For years we were told by food industries and our doctors that fat is bad for us. We were advised to avoid fat as it could block our arteries and lead to heart attacks in the long term. So, that’s what we did. We avoided most fats, especially saturated fat, like butter. Instead, we were using vegetable oils that were supposed to be healthier for our heart health. Were they?
After many years of research, studies, as well as observing our society’s lack of health improvement, finally it is agreed that it wasn’t such a good advice after all.
So, what should we do now?
First, let us look into what fat is. It is a main building block of our body. 15-30% of our bodies are made up of fat. Each of our 10 trillion cells needs fat to function. Our brain is built of about 60% of fat. Our brain cells need DHA fatty acids to communicate between each other. So, it’s very important to supply the body with healthy fats which improve our memory, learning abilities and overall happiness.
But, not all fats are equal.
The simplest division is into inflammatory and anti-inflammatory fats. As you probably know, inflammation in the body is a breeding ground for diseases, like diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia or cancer. We definitely should know which fats are anti-inflammatory hence, good for us.
We have all kinds of fats: saturated fats, unsaturated fats- monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, trans fats.
We will not take much time to talk about trans fats. There is no doubt that they are bad for you and you should avoid them at all costs. These are artificial fats, made by hydrogenation (hardening process) that gives them a very long shelf life. An example would be margarine.
Other fats that are not good for us are inflammatory vegetable oils. They are still very popular and are often used for frying like canola, safflower, sunflower, soybean oil. These fats oxidise very easily.
What is the biggest problem with fats these days?
Our body needs to be supplied regularly with two main fatty acids, omega 3 and omega 6. They also need to balance each other with a specific ratio. In the olden days, people’s diet supplied them with an equal ratio of omega 3 and omega 6. They were getting their omega 3 from wild game, fish and wild plants and their omega 6 from some seeds and nuts.
These days, this ratio is totally thrown out of balance.
Omega 3 intake drastically went down. We do not eat so many wild animals, fish and plants anymore. Industrially grown meat has almost no omega 3. Instead, we increased our omega 6 intake by consuming excess amounts of vegetable oils and processed products which are made using them.
Our bodies are affected by inflammation and therefore, prone to diseases.
We need much more omega 3 in our diet (lots of people have a deficiency) and much less omega 6 compared to what we consume now.
Omitting healthy fats is bad for our health but also for our weight.
There is an entire industry of low fat products that was created around the idea that fat is not good for us.
Those products are made by taking fat out of them (fat that is not at all bad for us and could be easily used by the body) and balancing the taste by adding carbohydrates from sugar or starch.
We already know from previous blogs how sugar acts in the body. Blood sugar goes up, more insulin is released (leading to insulin resistance in the long term), too much sugar is not needed by the body for energy, it also can’t be stored in excess, so it is converted into body fat!
Low fat products essentially make you gain more weight because they have added sugar that triggers the process of
storing excess sugar as body fat.
Our body needs good fat to function. Our cell walls, which are made out of good quality fats, metabolise insulin much better, which means that the balancing of blood sugar is more efficient. And, that also means that we don’t store as much sugar as body fat.
Body fat comes from sugar, not from fat.
We need healthy fats to burn body fat.
We also need it to prevent many diseases, improve our mood, our skin, our nails and our hair. Anti-inflammatory fat will make you feel full longer, cutting hunger.
When we try to restrict calories (also from good fats), our body goes into starvation mode, meaning that the metabolism slows down. This is an ancient mechanism built into our body. It was supposed to protect us from dying from starvation when there was no food. It still works the same way. If we restrict the calories and stop eating enough, the body will not lose any weight. Our willpower will not help us for a very long time, as it can’t win over our body’s biology.
Instead of restricting ourselves and watching how much we eat, we should look at what we eat. The quality of food is important as well as the composition of our meals : fibre, healthy fat and protein.
Which fats are anti-inflammatory?
The list is long: avocado, seeds: flax seed, chia, hemp, sunflower, pumpkin, nuts: walnuts, cashews, macadamia, Brazil nut, sea vegetables, extra virgin cold pressed olive oil, small fatty fish: mackerel, sardines, or wild salmon, grass fed or sustainably raised animal products, extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil or butter.
There are a lot of sources of really good fats for us. We should’t be scared of good, anti-inflammatory fats. Then, we don’t have to worry about weight loss. The body will adjust it all for us.