If you’re under the impression that dietary fat is “bad” for you, or makes you fat, you’re probably on par with most Americans. This belief is buried so deep in our culture, that it’s taking a very long time to shift the narrative, despite good scientific evidence. We now know that the demonization of dietary fat, came from some very poorly done research, in the 80’s. New research shows that certain types of fats like trans fats, are indeed harmful, but saturated fats and cholesterol, may not be as harmful to heart health, as we’ve been lead to believe. There is certainly more nuance than putting all saturated fats in the “bad” bucket. In regards to the impact of fat on body composition, numerous clinical trails show more weight loss in those who ate more fat and less carbohydrates, vs a low fat and higher carbohydrate diet. Clinical trials show repeatedly, that the higher fat/ lower carbohydrate participants, felt more satiated and satisfied with their food choices.
Although the majority of people will have better results on lower carb, moderate to high fat diets, it’s not always the case. There’s always room for individuality with diet and it’s good to keep an open mind and non-dogmatic approach. There is a vast range for carbohydrate intake. To give you a general idea, the average American diet consists of about 250 grams of carbs per day. A ketogenic (very low carb) diet, is roughly 20 grams per day. As you can see, there is much room for personal variation. One doesn’t need to be on a ketogenic diet to reap benefits from a “low carb” diet.
Typically, when you decrease fats in the diet, you naturally increase carbohydrates and possibly protein. Fat, protein and carbohydrates (macronutrients) are what comprise the caloric content of every food, in varying ratios. Therefore, by process of elimination, when you remove or decrease one of these three calorie sources, the others will likely increase.
Below I’ve listed off a few thoughts on why dietary fat doesn’t make you fat and why this important nutrient, needs to be eaten in adequate amounts. I would really encourage you to CHECK OUT THIS ARTICLE for more detail. The more you understand about a topic, the easier it becomes to grasp the concept of “why,” and when you know why you’re doing something, making changes to support the “why,” are much easier!
1. Refined Carbohydrates, Insulin And Weight
These days, carbohydrates are usually found in a processed forms like cereal, bread, pasta, muffins, crackers, granola bars, bagels, wraps, etc. Boxes and bags will tout “Healthy Whole Grains” and “Heart Healthy.” If you look at the majority of said foods, you’ll notice that they’re all processed grain products, which are refined carbohydrates. If it’s made of flour, it’s a highly processed food. A whole grain, is in fact, an intact whole grain (like brown rice, corn or rolled oats)! Refined carbohydrates like those mentioned, tend to raise blood sugar higher and faster, compared to unprocessed carbohydrates, like fruits, starchy veggies and unprocessed whole grains. How does this relate to weight gain? Put most simply, when blood sugar raises, your body secretes a hormone insulin, to push the sugar into the cells. Insulin is a “fat storage” hormone. Insulin tells your body to use the sugar in your blood for energy, instead of using fats (dietary or body fat). When you consistently eat too many refined carbohydrates, your body becomes dependent on using carbohydrates/ sugar for fuel.
Best analogy I’ve heard:
Carbohydrates (especially from processed foods) are like the kindling when you build a fire. They burn right away, very quickly, and then the fire goes out. Fat is like the log you would put on the fire, to keep it burning long and slow.”
If you think about what type of fuel (carb or fat) your body prefers to burn during most of the day, it’s easy to see why eating more fat is advantageous. At rest and low intensity exercise, the body prefers to burn fat for fuel. When your heart rate increases with more intense exercise, it switches to burning more carbs for fuel. Now think, what percentage of the day are we at rest or low exercise output? For the majority of people, the answer is most of the day, if not all. We should be feeding our body the fuel it prefers to burn, at low output.
2. Fat Soluble Vitamins
You need fats to absorb many of the essential vitamins and proteins, found in your food. Some of these nutrients are only absorbable when fat is present. You can eat all the vitamins you want from your super awesome salad, but you better put some olive oil, nuts or avocado on it, if you want to reap the benefits!
3. Feeling Full
Fats keep you satiated. It delays the stomachs’ emptying rate, so your nutrients are released slower over time. It keeps your blood sugar more stable and starves off cravings for sugar and carbs.
4. Many Vital Functions
Fats are needed for healthy brain function, hormone production and regulation, and cell generation and function.
If you’ve been eating a low-fat diet and not reaching your weight or health goals, consider switching things up and including more healthy fats and less processed carbohydrates. It’s important to note, that simply adding more healthy fats into a diet, full of refined carbohydrates, in a terrible and possibly dangerous idea. If you want to shift macronutrient ratios in your daily diet, try reducing the processed grain and sugar products, possibly replacing with more starchy vegetables and fruits, and adding more healthy fats and proteins. For example, if you eat cereal for breakfast, switch it out for a smoothie made with berries, protein powder and coconut milk, or an egg based breakfast with some veggies, like this one.
Here are a few more ideas for breakfast.