Eating fat is bad, right? Wrong! Healthy fats are a staple of a good diet. Here’s everything you need to know including the health benefits!
High-fat, low-carb diets have been controversial for decades.
Fat-phobic health professionals and the media demonized them. People believed that these easy diets would raise cholesterol and cause heart disease because of the high-fat content.
But, we’re not in the 80s or 90s anymore. It may be time to start looking deeper at the facts on fats!
In 1961, the American Heart Association came out with the first dietary guidelines that counseled Americans to cut back on saturated fat. Studies show that the word spread. We followed that advice by increasing consumption of veggies, fruit and grains. If you want a temporary diet the grapefruit diet is one of the best.
We also cut a number of fats eaten, especially saturated fats. This has been going on for over 30 years.
But, when those guidelines came out in 1961, a low-fat diet had never really been tested on people. There were only a few lab studies. It wasn’t properly tested until the late 1990s. The results of those tests didn’t come out until 2006.
So, crazy as it may seem, we’ve been following this low-fat diet for generations without having ever really tested it.
This Is The Truth About A High Fat Diet
More and more, science shows that a high-carb diet is not as healthy as was thought. There are many health consequences of a high-carb, low-fat diet.
The best and most rigorous clinical trials of the past decade show that a high-carb diet has worse outcomes for health in terms of obesity, heart disease and diabetes than a diet higher in fat.
It’s been found that people on a higher-fat diet lose weight and conditions such as heart disease and diabetes improve.
But, as always, people are slow to change and are possibly frightened to switch things up. It’s very hard for people to change their thinking and/or change their ways. For years, it seems we have become fat-phobic.
Researchers have found that people can understand cutting back on white flour, but getting them to eat fat is almost impossible. It takes many folks a long time to eat hard-boiled eggs and cheese without feeling guilty. It’s true though, that eating this way is more satisfying and it fills you up.
Researchers have found that people can, and do carb backloading, but it’s almost impossible to overeat steak or chicken!
The reason why you’re not full eating carbs, but you are when eating protein and fats, is that you’re getting essential nutrients your body needs from those animal foods.
And your blood sugar stays more stable.
There’s a strong argument that animal foods are actually healthier than plant foods. They’re more nutrient rich, and the nutrients in animal foods are more bioavailable. We can make better use of them.
An example of this is the fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D and K. These can only be absorbed with the fat that naturally comes with them in animal foods.
Saturated fat and cholesterol are vital for many biological functions. Also, saturated fats don’t create unhealthy oxidation products at high temperatures.
This is a problem with vegetable oils and even olive oil.
Health Benefits of Oil
While we’re on the subject of oil, a trendy addition to many people’s diet, whether they’re following a higher fat diet or not, are the many perks of coconut oil. This healthy fat has become an acceptable way to get essential saturated fat into your diet because it’s not an animal fat.
It doesn’t have the negative connotations that people, especially vegetarians and vegans, have towards animal products.
The other aspect is that to make manufactured foods, you have to have a hard fat or else your product will go rancid on the shelf. Only saturated fats are hard fats. Therefore coconut oil is a non-animal fat that can serve that function.
Cut Carbs Not Fats
We’ve all heard of the carb cycling diet, however if weight loss is a top concern, then cutting back on carbs may be one of the simplest and most effective ways to achieve it. Many studies show that people on low-carb diets lose more weight, faster than people on low-fat diets.
That’s even true when comparing to low-fat dieters that are consciously restricting calories.
This is because low-carb diets also tend to get rid of excess water from the body. Because they lower insulin levels, the kidneys start shedding excess sodium. This leads to much more weight loss the first few weeks. And we are also not suggesting a no carbs diet.
Higher fat diets appear to be very effective in terms of weight loss for months and seem to be far easier to live with for the long term. But it’s not all about weight loss. As always, I like to look at the effects on fat loss, not only the weight.
This way of eating appears to be highly effective in shedding body fat.
Taking it a little further, it’s vital to remember that not all fat in the body is the same. It’s where that fat is stored that determines how it will affect our health and risk of disease.
We have subcutaneous fat. That is under the skin. There is also visceral fat. That is found in the abs cavity. This visceral fat sits around the organs. Now, this is the bad stuff!
Not only do they cause more fat loss than the more followed low-fat diets, but also an even greater proportion of that fat is coming from the abs cavity.
This is great if you’re working on that six-pack!
Are You Hungry?
Hunger may also become a thing of the past with a higher fat diet. Feeling empty and starved can be one of the hardest parts of any diet. It’s one of the main reasons why many people feel miserable and eventually give up.
This way of eating, however, leads to an automatic and natural reduction in appetite. The studies consistently show that when people cut carbs and eat more protein and fat, they end up eating far less overall.
