Carbs and proteins are all the rage… And people fail to account for healthy fats: the building blocks for our cell membranes, of your brain, of your body and your health. Consequently, the importance of healthy fats is often neglected.
Another problem: When people think of ‘fat’, they often immediately approach with caution. The lower the fat content, the better, right?
‘Fat’ is that ugly stuff we carry on our stomachs and hips, so we’d better not eat much of it or we’ll get fatter… right? Wrong.
Firstly, dietary fat and subcutaneous body fat are NOT the same thing. The conversion of dietary fat into body fat is a complex process (one which I won’t go into right now).
Secondly, it can be very beneficial for your body to use a proportion of fat for energy production. We don’t need to run off sugar all the time. If you condition your body to become ‘fat adapted’, not only does it burn through the fat you eat more efficiently, but it also means that when you let your body go into a caloric deficit, it will preferentially burn a larger proportion of body fat for energy use.
This gives you a degree of metabolic flexibility that most people don’t have. Because most people eat so many carbohydrates and sugars, and so many inflammatory fats, they become completely inefficient as far as body composition goes. It will make you a great sugar-burner, but switch off your fat-burning machinery. What this means is that even if they are “dieting”, they will struggle to benefit in the way they want to – because their biochemistry is geared against them.
What this means is that when you go into a calorie deficit, you run the risk of bringing blood sugar down too low (hypoglycaemia), , which will stop fat-burning in its tracks and lead to elevations in the stress-hormone cortisol to counterbalance the low blood sugar.
In the pursuit of health and body composition, it’s far more preferable to be a ‘fat-burner’ than a ‘sugar-burner’. If you’re a good fat-burner, then when you go into a calorie deficit, it’s the body fat that is burnt for energy. If you’re a good ‘sugar-burner’, you’ll just burn “weight” and your body won’t distinguish between fat and lean body mass.
We need fat and cholesterol for a number of reasons, such as:
- Proper absorption of nutrients, and vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- Synthesis of hormones (like testosterone, estrogen), bile and vitamin D
- Healthy cell membranes – which control every process in our bodies.
- A healthy immune system
- The proper function of serotonin-receptors in the brain.
- Blood sugar regulation
As you can see, dietary fat is very important.
In fact, we don’t actually require ANY carbohydrates for health and survival, if we don’t get our fix of fats and protein, we cease to function and die!
Before someone jumps on me, and goes in for the kill, this isn’t to say we should never eat carbohydrates – only that technically we do not NEED them, whereas we do need fats.
But as Dr Richard Feinman, a professor of biochemistry, has stated: you can draw the analogy between dietary fat and someone who’s been accused of being a child molestor. “Even if they are found ‘not guilty’, no one wants to allow them to move into their neighbourhood. Suspicion will forever persist”.
Now to the main point of why I started writing this blog post:
It’s very important that you rotate through your dietary-fat sources.
You should be getting as much variation as possible, through your intake of dietary fats, and try to avoid eating the same foods over and over.
It’s very easy to get into a routine where you consistently eat a few specific foods (the ones you enjoy), but this is a sure-fire way to develop a food sensitivity from over-exposure.
Not only that but for optimal physiological functioning, and healthy cell membranes throughout the body, our body requires a healthy balance of fats – saturated fats included, yes!
For instance, the polunsaturated omega 3 fats EPA and DHA are needed for a number of reasons, not least of which are healthy cell membranes and to create an optimal EPA:AA ratio.
This would make it a good reason to eat adequate amounts of oily fish or take a fish oil supplement, if you’re concerned about mercury levels.
But we can’t rely on that alone. We would be missing out on beneficial effects of eating MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) which are abundant in coconut oil, and to a lesser extent ghee/butter.
Equally, if we skimped on olive oil, we’d be missing out on the abundant heart healthy monounsaturated fats like oleic acid, and the phenols (antioxidants) it contains.
Although it kills me to sound like a broken copy of a record we might call ‘The Cliche Nutritionist’, it is very importance to eat a highly varied diet, balanced in many forms of fat, for optimal health and body composition.
Here is a list of some of the healthiest fat sources:
- AvocadosBrazil Nuts
- Coconut Oil
- Fish / Fish Oil
- Flax Seeds (NOT flax oil)
- Macadamia nuts
- Milk (raw, organic)
- Olive Oil
- Pine nuts
Unless you know of a reason why you should avoid one of the above, I would make the effort to consume most of these at some point throughout the week.
A word on saturated fat – The statement “because it contains saturated fat” is NOT a reason to avoid one of the above sources.
However, having a food sensitivity, or suffering from poor digestion after eating one of the above sources IS an appropriate reason for avoidance.
If you care about your health, vitality and body composition, eating a very low-fat diet is a monumental mistake.
To finish up, I feel obligated to note that in this blog post, I’ve only been referring to healthy fats, and I have been endorsing you get ‘enough’ fats, but not that you need to over consume them.
So just to clarify, I’m not suggesting that we go fat-crazy and have a butter-party. Nor am I suggesting that all fats are good.
Although pretty much all natural fats (from real foods) are good for us, the fact remains that many of the fats that exist in the food-like-substances on our supermarket shelves are filled with obscene amounts of unnatural fats: trans-saturated fatty acids… The biggest offender is probably margarine.
TRANS FATS are man-made artificial fats, which resemble something like saturated fats, only they are very harmful for the body. They are made from a complex process of taking vegetable oils and changing the chemical configuration under high heat.
Amongst the many problems associated with trans fats, they lead to: an altered immune system, poor blood sugar management, neurological problems, pregnancy / lactation problems, lower testosterone, an increase in heart disease, and a role in the potential growth of cancers.
If you take nothing else away from this blog post at all, please take this message away: Avoid trans fats completely. They are the worst dietary substance you can consume. And unlike even table sugar, no dosage of trans-fats is safe.
The easiest way to do this is to avoid packaged, processed foods and fill your kitchen with single-ingredient foods.
The trick usually lies in asking yourself this question: “Would my great-great-grandpa have known what this food is?” If not, well … doesn’t that tell you something?
Book a FREE Transformation Session / Nutritional Appointment if you’d like to chat about nutrition with Jack or plan a strategy to focus on your goals.