“The low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet may well have played an unintended role in the current epidemics of obesity, lipid abnormalities, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. This diet can no longer be defended by appeal to the authority of prestigious medical organizations.”
– Dr. Sylvan Lee Weinberg, former President of the American College of Cardiology. Link
- The primary fat sources in my diet are butter & cheese from grass fed cows & goats, avocado, coconut oil, coconut milk, wild caught fish and grass fed meat. I cook with butter, coconut oil and coconut milk. I use a 50/50 mix of coconut oil and balsamic vinegar as salad dressing. I put avocado on salads and breakfast and I occasionally eat cheese as a snack or dessert.
- The guidance to minimize saturated fat and replace saturated fat intake with polyunsaturated fat was based on a hypothesis that saturated fat caused heart disease. There has never been solid scientific evidence to support the “fat is bad” hypothesis. You can read Dr. Weinbergs article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology here, or a well written piece from the New York Times here on how it happened.
- Fat is an essential macronutrient. Fat operates like a ship, transporting nutrients and building materials throughout the body via the bloodstream.
- Animals store toxins in fat, so the quality of the animal (measured by the health of the animal) is important. I keep animals in my diet because there are nutrients in animals that cannot be found in plants.
- The lower the saturation level of fat, the higher the reactivity. (Reactivity = oxidation potential. A simplified statement is that polyunsaturated fatty acids are pro-oxidants or, put another way, polyunsaturated fatty acids are anti-anti-oxidants).
- “Essential” does not equal “good.” While a healthy diet may contain anywhere from 40% to 70% of the calories from fat, omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids typically contributing less than 4% of total calories. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients, but excessive amounts of either will cause problems. I do not count calories or measure the percentage of fat in my diet. I have found that minimizing sweeteners (natural and artificial) and avoiding concentrated seed oils is a more effective way to reduce inflammation and blood pressure than tracking fat and calories. Fat (unless it is mixed with sugar and/or salt) quickly satisfies hunger and takes a concerted effort to over eat (try eating a stick of butter by itself…).
- Omega-3 fatty acids are highly reactive, the best sources are wild caught cold water fish. The length of the fatty acid chain is important for omega-3 fatty acids. As an example, flax contains medium-chain fatty acids, which most people have a tough time converting to a useable form. People use the long chain fatty acids found in fish. Omega-3 deficiencies are rare in a diet of high quality plants and animals. The problem is typically an excess amount of omega-6 rather than an omega-3 deficiency. Omega-3 oils are highly reactive and spoil easily (including the omega-3 fatty acid in fish oil).
- Omega-6 oils are polyunsaturated (they have two or more carbon bonds without a linked hydrogen atom). Omega-6 fatty acids are highly reactive. Increased consumption of omega-6 fatty acids drives up inflammation levels and suppresses the bodies ability to use omega-3 fatty acid (among other nasty side effects).
- Omega-6-to-omega-3 ratios can reach 10 times the natural levels in grain fed beef and 20 times natural levels in grain fed chicken. The grain which is fed to commercial livestock is high in omega-6 fatty acids which drives up the omega-6 fatty acid concentration in the animals (and our food).
- High concentrations of seed oils (safflower, soybean, canola, corn, etc.) in processed food also drive up polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) levels in a typical American diet, further contributing to excessive inflammation in the general population.
General dietary guidelines drastically over-simplify fats. For a good primer on the different kinds of fat, check out the Weston A. Price “Skinny On Fats” post. It’s a good overview but an in depth subject, the “Skinny on Fats” post and the Perfect Health Diet book are resources I frequently go back to in order to clarify my understanding on the different types of fat and what they’re good for.
Perfect Health Diet, by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet has an extensive discussion on recommended fat consumption and the impact of under or over consumption.
I highly recommend checking out Chris Kresser’s site for more information on fats and cholesterol. Setting up a free log-in is required, but worth the hassle. There is a ton of good, free information on his site concerning heart disease, thyroid and digestion.
If you have serious concerns about heart disease or high cholesterol, I recommend purchasing Chris Kresser’s High Cholesterol Action Plan. The course is extremely in depth (it explains many complex concepts) and gives detailed recommendations for testing and dietary adjustments. (I purchased the course myself and DO NOT receive any compensation for the recommendation).
For a good free overview of the latest theory on how heart disease begins, check out Robb Wolf’s interview of Chris Kresser on Episode 151 of the Paleo Solution Podcast.
For a free non-Robb Wolf / non-Chris Kresser information source, check out Dr. Peter Attia’s Multi-Part Part explanation of Cholesterol.
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