Before you read any further, this is a pro-fat post.
If you don’t buy into the premise that dietary fat is good for you, and IS NOT directly related to fat you store in your body, then you might as well not read the rest of this entry. As my nutrition education has expanded, I’ve learned that fat you eat doesn’t necessarily equate with fat storage around your body.
I won’t go into exhaustive detail (maybe in future posts) about how we got to where we are with “low-fat” food being pushed as the healthy alternative, but I will dedicate a moment or two to it.
If you want to point to a single “watershed” moment in low-fat history, look no further than 1977, and the publishing of the, “Dietary Goals for the United States.” Among other things, a noteworthy recommendation in this report was a call for increased carbohydrate consumption and reduced fat consumption. This was the government’s call for Americans to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, and fish. This was also the official recommendation to eat less meat, eggs, and high-fat foods. With low-fat and reduced-fat being the official endorsement of the Federal Government, a whole new marketing strategy (for food manufacturers) was born.
Here is how that process went…
- Take a food item that tastes good and remove the fat.
- The result – the food tastes awful.
- Take the new awful tasting item and pump it full of sugar.
- The result – the food item tastes good again.
- Take new sugary food item and slap a big fat “Reduced Fat” logo on it.
The 1977 report was the Federal Government’s attempt to address a growing concern over coronary heart disease cases. The recommendations in the report were based on conclusions drawn from a study by Ancel Keys in the 1950’s. Keys’ research “showed” a correlation between diets high in fat (saturated fat) & cholesterol and instances of coronary heart disease. Correlation somehow morphed into causation, and all of a sudden, dietary fat was a demon and had to be destroyed.
This was a big deal. The Keys study (which is now HIGHLY scrutinized as being incomplete and drawing incorrect conclusions) shaped our nutrition perception and policy for the next many decades.
Thirty years later, we have an obesity epidemic.
The good news is that a whole host of new evidence and research is showing that dietary fat isn’t bad for you, but, is actually good for you. As a matter of fact, the entire Ketogenic diet philosophy centers around a diet consisting of about 70% fat.
Now that we’ve painted a quick picture about how dietary fat isn’t necessarily bad for you, the question that inspired this post is – what fat should I eat?
The actual amount of fat you should consume really depends on the diet approach or philosophy you want to follow. The following is really just a breakdown of WHAT fat you should target in your diet.
Here is a list of the different types of fat:
- Monounsaturated Fats
- Polyunsaturated Fats
- Triglycerides & Fatty Acids
- Saturated Fats
- Trans fats
Oils and fats that are high in saturated fatty acids (SFA’s), and/or monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA’s) should be your go-to fats. These guys are anti-inflammatory and less prone to oxidation. Oxidized fats = free radicals wreaking havoc in your system and leading to arterial wall plaque build up and cell membrane damage. So, in general, we should aim to put stuff in our feed hole that DO NOT let free radicals have the run of the house.
When it comes to cooking, the following fats are you best bets in terms of low-oxidation risk:
- Coconut oil
- Beef tallow
- Olive oil (not extra virgin)
- Extra virgin olive oil has a very low smoke point. Use EVOO for cold applications like drowning your salad.
Good saturated oils/fats include (but aren’t limited to):
- Coconut Oil
- Cocoa Butter
Good monounsaturated oils/fats include (but aren’t limited to):
- Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- Avocado oil
- Goose fat
- Bacon fat
Good foods from both of those groups include:
- Venison and other game meats
- Organ meats (ex: liver)
- Macadamia nuts
***Its worth noting that your animal products (butter, cream, etc) are best consumed if they are grass-fed. Certainly a topic for another discussion, but if your animal making the milk is eating an inflammatory diet of corn & soy, their milk (and meat) will not offer the same benefits as those eating their natural grass diet***
MCT’s (medium chain triglycerides) are another chain of fatty acids you should put into the rotation. MCT’s are used pretty quickly by the body for energy. This is why MCT oil is a key ingredient in Butter Coffee. Here is a good article from Dr. Josh Axe on the benefits of MCT oil, and how to use it in cooking and/or everyday life.
Fats you should LIMIT/CONTROL include polyunsaturated fats (PUFA’s). Fats/oils you should AVOID include trans fats (not the ones that occur naturally in animals). Luckily, trans fats have been getting a heavy dose of poor attention, and most people are aware to avoid them. In addition, the food marketers have jumped onto that trend and try to advertise that their food has “zero trans fats.” If something you are about to eat has any type of, “…partially hydrogenated oil…” – RUN AWAY.
PUFA’s are a little less cut and dry. Healthy PUFA’s are worth the trouble to sort through, but the processed PUFA’s give the group a bad name. These guys are highly susceptible to oxidation not only from heat, but also exposure to air, light, and/or moisture. Given that, the safer route might be to steer clear (as it pertains to the processed oils). I personally look to 100% avoid any of the PUFA oils. If you want to do the same, be very wary of a lot of the food you buy at the store – start reading labels, and you’ll probably see some of these oils being used (soybean oil seems to be in everything nowadays). Since heat is a big part of the oil production process, these guys are probably “dead on arrival” when they hit the shelf. That is why they are best to avoid.
- Canola oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Corn oil
- Soybean oil
- Vegetable oil
- Walnut oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Sesame oil
- Peanut oil
- Sunflower oil
- Margarine – you should NEVER EAT THIS STUFF. Use real butter.
- Flaxseed oil
As for foods high in PUFA, let me break it down into two categories – fish and nuts/seeds.
Fish is a great natural and healthy PUFA. You should eat fish and fish oil. Aim for wild rather than farmed (same reasoning as why you want grass-fed animal stuff). Eat, eat, eat! It’s also a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids which we need to get from external sources (we can’t create that or Omega-6 in our body – we have to eat it). Omega 3 and Omega 6 is a discussion for another day.
Regardings nuts/seeds, and their derivative butters, if you want to keep consuming these (and you should to a degree) your best bet is to not expose them to situations where they will potentially oxidize. You might want to keep them refrigerated, and keep them in airtight containers. Making your own homemade nut butter is a great way to control the process, and isn’t as hard as you’d think.
- Poppy Seeds
- Flax Seeds
- Chia Seeds
- Brazil Nuts
So, to sum it all up. Fat is back, and it’s better than ever!