So often considered to be the enemy, fat can be good for you – in fact, I will go further and state that to live an optimally healthy life, eating the right type of fat, in the right quantities, is an absolute must. I have devoted a whole chapter to the importance of the right type of fat in my latest book The Fatigue Solution, and if you want the complete lowdown you can listen to my CD or MP3 The Importance of Fat. In the meantime, here’s a summary for you.
Myth 1 – eating fat makes you fat
It doesn’t, provided that is the right type of fat. The raw plant fats such as avocado, olives, flax oil and the many different types of nuts and seeds actually help to keep us slim. Many people are put off eating nuts because they are seen as a high fat, high calorie food. However, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013 came to the following conclusion: compared with control diets, diets enriched with nuts did not increase body weight, body mass index, or waist circumference in controlled clinical trials (1).
Myth 2 – a low fat diet is healthier
This is a potential sticking point, since some low-fat diets can be very healthy; notably the plant-based, whole-food and mainly raw diets. However, if your diet is low fat because you are relying on processed reduced- and no-fat microwaveable ready meals provided for you by the processed food industry, your sugar and refined carbohydrate intake is likely to be far too high for your personal wellbeing.
Myth 3 – hydrogenated fat is OK to eat
It most certainly isn’t. Hydrogenation is a method of turning liquid oil into cheap, spreadable solid fat with a long shelf-life. Remember that the healthy seed oils are liquid at room temperature (with the exception of coconut oil), and animal fats such as butter and lard tend to be solid. Therefore, if you see those “vegetable spread and margarine” butter substitutes which you’ll readily find in the supermarket, beware! The end product is horribly bad for you and is just one chemical reaction away from being plastic. These deranged fats are also found in processed, added-sugar laden foods such as cakes, bread, biscuits, crackers, cereals, soups, chocolate, crisps and many other convenience foods. The reason they are so bad for you is that during the hydrogenation process, molecules of so-called trans fats are produced. These abnormally structured fats do not exist in nature and are structurally stiff and inflexible, causing serious problems if we then try to construct our cell membranes from them.
Myth 4 – there’s nothing wrong with fried food
All fats are damaged by heating, but frying is the most dangerous cooking method. Frying is one of the greatest creators of free radicals known in the human body. The more fried food you eat, the more antioxidants you need from ripe raw fruit and vegetables to reduce the ravages. Even coconut oil, one of the fats which is most stable at high temperatures, becomes damaged by frying, and the oils that are most health-giving when cold-pressed and raw become the most dangerous when fried, such as olive, flax and hemp oils.
Now for the good news – healthy omegas
Energy and stamina
Essential fats can elevate our metabolic rate and in turn increase energy levels and stamina – just what you need in the face of fatigue. They also help athletes to recover from injury more quickly.
Interestingly, essential fats actually increase calorie burning and keep us slim. They help our kidneys to dump excess water which might be held in the tissues – water that constitutes some of the “weight” in overweight people. A trigger for overeating is often considered to be a body’s cry for more essential fats, and depression also causes many people to overeat, as they try to numb their negative emotions with food. Essential fatty acids elevate mood and reduce depression, and this in turn can make us feel like being more active.
Cholesterol is often considered to be the bad guy, and cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins have in turn made billions for the pharmaceutical companies which developed them (see my separate blog post about statins here). Cholesterol transport in the blood requires essential fatty acids. Elevated blood triglycerides can be lowered with a good omega 3 fat intake.
Other health benefits
Via numerous enzymatic pathways, healthy omegas are converted to active substances in the body which prevent your blood platelets from sticking together, act as vasodilators (relax the blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure), stimulate the immune response, reduce inflammation, reduce pain transmission, dilate the airways, increase endurance and increase the flow of oxygen. You can read more about this, and all the benefits it has for you, in The Fatigue Solution.
Watch out for my next newsletter and blog post which will go into detail on whether we should be taking an essential fat supplement. Sign up at www.therawfoodscientist.com
1. Flores-Mateo G, Rojas-Rueda D, Basora J, et al. Nut intake and adiposity: meta-analysis of clinical trials. AmJClinNutr, April 2013; doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.031484