There is a popular misconception that “if you eat fat, you’ll get fat” – but this is actually not true; eating fat is an essential part of a healthy diet.
How the Body Works…
Our bodies were metabolically designed to use fat sources as the preferred form of energy. Fat is broken down by the body into fatty acids that can be used and stored as for fuel when blood glucose levels are low. Eating a diet with adequate amounts of fat keeps us feeling full for longer periods of time, and also keeps our blood sugar levels stable.
When we take fats out of the diet, and instead replace them with carbohydrates (in the form of sugars, refined and unrefined carbs), our body burns through fuel more quickly, blood sugar tends to spike and dip more rapidly, and we eat more because we are not left feeling satiated after meals. All these excess carbs that are eaten create excess blood glucose, which when unused is converted into triglycerides in the body and stored as fat.
When the body is hyperglycaemic and insulin dominant (from eating all those carbs), fat sources are not used for fuel as insulin resistance hinders the breakdown of fats (lipolysis) into energy. The misconception “if you eat fat, you’ll get fat” has influenced people to cut fat from their diet, resulting in them eating more sugar and (mostly) processed carbohydrates, which has affected their blood sugar and appetite and ensured they can only burn sugar for fuel. Many people are now also facing diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and obesity – both linked to excess sugar (read carbs) in the diet.
On a cellular level, poor or low fat diets are detrimental because they lack the essential amino acids needed to build healthy cells. Good fats (saturated, monounsaturated and some polyunsaturated fats from quality sources) in the diet are an essential tool for building a strong healthy body.
Yes that’s right – SATURATED fats are actually good for us. They were wrongly vilified in the 1960’s and 70’s in America when scientists were trying to find a cure for heart disease. Some questionable studies and a few government lobbyists later, and the USDA had officially endorsed a low-fat diet, with particular attention to reducing saturated fats, commonly found in animal products like meat, eggs, butter and cheese. You can read more about how this all panned out in The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz.
Even Time Magazine agrees; in 2014 they published a cover story telling people it was safe to ‘eat butter’ again. Many other mainstream media outlets have followed, but there is still a general consensus amongst folks that fat is bad and makes us fat.
There are certainly fats that are less than ideal. Trans fats such as the hydrogenated polyunsaturated oils used to make margarine, deep fry take-away food and bake any number of processed foods are not good for us. Polyunsaturated oils such as canola, soy, cotton-seed, etc go through an intensive chemical process (hydrogenation) to make them shelf stable. These fats are toxic to the body and interfere with the roles fatty acids play within a healthy body. Trans fats have also been linked to an increase in cholesterol in the blood, an increase in heart disease, and an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases.
So go ahead – order a full-fat latte, butter up your veggies, and eat the fat from your steak!