If someone were to tell me several years ago that I would be writing a blog on how wonderful fat is, I would have thought they were crazy! I used to believe that fat was the enemy, and we needed to avoid it like a plague. No wonder, since what we’ve been brainwashed to believe is that fat is evil and the root of high cholesterol and heart disease. It’s even what I was taught in school when studying to become a dietitian! If you really think about it though, where has this “fat is the enemy” mindset gotten us? Since the late 1970’s, low-fat and fat-free foods have been the highlight of the grocery store aisles. With the best of intentions, we diligently cut out fat from our diets and coincidentally have packed on more and more pounds, obesity and cancer rates have all increased, heart disease is still the #1 killer in women and men, children are becoming diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes at a younger age, and the rate of Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly is increasing—all despite cutting out fat from our diets.
So let’s ask ourselves, how has our fat-phobia been working for us? Is cutting fat out of our diets the solution to our problem, or is cutting out fat in our diets the reason why we have all of these problems?
The truth is, our body works best when we incorporate healthy fat into our daily lives, and consume a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates (PFC) every 3-4 hours.
Yes, I am a Registered Dietitian and I am encouraging you to consume fat every 3-4 hours every single day. Here are six reasons why:
1. Fat keeps us full. Since our culture often focuses on counting calories, fat is the first thing to be eliminated in the diet because it’s higher in calories than carbohydrates or proteins. Good thing the whole calories in, calories out theory is a myth because fat keeps us full! When we consume fat, we send a signal to our brain that we’re full and can stop eating. Low-fat diets leave us feeling deprived, hungry and often times with intense food cravings. Our clients tell us they end up eating less and feeling better when they add fat back into their diet.
2. Fat supports brain function. Our brains are made up of 60% fat, so when we are on low-fat diets, we aren’t able to feed our brains what they need. Have you ever noticed that when you skip out on fat, you aren’t able to think as clearly? That’s because our brain needs fat for fuel! I remember when I added fat back into my diet I was more successful in school because I was able to think more clearly and focus since I was feeding my brain the good quality fat it’s designed to run on.
3. Fat doesn’t make us fat. Every time we eat a carbohydrate it turns into sugar in the bloodstream. Our pancreas then secretes insulin (our fat-storing hormone) to bring that sugar to our cells so that we can use it as energy. If we have excess sugar in our body, it gets stored as fat which leads to undesirable weight gain. On the other hand, protein and fat act as carbohydrate “buffers” by keeping our blood sugars from spiking, and allowing our pancreas to secrete glucagon (the fat-burning hormone). So undesirable weight gain isn’t a result of consuming too much fat—it’s a result of too many carbohydrates in too little time, too often. I’m not encouraging you to eliminate all carbohydrates (we need them too!), I’m suggesting you focus on fruits and vegetables as your main carbohydrate sources, and consume every carbohydrate with a protein and a fat source (PFC!). This combination helps keep blood sugars stable, allowing those extra fat stores to be burned and pounds to come off.
4. Fat reduces inflammation. Inflammation is the root cause of all chronic diseases. We have been told over and over again that saturated fat causes heart disease, but new research shows that saturated fat is not the problem. What causes inflammation are behaviors such as consuming refined carbohydrates, sugar, trans fats, processed oils, constant stress, lack of sleep and over-exercising (yes, too much exercise can be harmful!). When we have inflammation, our body focuses on healing that inflammation instead of doing what we want it to do — like rid the excess weight, sleep better at night, clear up acne, or have more energy throughout the day. Inflammation can stand in the way of reaching our goals, so fat is fabulous because it comes to the rescue and helps heal the existing inflammation in our body.
5. Fat is important for immunity. Every cell in our body is covered with a layer of fat to protect it, so when our healthy fat consumption is lacking, the fat layer around the cell can become cracked and brittle. This creates openings for pathogens and toxins to enter, resulting in the common cold, fevers, and even cancer. Fat is important since it acts as a shield, protecting your body from harmful invaders, whereas protein and carbohydrates don’t have this ability. Make friends with fat to build a strong immune system and fight off any sickness from developing.
And last but not least…
6. Fat reduces cravings! When we cut out fat, it’s common to have an increase in hunger and cravings. Not only because fat sends a signal to our brain that we’re full, but also because when fat is removed from a product, sugar (or even worse—artificial sweeteners) is added to replace it. Research has shown that sugar can be even more addicting than cocaine, (YIKES!) so restricting fat and consuming low-fat products just sets you up for endless cravings. Hundreds of our clients have found that adding fat back into their diet caused their sugar cravings to disappear. It really is that powerful! Always go for the full-fat instead of the low-fat or fat-free version.
I do want to point out that not all fats are created equal. Fat can provide the benefits listed above when you consume the right types of fats. Healthy fat sources include avocados, real butter, coconut oil, cheese, nuts and seeds, nut butters, olive oil, cream, etc. These types of fat help heal your body and support your metabolism the most. Fats to avoid include trans fats (listed as partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oil on the nutrition label), refined oils such as soybean oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil, margarine, miracle whip, store-bought baked goods, Cool Whip, and more. These types of fats cause damage and inflammation in our body (which is exactly what we want to avoid!). Check out our (FREE) Getting Started Guide for a list of the good fats vs. bad fats.
So how can you reap the benefits of fat? Add butter to your vegetables (it’ll help the kids eat more vegetables, too!), or top your salads with sliced avocado. Replace your processed vegetable oils with olive oil or coconut oil, or have heavy whipping cream in your morning coffee instead of a sugar-loaded coffee creamer. If you’re nervous, start by simply adding a tablespoon or two of healthy fat to your meals and snacks. It’s time we overcome our fear of fat and make it our friend—you will be surprised how much better you feel!
How do you plan on incorporating more fat into your diet?