In case you forgot or never got the memo, fat is indeed your friend, and could even be your bff… If you let it. In fact every single cell of your body is composed of a phospho-lipid bi-layer meaning every cell in your body is composed of fat! Your heart actually uses fat as a preferred source of energy. As far as weight loss is concerned, fat slows down gastric emptying time and helps you feel full, making it an important component of natural appetite control.
So when and why did fat get such a bad rep? Well in the US it mostly started in the 70s when the food industry decided to scare everyone away from fat and replace it with either low fat, no fat or processed “healthier” fat like margarine. But if you have any question about whether or not fat is the true scapegoat for the failing health in the US over the last several decades, just look at the charts below.
Grams of Protein, Fat & Carbohydrate per capita per day 1970-2000
Percentage of Total Calories as Protein, Fat & Carbohydrate 1971-2000
Rates of Obesity in the US 1969-2009
Personally I think a large part of the fat phobia is psychologically linked to the very word “fat.” We store excess calories as fat. When you see someone who is overweight, you may think of them as being “fat.” Therefore some people make the simple association of eating fat to becoming fat. But again, if you really analyze the data from the charts below, you’ll see, as fat intake declined, obesity increased. If you study the science of nutrition, you’ll learn that the body stores all excess calories as fat which includes carbohydrates, protein… and yes fat. So while the majority of the mass media obeying citizens went on a low fat, high refined carb craze diet, their bodies stored a significant amount of these excess carbs as fat. And here we are in a current obesity and diabetes epidemic.
How much fat do you really need? The general recommendation for adults age 19 and older is 20-35% of your total daily calorie requirements according to the current 2015-2020 USDA dietary guidelines. Requirements will vary based on any medical conditions you may have as well as your individual constitution meaning your vata, pitta, kapha composition. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines also recommend to eat more oils like olive oil rather than solid fat like animal fat or butter. However, whether or not this is truly beneficial I am not personally convinced. One of the biggest myths about fat is that margarine is better than butter. Come, on really? I’d be surprised to see if you put margarine in front of your pet, if they would actually treat it as real food. (Well, some pets will eat anything) But yet again some humans will eat anything too! But for the most part, animals know better. Anyway, I have eaten butter pretty much daily for the last 30 years or so and both my triglycerides and cholesterol levels are in the low normal range.
Sources of healthy fats; Any unprocessed fat from a whole food source like:
– Olive oil
– Nuts & nut butters
– Fatty fish (fresh, not farmed)
– Whole organic milk
– Organic Butter
– Organic Eggs
– Organic Cheese
Needless to say there has been a lot of miseducation about fat in the US. People have been so trained to trust what a food company tells them about health that we should eat more refined carbs, less fat and a large portion of the population actually believed that margarine was better than butter. In the end you have to use your common sense and remember that a food company is only going to tell you good things about their product so that they can sell more products. The harsh truth is that most companies aren’t concerned with your health. So as a general rule, eat whole foods, eat foods with fat as part of your diet and stick to foods with one ingredient as much as possible. Check out my healthy plate and healthy lifestyle equation models for a general healthy diet reference and join the weight loss program if you are serious about losing weight.
– Richie Santucci, RD, CDE, CPT
2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines:
Basic Calorie & Macronutrient Reccommendations
Dr Weston A Price Foundation
Myths and Truths about Nutrition: http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/abcs-of-nutrition/myths-truths-about-nutrition/
Dietary Guidelines from Dr Weston A Price
Charts of macronutrient intake from 1970-2000
Macronutrient intake charts: https://www.nap.edu/read/11015/chapter/3#33