Why Low-Fat Doesn't Work
Decades ago, we were (albeit wrongly) sold the idea that eating a low-fat diet would somehow make us healthier, thinner, and thereby happier.
Has it worked? Has any of this happened?
I didn't think so.
All of this was done in an effort by the sugar industry when studies came out in the 1970s that placed sugar in a not-so-good light. The sugar industry knew that if this information made it to the public, they would lose a ton of profits. So, they decided to cleverly demonize fat instead, allowing dietary fat to become the scapegoat for all the ramifications caused by excess sugar in our diets.
Thus began the low-fat era. Skim milk, fat-free cookies, low-fat labeling on every product. But in order to keep food tasting decently well after the fat was removed, something had to be added. And that something happened to be sugar and/or artificial sweeteners.
Our health has greatly suffered from this dogma that is held so near and dear to the hearts of those in conventional nutrition. When we follow a low-fat approach, using fat-free products and fearing foods high in natural fats, we start to develop issues with our cells, neurological health, insulin levels, hormones, and nutrient stores, among many other issues.
Our cells are what make up every aspect of our bodies. Cells form tissues, which form organs, which in turn create organ systems that make up an organism (the human body). If our cells are getting enough healthy fat, the cell membrane suffers, as it is primarily made up of lipids. The cell membrane, in it's optimal state, allows certain substances to pass through the membrane while keeping other harmful substances out. Fat is also utilized in the process of creating ATP, which is energy for our cells.
Our brains need fat to function. Therefore, if we are not eating enough dietary fat and cholesterol, our mental and neurological health will suffer. Why do you think we've also seen an increase in depression, anxiety, and ADHD over the past several decades as our consumption of healthy fat has dropped? It's no coincidence...
If our dietary fat intake is low, that generally means our carbohydrate intake is higher as a result. Plus, if we are actively avoiding fat, those carbohydrates are often in the form of refined, processed carbs from grains (think cereal, granola bars, crackers, etc). These foods are not healthy, and do not help keep our blood sugar stable. When our blood sugar is constantly rising and falling at sharp intervals, our insulin levels have to work in overdrive. Or, if we are eating a lot of processed foods with artificial sweeteners, that can also impact our insulin levels and create a state of insulin resistance. You can read more on blood sugar here. Eating fat keeps us satiated longer, keeping our blood sugar stable throughout the day.
Our hormones need fat and cholesterol to function properly. In fact, cholesterol is the precursor to numerous hormones in the body. If we are avoiding fat, we are setting ourselves up for a host of hormonal issues, including infertility. Our hormones govern our health and life; it makes sense that if our hormonal pathways are skewed, the rest of our health should follow suit.
Vitamins A, D, K, and E are all fat soluble, meaning they need the presence of fat to be absorbed. If we are avoiding dietary fat, our nutrient status of these critical vitamins will suffer. Remember my recent post on Vitamin D? Plus, eating healthy fat with our meals increases nutrient absorption from a myriad of other nutrients found in vegetables.
Of course, there are certain sources of fat that are healthier than others. In general I recommend eating these healthy sources of dietary fat:
Butter, ghee, lard, tallow
Coconut oil, milk, flakes, or butter (all unsweetened)
Avocados, avocado oil
Olives, olive oil
Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, macadamias, and other nuts (raw or dry roasted, NOT roasted in vegetable oils)
Pumpkin, sesame, chia, flax, sunflower, and other seeds (raw or dry roasted, NOT roasted in vegetable oils)
Full fat dairy (plain, full fat yogurt; cheese; whole milk; heavy cream; half and half)
Plus, it is critical to AVOID these toxic fats:
Vegetable oils (canola, soy, cottonseed, safflower, corn, etc)
Partially hydrogenated oils
Fake butter spreads or yogurt butter spreads
Aim for 1-3 servings of fat at each meal. Don't be skimpy! Remember, dietary fat and cholesterol do not make you fat. They help your body to thrive! Oh, and cooking your food in fat does NOT count as your fat for the meal. Add more, trust me,
You can read more about fat in these other articles: