There are myths about…well…pretty much everything. A common food-related myth is that fat is enemy #1 because it makes us fat and sick, and thus should be avoided at all costs. Well, I have some news for you folks. This is indeed just a myth (as most myths are)!
If we dive into the science side of food for a minute, we learn that there are three primary classes of major nutrients that our food is composed of; called “macronutrients”:
Now let’s consider the thought that if food is naturally composed of these three macronutrients, then doesn’t that mean we should be consuming them all?
We NEED fat just like we need protein and carbohydrates. These macronutrients are the primary building blocks for our body. Without all three building blocks, we are not fully complete, or in the health and wellness world – fully thriving!
It is only in recent decades that we were told fat is bad and makes us sick and fat. If we think back to the last pie we had at our grandmother’s house, there is a good chance there was probably lard in there. Do you remember the can of lard that sat by the stove that was used over and over again to cook with? We have been consuming fat for generations! It is an inherent part of our diet, and we need fat just like we sunshine and fresh air.
So what does fat do for us?
- Provides twice the energy of other macronutrients (protein & carbs)
- Largely responsible for the taste of food
- Highly satiating, which decreases our cravings for other “bad” foods
- Provides structure to bodily cells
- Strengthens and support body tissues
- Improves immune function
- Contributes to healthy and balanced blood cholesterol levels
- Assists in proper cellular communication
- Maximizes health of body tissues including skin
- Improves insulin sensitivity, balancing hormones
- Reduces inflammation
Now, as with most things, we can’t have the good without the bad. While there are fats we should absolutely embrace in our diets, there are also fats that we should be wary of. Why?
Bad Fat Facts:
- Place stress on the body by creating free radicals (cell damagers)
- Clogs arteries
- Increase LDL cholesterol (the bad one)
- Cause systemic inflammation, brain fog, low energy
- Increases risk of disease
- Animal fats from grass-fed, pastured animals
- All things coconut
- Grass fed butter and ghee
- Eggs from pastured poultry
- Full fat yogurts and kefir
- Dark chocolate
- Olive oil
- Nuts and seeds
- Hydrogenated oils
- Pretend butters and spreads
- Canola oil
- Safflower and sunflower oil
- Soybean oil
- Corn oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Vegetable oils
For those that are still hesitant, let’s debunk a few more fat myths.
“Fat makes you fat.”
Nope! Fat does NOT make you fat. When we denote a body shape as “fat,” we are referring to the accumulation of yes, body fat. However, body fat and dietary fat are not one and the same. Body fat is actually created when extra carbohydrates are stored in the body. Soooooo carbohydrates make us fat? That is another story for another day my friends!
“Fat increases cholesterol.”
This is a bit of a mixed message because fat CAN increase cholesterol. However, it is the BAD types of fat that are responsible for this. These bad fats clog arteries, which in turn leads to heart disease. On the other hand, increasing healthy dietary fat consumption actually reduces the level of blood triglycerides, thus improving heart health.
“Fat should be carefully portioned out so we don’t eat too much.”
Again, the answer is both yes and no.
We can consume too much of the WRONG types of fat (see list of bad fats above), which can be detrimental to our health.
On the other hand, eating too much of the RIGHT types of fat can be beneficial for some. This high-fat style of eating can put us into a state called ketosis, where the body burns fat instead of sugar for fuel. Some people intentionally adapt a high-fat diet with the goal of ketosis as there are many health benefits, including weight loss, improve mental health, boost energy, stabilize blood sugar, decreased food cravings, balanced hormones and much more. *That being said, the keto diet may not be for everyone. Remember, just because something works for your best friend, neighbour, coworker or spouse, doesn’t mean it will work for you!
All in all, I’m not suggesting that we go out and binge on bacon or avocados (although both are delightfully scrumptious!), I’m simply spreading the message that fats should not be feared as we have come to fear them. Rather, they should be openly and happily enjoyed as part of a healthy, balanced diet. So get out there and cook with butter, grab a handful of nuts as a snack, or eat a whole avocado at once. It’s okay – (good) fat is good!