Since the 1970’s we’ve been told that fat is the enemy and eating anything with fat will cause weight gain. Unfortunately, that nutrition advice was wrong, and increased the rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and more.
In fact, the obesity epidemic started around the same time as when the government recommend following a low-fat diet. That misleading nutritional advice simply did worse things for our health than good.
A common concern regarding fat is that eating foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat (e.g. eggs or meat) will cause our cholesterol levels to increase. The truth is, our bodies require cholesterol in order to live; that’s why our bodies naturally produce it daily. Cholesterol is a vital part of our brain and nervous system, helps fight off inflammation and wounds in the body, acts as a precursor for Vitamin D, and plays a key role in sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone (1).
Often times we focus primarily on our total cholesterol, but research has found that 75% of hospitalized patients with a heart attack have normal cholesterol levels (2). This shows that cholesterol is not the problem.
Why is fat important for us? Not only can eating fat lead to weight loss by increasing your metabolism, it can also improve your energy levels, balance your blood sugars, improve moods (60-70% of our brain is made up of fat!), reduce inflammation in the body, and support your hormones.
Plus, fat helps to keep us full since it contains more calories per gram compared to carbohydrates or protein. This helps curb sugar cravings as well as helps you avoid the donuts in the breakroom or vending machine at work. In addition, research has found that eating healthy fats can actually help improve your heart health by decreasing triglycerides and increasing HDL (the good cholesterol) (3).
So what fats should we be eating? Below is a list of healthy fats to embrace:
- Butter and ghee (say good-bye to margarine!)
- Chia and flaxseeds
- Coconut oil
- Coconut butter
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Grass-fed, organic dairy and meat
- Nuts & seeds such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds
- Nut butters such as almond, cashew, or natural peanut butter
- Wild caught fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, or herring
It’s important to keep in mind that not all fats are beneficial for us. Certain fats such as trans fats (listed as partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils on an ingredient list) or processed oils such as soybean, canola, cottonseed, and sunflower are stripped from nutrients and can be linked to health problems such as cancer and heart disease. These types of fats should be avoided.
Remember, a balanced and healthy diet consists of good carbohydrates, proteins, AND healthy fats. So, let’s stop treating fat as the enemy and start embracing it! Try these Salmon Baked Avocados for a source of hormone healthy fats!
1. Western A. Price Foundation. myths & truths about cholesterol. 2010. https://www.westonaprice.org/wp-content/uploads/cholesterol.pdf
2. The Huffington Post. Why cholesterol may not be the cause of heart disease. November 2009. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/why-cholesterol-may-not-b_b_290687.html
3. Muller, H. et al. The serum LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio is influenced more favorably by exchanging saturated with unsaturated fat than by reducing saturated fat in the diet of women. J Nutr. 2003; 133(1):78-83.