Here’s a history lesson for you: way back in the day … a year before Marty McFly would take a trip back in time with his DeLorean, there was a study featured in TIME Magazine that essentially told Americans that Fats and Cholesterol were the devil.
The published work of ridiculousness demonized butter and bacon and eggs and all things culinary holy by making a correlation between higher saturated fats, cholesterol and heart disease. This had been an argument circulating for a quite a few years, but the TIME piece really kicked this fear into downright fat paranoia.
The diet world would never be the same.
It was 1984. And the hit song was by some dude named Prince (“When Doves Cry” – loved that jam). The war on Fat was born and the standard, high-carb American diet became the norm.
Total side note here: I deserve bonus points from dropping a Back to the Future AND Prince reference in one post. I’m just saying.
Well, it backfired. As a result, obesity in the country skyrocketed as the population slowly increased carbohydrate intake and drastically cut out the fat. Somehow it became okay to eat sugary products, as long as they were “low fat.” As a result, the average American now consumes almost 22 teaspoons of sugar per day. Per day! Obesity rates since the 1980s have more than doubled and Type-II diabetes has become much more prevalent.
Finally, we are starting to learn our lesson from this blunder as we come out of this fog of low fat nonsense. Fat is not the devil.
Ladies and gentlemen: I’m here to tell you that bacon and butter are here to stay. Oh, glorious bacon … rejoice!
We need fats in our body to function. In fact, proper intake of fats help in a variety of ways by:
- manufacturing and balancing hormones
- forming our cellular membranes
- forming our brain and nervous systems
- and many other “sciency” healthful benefits
Put all of the above together and it sounds like a recipe for optimal performance. Annnndddd optimal performance leads to fat loss awesomeness. Which makes all of us happier, healthier peeps.
So where do we begin?
Well, the three major dietary fatty acid types that we need to consider are saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. And all can and should be included in our diet in one form or another.
In addition, we also need to toss in our healthy fat superstars, Omega-6 and Omega-3, and we have a dynamic recipe for success. These “healthy fats” help regulate cholesterol levels in the body, further reduce inflammation and boost metabolism, among a host of other benefits.
Another side note: no, I don’t buy into the “saturated fats will cause heart attacks and kill us all” argument. Typically, as long as we avoid processed, high-sugar, refined carbohydrates and keep up on our unsaturated fat intake, we will be totally fine with a diet that includes saturated fats. We want a balance here.
So, let’s get some more fats into our diet. Here are some ways to do just that:
The incredible, edible egg. It’s satiating. It has some protein. And it has all three of our big fats that we need: polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fats. It’s a meal all wrapped up in a tiny shell. So, it’s okay to eat the whole thing … you don’t have to ditch the yolk for just the whites.
Raw nuts and seeds. Be careful with this one, because the calories can add up QUICK. But, they are high in “good” fats and all sorts of micronutrients (that sciency stuff for vitamins and minerals that our body really likes). My favorites include the walnut, macadamia and almond. Just don’t start grabbing the sugar-laden honey-roasted variety, that defeats the purpose.
Avocados. It’s like a healthy version of mayonnaise. Smear it on sandwiches. Drop it in your blender with your smoothies. Eat it whole with a little salt and pepper. Mix it up with some lime juice and cilantro for some guacamole (hold the chips). Fun fact: avocados, which is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, is actually considered a fruit.
Cooking oils. Another one to go easy on. But, I love using olive oil to make quick and easy salad dressings (a little olive oil with a little balsamic vinegar and some dijon mustard and boom: instant vinaigrette). Coconut oil is surging to the mainstream for it’s numerous benefits both nutritionally and cosmetically and I love using this fatty oil for high-temperature cooking.
Fish Oil. We could spend an entire post on this one. The benefits of fish oil are wide-reaching and include improved brain function and decreased inflammation. I take this everyday along with a good multivitamin and urge you to do the same to reap the awesomeness of this Omega-3 superpower. Aim for at least 2-3 grams of EPA (eicosapentaenic acid) and DHA (docosahexaeonoic acid) – the powerhouse long-chain fatty acids of Fish Oil – per day. Although, I typically recommend a bit more to help keep a good balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats in our system as we tend to already get a good dose of Omega-6 fats with our normal everyday food intake.
A general rule of thumb is to make sure we don’t dip our daily consumption of fats below about 20-25% of our caloric intake per day. Of course, this depends on goals, body type, activity levels and a few additional factors. But anything else will likely lead to some hormonal imbalances that are totally unpleasant.
That said, let’s get this straight before we start ordering a bacon bowl with a side of melted butter. Too many fats will make us fat. Fats still carry much more energy (or calories) per dose than their cousins, the carbohydrate or protein. So, we do need to tread lightly with how much we take in. But we should not restrict these completely. It will lead to a whole host of issues that make life miserable.
The REAL Focus here: Again, the bottom line is that too many calories of anything lead to unwanted weight-gain. But, the real skinny on fat is that the stuff can actually help us stay lean and mean.