Is eating fat bad or good for me? Facts and myths about fat
Quick two questions before we start: Are you afraid of full-fat products? Do you buy full-fat or low-fat yoghurt?
I hear this from a lot of my clients; I eat low-fat yoghurt, I drink Diet Coke, I use margarine instead of butter because I think they are better for me – less calories and less cholesterol. Let me tell you straight up – that’s wrong thinking.
But, listen I don’t blame you for thinking that and I will explain why in the story.
Once upon a time in America in the 50s lived a biologist called Ancel Keys. He did seven country studies and from the date he extrapolated from those studies, he single-handedly declared that all fats from meat, cheese, butter and eggs are bad for you. In 1956 the American Heart Foundation decided that the American nation should adopt low low-fat diet.
And fat has been demonised ever since. The stigma still lives on…
So if you have been told by your mum, nun, or doctor that saturated fat (butter, full-fat milk, eggs, stake) is not good for you, I’m pretty certain it’s related to this story, this guy.
He was well known figure in the US and he helped America to get better nutritionally after the Second World War so his findings were never questioned at the time. Now we know the data in the study was flawed and this was totally wrong. Also, obesity rates went up 128% and extreme obesity went up by 329% at the same time as people adopted low-fat diets and started eating sugar and margarine (trans-fat) which are 100 times worse.
I know now after 15 years of being a nutritionist - the problem is not eating fat but sugar/carbs, because eating too much of the wrong carbs and sugars raises insulin. When insulin is high (people with metabolic syndrome, I talked about this recently) the body will store those eaten sugars as fat mainly around the belly because insulin is a fat-storage hormone and we are unable to lose weight!
When your blood glucose and insulin are balanced, only then you can successfully lose weight. Good news: Fat doesn’t raise insulin, keeps us fuller for longer, prevents snacking and can help us lose weight. Yes, you heard me right!
So let’s not blame butter for what the bread did.
Another thing you need to know here is that fat gives flavour and fullness to our foods. If you take fat you have to substitute it with something else. And to do that manufacturers (cleverly) swap fat with sugar, which is cheaper and has a long shelf life – the manufacturer’s dream but obesity epidemy worst nightmare.
Did you know that a serving of low-fat yoghurt (150 ml/ small glass) has 28g of sugar while full fat has only 12g ( three times less)? My advice to you is to stay away from skinny/less fat/lower fat and light food options - they just swap fat for sugar! And sugar can be worse for you… especially if you have struggled with weight for some time now, or you are at risk of type 2 diabetes, or you are peri/menopausal.
If you are over 40, you need fats. We need cholesterol to build our hormones. All hormones are cholesterol-based, each body cell contains fat, and the brain is 70 % fat. We don’t want to lower cholesterol too much with statins, this can be a serious problem.
By the way, 80 % of cholesterol is produced internally by your liver, so to the majority of people external cholesterol added by food is not an issue. So, high cholesterol on your blood test may not be an issue – you need to check your blood glucose, triglycerides, waist circumference and blood pressure before putting cholesterol down.
So what fat should we eat and how much?
Some saturated fats will contribute to heart disease, eg. eating five rashers of bacon five days a week is not good for you. However, having two rashers of bacon in a mixed-leaf salad, with six walnut halves in olive oil and lemon dressing is good for you.
Steak once a week is absolutely fine. But have your stake with green beans and broccoli, followed by a small glass of red wine… and not a large portion of crisps and steak smothered in double cream sauce.
Also, cheese is questioned on many occasions – is it good or bad? A large study over 25 years found that consuming dairy did not increase heart disease, and even slightly reduced the risk of stroke. French people eat lots of cheese and they are one of the healthiest in nations Europe.
Please note: this article is not a license to eat cheese as much as you like…. A piece of cheese is 30g/1oz/small matchstick box as a snack is OK… but extra cheese topping on your pizza is not OK.
Eating the healthiest food in the world if eaten too much can be a problem. So the bottom line is you can have your steak, bacon, and cheese - no problem whatsoever. And if you can eat those foods without too many carbs (bread, pasta, fries) but with healthy greens, to make it lower carb meal – you are onto a winner.
Also, eating two eggs four days a week is absolutely fine. Yes. Frying your eggs in butter is your best bet. The eggs are a definite superfood.
A big problem when talking about fats is cooking oils, aka omega-6 oils such as; corn, soybean, grapeseed, canola, cotton, and sunflower oil. These are heavily processed oils by bleach and another cancerogenic solvent used to extract those oils from the seeds. They are cheap to feed an ever-growing population. You will find those oils in cakes, muffins, pastries, sweets, cheap chocolates, ready meals, takeaways etc.
These oils are pro-inflammatory - they increase inflammation in our body (inflammation means fire burning in our body and those oils fuel the fire). And now we know inflammation can contribute to obesity, diabetes, male infertility, cancer and Alzheimer's disease just to name a few.
Please check the label for those oils I mentioned and if they are the first three ingredients on the ingredients list, run! Leave the item on the shelf. Instead, what we need is omega-3 fish oils, which are anti-inflammatory oils. They put the fire down. That’s the name of the game - putting fire down. You can do that by eating two servings of oily fish twice a week, as NHS says.
I recommended eating oil fish such as salmon, maceral, sardines, tuna or shellfish four times a week. The reason for this is that we eat much more omega-6 compared to omega-3. 20 to 1 times more in fact. And that’s the problem. If you're not a fish fan – please invest in good-quality fish oil.
Healthy fats I suggest eating with every meal are – yes you should have fat with every meal – seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, flax seed, chai seeds) nuts (walnuts, cashew, Brazil and other nuts), one avocado daily, olives, olive oil, coconut oil, peanut butter, almond butter. Again make sure you don’t have them with too much carbs. They are best eaten on their own!
Watch the portion size – ½ jar of almond butter can help you gain weight. But adding a teaspoon or two of almond butter to your smoothie or your porridge is good.
Quick challenge for you: Increase your fat intake this week by adding healthy fats to every meal.
- Add nuts and seeds to your soups and stews.
- Add full-fat yoghurt, walnuts, and berries to your porridge.
- Make mix leaf salad with bacon, crumbly cheese, apple in olive oil and lemon dressing.
In conclusion: Fat is a friend but we need to know how to eat our fats and how much to utilise their full potential. Moderation is a key. And remember: fat doesn’t raise insulin, it keeps us fuller for longer and prevents snacking and all this will aid your weight loss.
Any questions on this give me a shout.
Health is wealth.
PS. Feel free to share this article with friends and family members who might need to hear this.