For years there was a common misconception, that fat makes you fat. Well, that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Although fat contains more calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein, eating foods that have more fat will not necessarily make you gain more weight than other types of macronutrients.
Does Fat Make You Fat
In the early 1980’s big manufacturers in the food industry, marketed fear around fat. Low-fat diets were marketed as a way to prevent heart disease and inspire weight loss, when in fact; fat is not the one to be scared of.
This was mainly contrued by and associated with trans fats. Trans fats were found mainly in solid margarines and vegetable shortening. As food manufacturers learned new and innovative ways to use partially hydrogenate vegetable oils, they began appearing in everything from cookies and pastries to fast-food French fries.
The low-fat approach to weight loss became an all-encompassing ideology prescribed by physicians, touted by the government, and smeared across popular media publications and ad campaigns. America as a society accepted the low-fat diet approach, even though there was no definitive or clear scientific evidence in supporting a low-fat diet, in preventing heart disease or weight loss. America was told to drink things like low-fat milk and avoid cheese. Saturated fat in red meat, has been also amongst the demonized, with high levels of red meat being associated with heart disease and high cholesterol.
However current studies suggest that saturated fat, is actually not all that bad.
According to a meta-analysis of 21 different studies conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, there has been no conclusive evidence found that dietary saturated fat, is associated or linked with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, or cardiovascular disease [R].
Saturated fat is a sensitive subject. Despite new research, the USDA Dietary Guidelines and the American Heart Association still recommend limiting your intake and opting for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats instead.
Ironically, the obesity epidemic ensued the same decade. Only until very recently, has there been a significant paradigm shift in the belief that fat is not to be feared, and that a low-carbohydrate diet has been more readily accepted as a way to help with weight-loss and body fat optimization. When you base a diet from calories in and calories out instead of quality of food and balance, it’s easy to think that fat is the enemy, since fat contains nine calories per gram, as opposed to protein and carbohydrates, which only have four calories per gram.
Through a conventional diet approach, you’re led to believe that you need to count your calories in order to lose weight, or that you need to burn more calories, than you take in” when in fact it’s not necessarily about quantity of what you’re eating; it’s about the quality. When you eat quality complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and lean protein, you’d be surprised at how little the calorie count really is.
Why You Need Fat
Fat is a vital macronutrient that provides your body with energy; helps transport vitamins and minerals, and establishes the ability to create cell membranes. Your body needs fat, so severely restricting it, even if you’re trying to lose weight, is never a good idea. If you’re buying non-fat or low-fat foods, then STOP. Fat does not make you fat and you have to stop thinking it does.
For example, when you order non-fat latte from Starbucks, think about quality instead of quantity. The reason you do this, is because you think fat is bad for you, and that fat has more calories, so you should order a latte with non-fat milk. Shift your thinking though!
Instead of ordering a latte with non-fat milk, drink the whole milk it comes with, or replace it with milk from real food, such as nut milk (almond milk, macadamia nut milk, oat milk, or cashew milk). That way you’re still getting the quality fat you need in your diet, which will provide nutrient rich forms of vitamins and minerals. In the long run you’ll create a healthier lifestyle and healthier habits. Sugar free now, that’s a different thing all together and probably how you should order that latte to minimize body fat creation.
What Types Of Fat Should You Eat Of Fat
There are certain fats you should incorporate into your diet and there are certain fats that you should minimize. Choosing high quality, natural, and wholesome foods or real foods, is the main factor and key when choosing the functional foods you eat and fats you should incorporate into your eating habits. Eating a scoop of peanut butter, instead of a donut for example, is always going to be a better choice.
Real food such as peanut butter or nut butter in general is always a better choice because it’s a higher quality food than a donut. It’s derived from a natural source with a minimal amount of processing and added ingredients. Real food helps keep you blood sugar stable, is more nutrient dense, and helps keeps curb your hunger. Donut’s and other processed foods with simple sugars and fast acting carbohydrates, will spike your blood glucose level, and turn those simple sugars, into body fat.
Incorporate high-quality fats through the day, within your meals and snacks. The thing to remember is that high-quality fats naturally exist in many of the foods you already eat, especially meat. If you don’t eat meat, and you are more acclimated to plant-based foods, the consider some of the foods below, to ensure you’re getting quality fats throughout your day.
