Why is it that we are obsessed with dietary fat? Unlike our European neighbours we either avoid it like the pneumonic plague, or we over-indulge in it. Go anywhere in France or Italy and you’ll likely never hear anyone tell the waiter to hold the butter (or cheese.)
It’s not that we’re ignorant or in the dark somehow. We have detailed food labels itemizing the type and the amount of fat in a food product. We’re bombarded with endless advice on nutrition, yet we’re still confused when it comes to eating fat.
Here’s the skinny on fat:
MYTH #1: All Fat is Evil:
Not true! Our bodies desperately need fat to function. Without fat, we can not stay alive. There are two fats that deserve our attention:
1. Omega-3 fatty acids: We usually don’t get enough!
Omega-3s are essential fatty acids (EFA’s) meaning they’re essential for our well-being, because our bodies can’t produce them. For this reason, it’s extremely important to eat more foods containing Omega-3.
• Fish oil
• Fax seed oil, flax seeds (make sure you grind first to be easily digestible)
• Chia (salvia) seeds
• Hemp seeds.
• lowers harmful LDL cholesterol
• raises beneficial HDL cholesterol
• prevents blood clots from forming
• inhibits irregular heart rhythms
• decreases risk of heart disease
• supports cognitive health and brain function
2. Healthy Saturated fat: Yes. Some saturated fats can actually promote wellness!
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Saturated fat is dangerously unhealthy. Wrong! For years, experts have told us that we’re eating too much fat—way more than our ancestors, and because of this, our risk for cardiovascular disease is on the rise. At least four studies that JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) reported on, show that the total amount of dietary fat isn’t necessarily linked to disease or weight gain. It’s really the type of fat and the total calories we consume that makes a difference.
Years ago (think back to your grandmothers’ day), the food we ate was “real”. There was no fake butter or imitation cream. Today, there’s a plethora of fake food loaded with man-made hydrogenated fats. Instead of eating natural fats like butter, we’ve opted for margarine. It’s these hydrogenated fats in fake food that are linked to heart disease and cancer.
• coconut oil (butter)*
• cheese (soft, fresh cheeses are generally healthier)
• boosts immune system
• builds strong bones
• stabilizes cholesterol levels
• satisfies to prevent cravings for unhealthy foods
*Tip: use coconut oil like you would butter. Try it on whole-grain toast, in baked goods, or simply melted on steaming hot vegetables. Be sure to choose extra-virgin or expeller-pressed coconut oil for the most health benefits.
Remember, you should still eat these fats in moderation.
Here’s what’s really evil:
Trans-fats are really the only fat we should kiss goodbye. They’re almost always synthetic or artificially produced, and they love to hide in fake food.
Usual Sources of trans-fats (this is not an exhaustive list):
• frozen pizza, snack food and other packaged foods
• deep-fried foods
• bottled salad dressings
• corn oil
• cotton seed oil
• imitation mayonnaise and sour cream
• margarine and other imitation butters or spreads,
• non-dairy cream
Here’s what trans-fatty acids, whether hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated do to our bodies:
• increase body fat
• speed up aging process
• create toxicity in liver
• compromise our immune system
• increase risk for arthritis and auto-immune disease
• increase risk for cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes
MYTH #2: Eating Fat will Make you Fat:
Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, the opposite is true. Eating a balanced diet of whole foods, including healthy fats everyday, can speed up your metabolism and help you burn fat. Eating healthy fat can help you avoid over-eating and end cravings (e.g. for sugar). You will discover that you have more energy and will avoid the lethargic feeling that usually kicks in around 3 pm in the afternoon.
MYTH #3: Eating Low-Fat is Healthier:
Please don’t believe this. Low-fat food products are generally fake or packaged foods. They’re often loaded with sugars, stabilizers, or other fluff ingredients to compensate for the incredible taste that fat provides. A low-fat diet actually increases body fat and deprives your body of vital nutrients. It can even put you at risk for heart attacks and chronic disease. Dieticians of Canada organization reminds us that some foods might be higher in fat, but they’re still a healthy choice. Foods like fish, avocados, nuts, seeds and nut butters. They recommend that we don’t judge a food based on fat alone. Instead, we should read food labels carefully, focusing on nutrient content.
Here’s what a low-fat diet does to your body:
• creates cravings for sugar and other stimulants
• adds fat around your middle
• causes constipation
• sets you up for high blood pressure, chronic degenerative diseases such as: osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, coronary artery disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes
• produces unsightly dry, itchy skin, cracked heels and fingers
• causes brittle nails and thinning hair
The bottom-line: it’s better to eat a little of a full-fat version of a whole food, than choose a fat-free version of a food that has been tweaked by a food manufacturer.