One of the biggest nutrition myths of all time is that dietary fat is bad for our health.
In fact, a review coauthored by Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, stated the following: “It is now increasingly recognized that the low-fat campaign has been based on little scientific evidence and may have caused unintended health consequences.”
There was a time where we embraced foods that contained natural fat, but somewhere along the line we started to believe that dietary fat equated to body fat. We avoided foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol in hopes that it will prevent disease and improve our health.
Avoiding fat isn’t the answer and it’s not working!
Despite lower fat diets and being cautious of the cholesterol, people are still sick and suffering with the same diseases that doing so were suppose to prevent. In fact, as a society we’ve got worse!
Below I am going to discuss the 5 BIGGEST myths about dietary fat and cholesterol. Please keep in mind that I am giving you a brief overview, as to not overwhelm you with too much information. I’d be happy to further discuss any of these points so be sure to post your questions in the comments section at the bottom of this post…
Myth #1: Fat Makes You Fat
Let’s cover this right off the bat…the increase in obese individuals in America happened right about the time fat and cholesterol were made out to be the bad guy. Through decades of low-fat diets and fat-free processed foods we, as a country, have just gotten heavier.
Source: National Center for Health Statistics (US). Health, United States, 2008: With Special Feature on the Health of Young Adults. Hyattsville (MD): National Center for Health Statistics (US); 2009 Mar. Chartbook.
The fact remains that we NEED fat in our diets.
Dietary fat helps your body utilize fat-soluble vitamins. Eating fat with each meal also helps to stabilize your appetite by affecting satiety hormones, keeping you full for longer periods of time. Fat provides your body with consistent energy by not triggering an insulin (our fat storage hormone) release like sugar and processed carbohydrates.
Myth #2: A Low-fat, High Carbohydrate Diet is Optimal
There is no evidence that low-fat diets have any benefits. They do not cause permanent weight loss or reduce the risk of chronic diseases in the long-term .
Despite fat having more calories per gram than carbohydrate or protein, studies show that high-fat (and low carbohydrate) diets actually lead to more weight loss than low-fat diets. This is because a diet based on whole, real, unprocessed foods allows us to control and manage our hormones which leads to weight loss.
The key is to eat protein, vegetables, healthy fats, fruit, and the right amount of starchy carbohydrates to fuel activity levels in order to keep our blood sugar and insulin level in check.
On the flip side, a low-fat diet leaves us feeling unsatisfied, which can lead to overeating. Low-fat also typically means higher in processed starchy carbohydrates causing a higher blood sugar and therefore a stronger insulin response. Insulin is a fat storage hormone and when it is present your body tends to store more fat.
When we started eating “low-fat” in America we gained weight because our diets were much higher in processed carbohydrates and sugar.
Source: Johnson RJ, et al. Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007.
If you take the fat out of food, you must add something to make it taste good – HELLO SUGAR! The food manufactures caught on to this very quickly and we were all lead to believe that low-fat crackers, cookies, yogurt, etc were health foods…
Where’d that end up getting us?
Myth #3: Cholesterol Rich Foods are Bad
Your body only absorbs 15% of the cholesterol you eat. The other 85% is excreted. Therefore, the cholesterol you consume has little to do with the cholesterol levels in your bloodstream.
“When we eat more cholesterol, the body produces less,” says nutritionist and physician Natasha Campbell-McBride.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is an important constituent of cell membranes. The vast majority of cholesterol in the body is made in the liver, while the rest is absorbed from the diet. Cholesterol is the basic raw material that your body uses to make vitamin D; sex hormones, and bile acids needed for digestion. Therefore we do not need to avoid egg yolks because they are high in cholesterol…EAT THE YOLKS!
Myth #4: Saturated Fat Raises Cholesterol
Despite decades of anti-fat propaganda, saturated fat has never been proven to cause heart disease. In fact, saturated fat improves some of its important risk factors.
Doctors, media, and those making nutritional recommendations to the public have wrongfully demonized saturated fat.
Saturated fat raises “good” (HDL) cholesterol and tends to change the pattern of your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol to the more favorable pattern A (big, fluffy particles.). Several recent studies have shown that, “Greater saturated fat intake is associated with less progression of coronary atherosclerosis, whereas carbohydrate intake is associated with greater progression.”
Data from: Hoenselaar R. Further response from Hoenselaar. British Journal of Nutrition, 2012.
There is no evidence that supports a direct relationship between saturated fat and heart disease. Remember: Correlation is not Causation.
Myth #5: Seed Oils are Healthy
It is not natural, unrefined fat that comes from properly raised animals that is the problem. Rather the issue is in refined seed oils. Seed and vegetable oils are very unhealthy, loaded with omega 6 fatty acids and trans fats that can contribute to disease.
The high doses of omega 6 fatty acids consumed in the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) increase inflammation in the body. Increased inflammation is the root of all chronic disease.
Source: Dr. Stephan Guyenet. Seed Oils and Body Fatness- A Problematic Revisit. Whole Health Source.
Refined seeds oils also become oxidized because they do not remain stable under light and heat. When we consume these oxidized oils they get into our cells and can accelerate aging and promote chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
The refinement process that these oils go through strips away any nutrients that may have been there in the first place. The oils from corn, soy, cotton, and canola crops are extracted through a chemical filled/high heat process. One of the first steps to increase your health is to avoid refined seed oils as much as possible.
Wrapping It Up
Natural fats that occur in properly raised animals, avocados, nuts & seeds, coconut, and olive oil are a part of a healthy supportive nutrition plan. Remember fat is not the problem. It’s the wrong types of fats coming from refined seed oils and trans fats in processed foods that are the problem.
Including fat at each meal is important because fat will keep you full and satisfied longer. When you have appropriate amounts of fat in your diet you actually end up eating less total calories because your body has the nutrition that it requires and your taste buds are satisfied.
In Health & Happiness,