You've probably heard that saturated fats will increase your risk of heart disease and raise your cholesterol. You’ve probably heard that fats are bad and not part of a healthy diet. Maybe you’ve heard that fats are the ‘devil’ when it comes to losing weight.
But is are any of these ‘facts’ true? In a word, no. In fact, humans need fats in their diet and here are 7 reasons why:
1) Improved cardiovascular risk factors
Saturated fat plays a key role in cardiovascular health. The addition of saturated fat to the diet reduces the levels of a substance called lipoprotein that correlates strongly with risk for heart disease. Research has shown that when people diet, (and I don’t promote DIETS AT ALL, but this is where they are coming from in the research) those eating the greatest percentage of the total fat in their diets as saturated fat, lose the most weight. Improved cardiovascular health means more ability to exercise, and we all know that exercise is key for weight loss along with our mental health.
2) Stronger bones
Saturated fat is required for calcium to be effectively incorporated into bone. One of the reasons we are so concerned about the rising levels of osteoporosis is not just sugar, it's also about the fats we're eating. According to one of the foremost research experts in dietary fats and human health, Dr. Mary Enig, Ph.D., there’s a case to be made for having as much as 50 percent of the fats in your diet as saturated fats for this reason. Stronger bones correlate with healthier aging, which we need to consider when we look at our weight loss goals at whatever age we are.
3) Improved liver health
Saturated fat has been shown to protect the liver from alcohol and medications, including acetaminophen and other drugs commonly used for pain and arthritis. While seemingly not related to the issue of losing weight, the liver plays a huge role in our ability to do so since the liver is the major fat burning organ in the body and regulates our fat metabolism by a complicated set of biochemical pathways. The liver can also pump excessive fat out of the body through the bile into the small intestines. If the diet is high in fiber, this unwanted fat will be carried out of the body via the bowel actions. Thus the liver is a remarkable machine for keeping weight under control, being both a fat burning organ and a fat pumping organ. A healthy diet with lots of fresh vegetables and whole grains is the best route to a healthy high-fiber diet. If the liver filter is damaged by toxins or clogged up (blocked) with excessive waste material it will be less able to remove small fat globules circulating in the blood stream. Once the liver is improved, it will start burning fat efficiently again and the weight comes off gradually and without too much effort from you.
Good liver function is necessary for the proper production and/or activation of the hormones that stimulate fat burning. When the liver is overworked and cannot do the hormone conversions efficiently, the body cannot burn fat efficiently, no matter how much exercise you may do or what other natural weight loss steps you take. The liver also has a relationship with insulin, and balancing blood sugar is another key step to our successful natural weight loss. Cutting out packaged and processed foods greatly improves our livers’ ability to function while reducing our intake of oils, sugar, preservatives and other chemicals that are harming our body. [Read: 5 Reasons You Need Whole Foods]
4) Healthy brain
Your brain is mainly made of fat and cholesterol. The majority of the fatty acids in the brain are actually saturated. A diet that skimps on healthy saturated fats robs your brain of the raw materials it needs to function optimally. This is demonstrated in your own body if you’ve ever done a low-fat diet and noticed your mood instabilities - irritability, forgetfulness, ‘foggy brain’ during the time you were eating that way. Many clients have reported to me these symptoms showing or increased during low fat diets in order to lose weight. Fats support a healthy brain.
5) Proper nerve function
Certain saturated fats, particularly those found in butter, lard, coconut oil, and palm oil, function directly as signaling messengers that influence metabolism, including such critical jobs for our body as the appropriate release of insulin. Find out the best fats to eat here: [Read: The Easy Guide to Fats]
6) Strong immune system
Saturated fats found in butter and coconut oil (especially lauric acid) play key roles in immune health. Loss of sufficient saturated fatty acids in white blood cells hampers their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
(Psssst, have you ever noticed?) There has been a low fat foods trend since the '70s but our obesity rates are going up and up. Evidence overwhelmingly does not show that a low fat diet is beneficial. The original study that was done showing that saturated fats are harmful has been debunked - it was flawed science. This is a controversial subject, but many people have benefited from adding good fats back into their diet, and I want you to as well. Read more about fats here.
7) Balanced Blood Sugar
We need fats and protein in our diet to slow down how carbohydrates enter our bloodstream. A higher fat or protein meal actually slows down the breaking down of the carbs, creating a slower burning carb and that keeps your blood sugar steady. The more refined the carb is, the faster it enters your bloodstream. (Refined carbs means "white foods" - white flour products like bread or baking and white sugar.) When we eat a high carb meal, or a refined carb, our blood sugar spikes - this is when our liver stores fat. The distilled version of all this means if you’re going to eat something with sugar in it - make sure it contains a healthy fat to help counteract that blood sugar spike.
Cool, thanks Science! HELLO BUTTER!
We can tell that our blood sugar spiked by looking at when our blood sugar crashes - this is seen as any emotion around hunger. Irritability, tiredness, lack of patience, etc are all signs that earlier your blood sugar spiked and now you're crashing. Look back at your last meal and see why it caused a crash. Leveling out your blood sugar so you're no longer on the blood sugar roller coaster is how you stop gaining weight, and a huge key to losing weight. When you give your body all the nutrients it needs and you start to respect it, it will start the transformation.
Oh yeah, and you can (with no guilt) eat buttered popcorn!! ....hot air popped - no microwaved “popcorn” please! If you can splurge, grass-fed butter is beautiful and high in omega 3 fatty acids.
There are immeasurable benefits to consuming whole foods - our bodies need all the minerals, vitamins, enzymes, fiber and other vital nutrients intact. This includes fats – our brain alone is 60% fat, we do very much require fats in our diet to keep us healthy.
Most informed consumers are aware of the nutritional “Fact” that “excessive dietary fats are bad for one’s health.” Research came about that individuals who consumed too much fat were setting themselves up for degenerative diseases like heart disease and cancer. The more recent body of data suggests that in this excessive reduction of all fats in the diet, and the incorrect types of fats in the diet, we are missing out on some very critically important maintenance roles that these fats play. Our brain functions, immune systems, and hearts are not functioning properly like they should.
Butter, coconut oil, olive oil are my top 3 fats to add to your diet right away. You can also get healthy fats from whole foods like wild salmon, organic nuts and seeds, chia seeds, avocadoes and farm fresh eggs.
It’s hard to un-program decades of the mental training that fat is bad. I get it. Most of my female clients who have been on the diet yo-yo for a long time struggle with this reality. They are trained to avoid fats like the plague and thus it is stressful to them to be asked to add fat back in to their diet. It feels bad, it feels wrong, it feels uncomfortable. This is why intuitive eating is what I teach. The more we learn why we have certain dietary triggers (physically: our body or mentally: marketing, diet culture) its easier it is to make switches to what we know, deep down, intuitively is the right foods and fats to eat.
It is not necessary to make yourself miserable by following a low fat, low calorie diet. In fact, that kind of diet is not at all recommended. If you’ve been on the diet train forever and want to get off of the cycle, I work with women who feelSTRESSED by nutrition and need it simplified. (Talk to me, babe!)
Here’s to healthy fats.