In fact, when researchers are comparing lower-carb and low-fat diets in studies, they need to actively restrict calories in the low-fat groups to make the results anywhere near the same. Appetites seem to go down and people often end up eating far less calories without even trying.
As with any diet, though, it’s best to think of low-carb, higher fat diets as a lifestyle, and not a diet.
The only way to succeed in the long-term is to stick with it!
Health Benefits Of A High Fat Diet
Aside from your weight loss meal plans and appearance, there are many other health benefits with eating a mostly higher fat diet.
These include a drastically reduced risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes, reduction in blood pressure, an increase in HDL (the good cholesterol) and aid in many brain disorders.
Let’s start with the blood pressure issue. It’s commonly known that having elevated blood pressure (hypertension) is an important risk factor for many diseases, including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and more. A higher fat, low carb diet is highly likely to lead to a reduced risk of these diseases.
Next, let’s move onto the subject of HDL. HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is often called the good cholesterol. HDL and LDL refer to the lipoproteins that carry cholesterol around in the blood.
The bad LDL carries cholesterol from the liver and to the rest of the body. HDL carries cholesterol away from the body and to the liver, where it can be reused or excreted. So, the higher your levels of HDL, the lower your risk of heart disease.
As strange as it may sound, one of the best ways to increase HDL levels is actually to eat fat! So, it’s not surprising to find that HDL levels increase greatly on low-carb diets(do low carb diets work) while they may even go down on low-fat diets. That’s worth thinking about for long-term health. Prevention is always better than searching for a cure!
Finally, let’s look at the impact on brain disorders. We’ve been told for years that glucose is needed for the brain. That is certainly true. Some parts of the brain can only burn glucose.
That’s why the liver produces glucose out of protein if we don’t eat any carbs. But this may be a bit of a generalization.
A large part of the brain can also burn ketones. These are formed during starvation or when carb intake is very low. This is the mechanism behind higher fat gym diets.
Studies in the past have shown that in many cases, this diet can cure children of epilepsy. In one such study, over half of children on a higher fat diet had a greater than 50% reduction in seizures. A total of 16% of the children became seizure free.
This way of eating is now also being studied for other brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
High-Fat Diets Questions & Concerns
As this way of eating goes against the norm in many ways, there is very often strong opposition against it. Among others, the following four questions and concerns are sure to arise from time to time, but there is an argument against each of them.
#1 Isn’t all the cholesterol being eaten going to raise your cholesterol levels?
Dietary cholesterol doesn’t affect total blood cholesterol. In fact, when we do eat cholesterol, our bodies make less of it to keep our blood levels in balance.
#2 Where does the energy come from?
Fat is actually the body’s preferred and most reliable form of energy. That is why we store excess energy as fat on our bodies.
#3 How do you get any vitamins if you’re eating all that fat?
Certain fats, like egg yolks, palm oil, cod liver oil and grass-fed butter, are some of the most nutritious foods in the world today.
The fact is, without fat in your meals, you often won’t absorb all the nutrients that are in other foods, like dark green veggies, since many of them need fat for full absorption.
#4 Won’t all the saturated fat cause a heart attack?
The most recent studies have concluded that saturated fat intake has no relation to heart disease.
Pros And Cons Of Higher Fat Diets
Let’s weigh the pros and cons, and risks and precautions of following the higher fat, low carb way of eating.
First, let’s look at the pros. Many of today’s modern health concerns such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity may be linked directly to improper insulin metabolism.
Modern diets are high in carbs. This excess carb consumption leads the body to be in a constant state of insulin production. This causes high levels of insulin to stay in the bloodstream.
This excess insulin may lead to a condition called Insulin Resistance Syndrome.
What could that prompt?
It causes illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. As mentioned, fans of high fat, low carb diets suggest that following these plans will lead to rapid weight loss, lower blood cholesterol levels and increased energy.
But, there are some cons.
While following a high fat, low carb diet, you must drink a lot of water. As mentioned, when the body burns fat for energy it creates waste products called ketones. Drinking plenty of water helps to flush these byproducts out of the body.
Lastly, it’s wise to know the risks involved, especially if taken to the extreme. People with kidney disease shouldn’t attempt high fat, low carb diets because of the risk of kidney failure.
Similarly, a diet high in fats may be harmful for anyone with advanced coronary artery disease or gout. These conditions can be made worse by the higher fat consumption.
Some scientists often talk of their concern with the long-term lifestyle of a diet high in saturated fats. The UK and American Heart Associations have also expressed fears about any diet that encourages increased fat consumption and a reduced consumption of fruits and veggies.
My best tip: If you’re worried in any way, always check with your doctor before starting any unfamiliar nutrition plan.
Gone are the days when fats were considered bad. There are benefits to a higher fat diet. You need vitamins. Fats help you get them. And, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Fat can be your friend. You just have to eat the right types in the proper amounts.
– By Keith Cormican, RD