I find it hard to believe that these days with the amount of research and clinical data available that people still think eating “low-fat” is the way to go. I know, it’s hard to believe that a generous portion of fat is exactly what you need for better health and better weight control… especially after we’ve been force fed the “Low-Fat” story for so long. The evidence against Low-Fat diets is irrefutable and is finally making its way out of the shadows and into the mainstream, but for some Low Fat still has its claws buried deep in their collective psyche. I’m not going to bore you with a bunch of technical details because there is just so much information out there. If we just look at Tim Noakes’ legal battle and the absolute mountain of evidence in the form of case studies and research papers brought forward in his defence, it’s a no-brainer to put down the popular name-brand Low-Fat breakfast “Health” yogurt bar and slowly realize that maybe bacon really is your friend after all (no vegans were harmed in the making of that joke).
I know that this is probably as far as many readers will get before moving on to something else so before you go, let me skip to the end and say this, “Eat good fat and eat a lot of it, stop eating grains and processed carbs and you’ll dodge all those age-related diseases that scare the pants off you”.
Fat keeps you happy. Happiness is a function of your brain and your needs being met. Good fats help both. Fat, especially essential fatty acids like DHA, are crucial for mood stability.
To put it quite simply, Low-Fat and Calorie Restriction diets are making you fat… or should I maybe say, fatter?
Say what?! Yup, seems that finally the role of your individual metabolism and the fact that calories from different food groups are dealt with in vastly different ways is making its way into the realm of common sense.
I know we’re talking about losing fat here, but let’s just add a little fact about cancer just in case fat loss isn’t your driver. Ever heard of Otto Warburg? He’s the 1930’s German Nobel laureate who blew the lid off cancer research and was able to figure out the metabolic processes inside us that give Cancer wings. He is quoted as saying, “the prime cause of cancer is the replacement of the respiration of oxygen in normal body cells by a fermentation of sugar.” Need I say more?
I get it, the average person doesn’t have the inside scoop on how the Kreb’s Cycle works or a good understanding of the electron transport chain and again, I totally get that with a goal of losing extra fat, a “Low Fat” diet sounds like a smart choice, because after all “you are what you eat” right? BUT (and that’s a big butt…no pun intended) the people in charge weren’t playing fair when they extracted all the fat (through some pretty scary chemical processes) and then dumped a bunch of sugar (often hidden) back into the food to make it taste good….oh yes, and then lied to us about how all that sugar wouldn’t turn into fat (and trigger the TP53 gene to grow cancer) the second our pancreas releases a heap of insulin into our bloodstream to deal with the climbing blood sugar.
Insulin. The more of it you have, the more signals your brain gets to store fat. The more sugar you eat (or wine you drink), the more insulin your body produces and the fatter (and sicker) you get. It’s that simple.
Low-fat foods typically contain more sugars than their full-fat counterparts which is why eating low-fat bread can pack on weight, but eating bacon*, eggs and avocado will trim you down. (*Grass fed bacon without Sodium Nitrite or Potassium Nitrate additives).
If there’s only one take-away from this blog, let it be this: Stop eating low-fat ANYTHING. Always eat the full fat version. The low-fat version comes with a side of Cancer, a side of Infertility or even a splash of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma if you’re lucky.
The other strategy to lose weight is to restrict total calorie intake, but if you restrict calories long-term aka starvation, you end up with symptoms much like those of prisoner in concentration camps:
- Insulin resistance
- Trashed hormones
- Thyroid issues (see hormones above)
- Leptin and ghrelin imbalance (those are the hunger and satiation hormones)
So, even if you lose weight in the short-term, you’ll gain it all back when you go back to eating normal portions again.
Fat stabilizes your blood sugar (low insulin = good) and makes you feel fuller longer, and you won’t need to eat as much or as often if you reach for quality good fats instead of empty carbs and sugary snacks.
Fat also slows the absorption of the carbohydrates that you eat alongside it, keeping blood glucose stable so your pancreas doesn’t release as much insulin as it would if you ate the carbs by themselves. So for example, a piece of bread alone has a higher chance of making your hips a bit wider than that same piece of bread with Almond butter (or peanut butter or plain butter) spread on it.
