Don’t Fight the Good Fat

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“Everything in moderation” – A phrase I’ve heard quite a bit these days. But that’s not really true is it? Take broccoli for example. Have you ever heard someone say to practice moderation with broccoli?  Me neither. Truthfully, moderation applies to items we consume that are bad for us in limited or large amounts – sugar, alchohol, sugar, refined (and I would argue unrefined) grains, sugar…You get the idea.

We’ve been sold an idea in the United States that’s proven to be very detrimental to our health – this idea that eating “low fat” will actually make you store less fat on your body and make you healthier. It began with a seemingly obvious assumption, fat makes you fat. Then it perpetuated in a misinterpretation of some meta-analysis and became so mainstream that it changed the way an entire society thought about food. The truth has always been out there, but it’s voice was much quieter than the masses that followed the trends.  Definitely quieter than the pharmaceutical companies stacking money made from cholesterol drugs.

If you also fell prey to the low fat, high carbohydrate diet, you’ll find no judgement here. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many low fat products have lined my fridge and pantry – processed cheeses, “light” yogurts, “healthy” granola bars. The truth is, these products did nothing for my actual health, not the good kind anyway. They certainly weren’t beneficial for my waistline either, as I was hoping at the time. Truth: fat doesn’t make you fat, carbohydrates do. When you eat a quick burning fuel like sugars or grains, you’re body experiences a spike in insulin levels while converting them to sugars your body can use.  If your body can’t use all the sugar immediately, it’s stored in fat cells, usually around your waist. When this process happens over and over again, it causes hormone problems in our body and a resistance to energy inducing insulin. These hormone irregularities and excess sugar storage certainly translate to weight gain, but more troubling than that, they result in so many of the health problems on the rise today. I’m not saying we should cut carbohydrates entirely, but I am saying we generally consume so much more of them than our body can use.  I’m also saying we should try to get the bulk of them from vegetables and fruit, and practice strict moderation where grains and sugar are concerned.

By all means, eat more fat! Moderation doesn’t really apply to fat, as long as you choose your fat wisely.  If you need some research-based reasons to add more fat to your diet, neurologists are coming up with quite a list for you these days. It seems that because the brain runs on fat (it is the “fattiest” organ in your body), a low fat diet is linked to:

  • Dementia & Memory Loss
  • Depression
  • ADD

You can find a more extensive list, as well as a thorough and fascinating explanation of good vs. bad fats in the current issue of Mother Earth News.

If you need more reasons to add some good fats to your diet, don’t just do it for your brain do it for your body. My favorite reason to eat fat, it’s very satiating. When I cut grains and dairy from my diet, I have to admit, I was hungry for a while. Mostly because I had to learn how to eat correctly. Once I realized I could eat all the veggies I wanted and increased my protein, the hunger pains started to go away. What really made the most difference was adding fat to my diet.  I started eating things I had never enjoyed before. I didn’t have to make myself do it either. My body was asking for them and enjoying them. I was eating egg yolks and bacon. Both would have made me gag not long before. My hunger was gone too. There are many other reasons your body, not just your brain, is asking for good fats too:

  • Your amazing body knows how to convert fat to energy
  • Healthy metabolism – helping your body burn fat instead of lean muscle
  • Absorption of nutrients – like the fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K

Another truth about fat is that it is a complex topic, due to the many different types of omega 3 fats (includes DHA) and omega 6 fats and the ratios that are beneficial to our body. I’m attempting to make a tricky topic a quick and easy read here, but I will include a list of books below that have been helpful in understanding fats and carbohydrates in our house, if you’d like more information.

So what fats are “good” fats? I’m glad you asked. Before you read the list, know that pastured animals and their byproducts are, across the board, significantly higher in omega 3 fats. I’m talking well over 3 times the amount than industrial raised meat and poultry. This means the ratio of omega 3 fats to omega 6 fats is much better for our bodies. While they may be more expensive at the store now, if we vote with our dollars (definitely use local producers when possible), they should become the norm and less expensive in the future.  I have to constantly remind myself, that I pay now or I pay later when it comes to my health.  In my case, the “later” came when I was just over 30 years old in the form of an autoimmune disease. Here are some fats your body and brain will thank you for.

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  • olive oil
  • dairy, eggs and meat from grass-fed animals – Yes! You can eat IMG_20151017_144957829bacon and sausage, but choose those not cured with nitrates and nitrites.
  • wild game
  • wild, cold-water fish
  • nuts
  • seeds – Chia (whole) and flax seeds (ground) are our favorites and easy to add to a smoothie.
  • coconut oil – least processed, solid
  • avocados

Try to avoid:

  • vegatable oils – corn, soybean, canola
  • sunflower oil
  • hydrogenated fats and oils

Following is a list of resources that have helped our family evolve our position on fats and food in general.  As always, research and knowledge are ever evolving as well. What I’ve said above is to the best of my knowledge at this time. Where do you stand on fat? What is your favorite way to incorporate it into your day? Please help us continue evolving by commenting below. We love to hear from you!

Enter the Zone and other books/products by Dr. Barry Sears

The Great Cholesterol Myth by Jonny Bowden and Stephen Sinatra

Grain Brain and Brain Maker by Dr. David Perlmutter

The works of Weston A. Price and the Price-Pottenger Foundation

The documentary The Perfect Human Diet

Or try this yummy breakfast full of good for you fats – {New Year Breakfast}~Avocado Egg Bowl.