With all the different dietary advice flying around these days, how can you even begin to know what food choices to make?
Take fat for example. For years it has been painted as an evil monster and the root cause of high cholesterol, heart disease and obesity. But scientific studies now show that there are many benefits of eating more fat, and it's time we started rethinking this essential part of our dietary regime.
In short, fat has gotten a bad rap.
In Grain Brain Dr. David Perlmutter describes our ancestor's diet as being 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs compared to our current diet of 60% carbs, 20% protein and 20% fat. Dr. Perlmutter goes on to explain how the cornerstone of many of today's health conditions, including Alzheimer's, ADHD, depression, anxiety and chronic headaches are linked to inflammation in the body and brain triggered by carbs.
Other studies tell us that the obesity epidemic, which has doubled in the last 50 years, is not because of us eating too much fat but because of our consumption of readily available carbs and sugar, including glucose found in fruits and juices.
Excessive glucose is converted by the body and stored as fat. Gary Taubes in Why We Get Fat says that "if the world had never invented cigarettes, lung cancer would be rare disease. Likewise, if we did not eat such high carb diets, obesity would be a rare condition."
So fat is not the culprit it is believed to be. In fact:
1. Fat is essential to brain health
Did you know that brain tissue is made up of nearly 60% fat?(1) A diet low in fat actually robs your brain of the materials it needs to function properly.
I'm not just talking about the essential fatty acids and omega 3's that are making all the headlines (fats found in food like salmon, avocados and nuts) but also some of the saturated fats which we have been told for years to avoid, including natural animal fats.
Essential vitamins such as A, D, E and K are not water soluble and require fat to get transported and absorbed by the body. These vitamins are crucial for brain health and many of our vital organs.
Vitamin D is now being widely touted as an important element in decreasing susceptibility to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, depression and other brain disorders and omega 3 is
said to sharpen your cognitive function as well as to improve your mood.
2. Fat keeps your lungs working properly
Our lungs are coated with a substance composed almost entirely of saturated fat. Premature babies who are lacking this substance are given something called "surfactant" to keep their lungs functioning properly.
Without enough saturated fat, our lungs can be compromised. Some studies are now looking at the link between the low consumption of saturated fat and Asthma as a result of the breakdown of this fatty layer.(2)
3. Fat boosts your immune system
Dr. Michael and Dr. Mary Eades in their book Good Calories, Bad Calories
write about the role that saturated fats found in butter and coconut oil play in immune health stating that the "loss of sufficient saturated fatty acids in the white blood cells hampers their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi".
4. Fat keeps your largest organ healthy
Fat makes up the bulk of the cellular membrane and our skin is made up of a very large number of cells. Without the proper consumption of fat, our skin can become dry and chapped, which can also open up pathways for infection to enter our bodies.
5. Fat is good for your heart
Many studies have been done on the benefits of eating saturated fats, fats we have been told to avoid for the last 50 or so years. One study in particular focused on a population in the Pacific Isles who eat up to 60% of their diet in the form of saturated coconut oil and have shown practically no incident of heart disease.(3)
Also, fat provides twice the caloric energy as carbs - 9 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram. So not only will it sustain you energy for a longer time but will also help you to eat less as it keeps the body satisfied.
But stay away from trans-fats. These are the true evil monsters made by adding hydrogen atoms to saturated fat during the heating process. These manipulated fats do nothing but make bad foods last longer on the shelf.
So grab a handful of walnuts, enjoy a piece of salmon cooked up in some olive oil and butter and add a little coconut oil to your morning smoothie. Start shifting your diet today, and get those good fats back into your diet.