Fat is good for your heart. In South Africa Cardiovascular disease is predicted to increase by 41% by 2030. Men and woman are equally at risk, but research indicates it might be women that have a higher risk profile.
Carbs = inflammation = heart disease. Heart disease at its core is a disease of inflammation of the cardiac tissue and its arterial supply. I might need to expand a bit here because it is my belief (and a few other very clever people I might add) that inflammation is at the core of ALL chronic disease….and some of the acute diseases too.
Cholesterol protects your heart, too. Researchers measured that with every 30-point reduction in cholesterol, mortality increased 22%. It’s all about HDL’s, LDL’s and Triglycerides. Total Cholesterol doesn’t mean a thing and in the absence of inflammation (sugar, smoking and heavy drinking), the cholesterol isn’t a problem.
There is such a thing as healthy fats: Reach for high-quality fats like medium-chain triglycerides (MCT oil found in coconuts), grass-fed meats, grass-fed butter, nut butters, Avocados, Olive oil and DHA/EPA oil for example.
Around 60% of your brain is made of fat, and around 25% of that is cholesterol! But I thought cholesterol is bad, wrong again. Cholesterol is used to make hormones that keep our bodies functioning in a delicate rhythm. Just like fats, there’s good and bad cholesterol and too much of the bad stuff (in the presence of inflammation) can increase your risk for certain diseases.
Saturated fat is particularly crucial for good brain function. Brain cells have a fatty insulation layer around them that helps the signals travel faster and to keep them going in the right direction. When this layer breaks down (not consuming enough high-quality fats), the symptoms can be very subtle like forgetting why you entered a room or “losing” your sunglasses that are on top of your head. If your HDL cholesterol drops too low, you end up with cognitive decline.
Fat means fewer wrinkles
Many high-quality fat sources provide fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. The fat-soluble vitamins contribute to collagen production, skin tone, and complexion. Eating fat alongside other high-nutrient foods helps you absorb those nutrients, too, which help keep your skin rosy and bright.
Low-fat diets wreck your looks and your hormones
Good fats are a major component of sex hormones, and without them, your body will not make the proper balance of hormones that keep you feeling and looking young.
To function properly, a woman’s body must have enough of the two major sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone is the tough one to maintain, since production drops with aging and the plastics and chemicals that are part of everyday life mimic estrogen in the body often resulting in estrogen dominance and therefore estrogen related diseases.
To maximize progesterone production, your body needs the building blocks to make it. High-quality saturated fats help form progesterone and also helps you absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K to promote fertility.
Women on low-fat diets who have trouble with fertility should look into adding grass-fed butter, egg yolks, and other sources of good, clean, medium-chain triglycerides (MCT oil) to their diets.
The best sources of good fat for women (and men) are:
- Grass-fed red meat
- Grass-fed butter and ghee
- MCT oil
- High quality >70% cacao dark chocolate (watch added sugar)
- Pastured egg yolks
- Krill oil, wild salmon and sardines
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Avocados and avocado oil
- Coconut oil
With a clearer picture of how fat affects your body, you can reach for the guacamole and pile on the butter without worrying that it’ll end up on your thighs. If you feel inclined to, keep a journal of what you’re eating, how you feel, and add in notes on how your clothes fit and how your skin looks. You’ll be surprised!
There’s a lot of emotion and militant behaviour around diet. Should we all be Vegan? Should we follow a Paleo, Banting, Atkins or Carnivorous diet? It’s a highly personal choice and starts to fall into the realm of an individual’s values which is why the debate gets so heated so I’m not even going to start down that road because it’ll be like trying to convince a Christian to convert to Islam or vice versa. These things go to your core beliefs and that’s your choice and your right. It’s also your right to eat food that doesn’t contain poison that’ll trigger gene expression in you that’ll have you scheduling Chemo sessions in your golden years instead of that Mediterranean cruise.
Image credit: Green Healthy Cooking