fat) 370 Coconut oil (extra virgin) 350 Olive oil (extra virgin) 320 Butter 250-300
How to get more fat
Quality of dietary fat is critical. Try to get some quality fat in every meal and snack. This will lower glycemic response by slowing digestion while also creating a feeling of fullness. Use olive oils and avocado oils on salads and soups. When eating animal based fats look for pastured and naturally raised sources. Cold water fatty fish and other seafood should be wild caught and preferably at the bottom of the food chain in order to avoid toxins (sardines, herring and anchovies). Use fat when cooking vegetables to allow fat soluble vitamins to be absorbed. Eat the skin and fat on fish, meat and chicken.
Embrace fat as an essential nutrient and adapt it as an efficient fuel source. Athletes are especially enhanced by fueling with quality fat sources. If weight loss is your goal then a low carbohydrate, medium protein, high fat ratio diet will get the results. It is also important to aim for an omega 3 to omega 6 ratio of 1 to 1. This is almost an impossibility with modern food sources but one can be more aware of this by choosing fat sources more carefully. An optimal dose of omega 3’s would be about 1 gram per day of EPA/DHA combined. This is equivalent to about 1 serving of fatty fish per day.
Table of smoke points adapted from “The Paleo Cure”, Chris Kresser
Teicholz, N. (2014)The Big Fat Surprise: Why butter, meat and cheese belong in a healthy diet,
NY,NY, Simon and Schuster
Walsh, B (2014, June 23). Don’t blame fat. Time Magazine, pgs 28-35.
Moore, Jimmy, Westman, Eric, MD (2014) Keto Clarity, Las Vegas, Victory Belt Publishing Inc.
Volek, Jeff S., Phinney, Stephen D. (2012) The Art And Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance
Kresser, C. (2013). The Paleo Cure. New York, Little, Brown and Company.
Photo by Steven Ashton