Nuts (Almonds, Pistachios, Macadamia Nuts, Cashews, Walnuts, Peanuts)
Nut Butter (Peanut Butter, Almond Butter, Sun Flower Seed Butter, Cashew Butter)
Healthy Oils (Butter, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil)
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The Different Types Of Fats
The difference between fats really comes down to the molecular structure of their content. There are three fatty acids, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated. Molecularly, fat is a long-chain of carbon atoms that attracts hydrogen. Chains with less hydrogen are considered ‘unsatured’ and those that have more hydrogen are more ‘saturated’ in nature and classified as saturated fats.
MUFAs are fatty acids with the least amount of hydrogen and known to be the ‘good fat’, such as nuts, olives, and avocados. MUFAs can help control hunger levels and reduce cholesterol levels. They also help your body burn more body fat.
What Are Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAs)
Polyunsaturated fats are a combination of both good fats and bad fats. They typically stay liquid whether in a warm or cold room temperature. Two examples of polyunsaturated fats are Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. The numbers refer to the distance between the beginning of the carbon chain and the first double bond.
Several studies have shown that PUFAs may reduce the risk of heart disease, inflammation, symptoms associated with arthritis, and may have anti-cancer effects. There are three types of omega-3s
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Both types offer health benefits. Omega fatty acids are considered the “healthy fats” and include foods like fatty fish such as salmon, steel head trout, mackerel, and sardines, flaxseeds, walnuts, avocados, canola oil, and un-hydrogenated soybean oil. If you don’t get enough omega-3s in your diet, krill oil is a superior option for omega-3 supplementation.
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Foods rich in linoleic acid (ALA) and other omega-6 fatty acids include vegetable oils such as safflower, soybean, sunflower, flax seeds, canola, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans. Vegans or for those that choose a plant-based diet, have a significantly harder time obtaining enough Omega-3 in their diet. ALA must be converted into EPA and DHA by the liver. However the conversion is rather limited, with rates of less than 15% [R]. Therefore, consuming EPA and DHA directly from foods and/or dietary supplements is the only practical way to increase omega-3 levels.
RELATED ARTICLE What Are Omega-3s Good For
What Is Saturated Fat
Saturated fats are very common amongst a typical American diet. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, such as butter, coconut milk, or the fat found in a piece of bacon. The problem with saturated fat is the common misconception, that dietary saturated fat is harmful to your health, when in reality there’s no evidence that proves saturated fat is actually bad for you. If you were to see a high amount of saturated fat on a nutrition label, you’d probably consider that food to be bad for you, right? Of course, minimizing saturated fat, is still the conensus amongst most healthcare physicians, due to several observational study outcomes.
Observational studies are designed to detect associations but cannot prove causation (cause and effect).
Observational studies also tend to have confounding variables — factors other than the ones being studied that might be influencing the outcome variable. It’s impossible to control all of these variables, and to in fact determine if “red meat” is the true cause of an indicated health outcome.
What Kinds Of Fat Should You Minimize
What Are Trans-Fats
Trans fats are man-made fats and a large contributor to the belief and ideology that fat, makes you fat. Especially prevalent in the mid-century throughout the 1990’s trans fat could be found in foods such as vegetable oils, margarines, and shortening. It’s by far the worst type of dietary fat and is made through a process called hydrogenation that solidifies healthy fats, by transforming them with more hydrogen. By eating foods rich in trans fat, your body increases the amount of harmful Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and decreases the production of beneficial High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Good news for you, as of 2015 the FDA officially removed the GRAS “Generally recognized as safe” status from trans fat, and has now been officially banned in the U.S. Food manufacturers have been given until June 2018 to comply and remove all trans fat from as an ingredient and smaller food companies until July 2019. For now, it’s your responsibility to read nutrition labels and stay away from trans fat.
Does Fat Make You Fat: Takeaway
Fat does not make you fat. Eating healthy quality fats in your diet, will help with overall brain function, as well as keep you healthy. In fact, fat helps hormonal function, memory, and nutrient absorption. You need it. But like everyting, you must have fat, in moderation like your other macronutrients. Avocados, walnuts, fat from a steak, these are healhty fats from nautrally occuring foods.
Dietary fat and body fat are not the same. Naturally occurring fats in whole foods aren’t the problem or source of confusion. These types of fats, or good healthy fats from meat, poultry, nuts, and fruit like avocados, are needed to help your body run at optimal levels. Refined fats, like trans fats and added fats to foods, are what cause problems.
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