How Fat Can Make You Thin
When I am asked what is the one misconception that I would like to clear up on the topic of nutrition, there is only answer.
No not in the sense of calling you as such, though about the macronutrient that gets such an incredibly bad rap in our Western society. You know how it goes, “don’t eat eggs they give you high cholesterol”, let’s buy skim milk and low-fat cheese as it’s better for our heart”, and my favourite “butter is the devil, bring me the margarine!”
Even the most educated and health-aware within my group of friends, asked me recently how many eggs I eat each day and was very concerned about my answer; proof of how entrenched these beliefs are for so many of us.
If then these beliefs are so wrong, then how did this happen? Why is no one correcting it?
Firstly, Dr Ancel Keys happened and secondly, people are correcting it. Let’s start with the latter point and the TIME Magazine covers shown below (Dr Keys is the man on the far left) – what a change and correction indeed! When I first saw this image, I was grinning from ear to ear!
To the former point, the truth is that researchers don’t always get it right, and Dr Ancel Keys is case in point.
It was over 60 years ago that University of Minnesota scientists — Dr Ancel Keys along with Drs. Francisco Grande and Joseph Anderson — defined the relationship between dietary fat and serum cholesterol, which linked cholesterol to heart disease.
This study led to the highly political McGovern Report in the 1970s which recommended a low fat diet to supposedly reduce heart disease.
The message was sent all around the Western world; that heart disease is caused by elevated cholesterol and that reducing saturated fat in the diet reduces this risk. Additionally, the US in particular, fully embraced the lowering of cholesterol with medications known as statins.
Keys constructed his hypothesis after studying the diets and heart disease in countries across the globe, sometimes called the 7 Countries Study. Vitally however, his research left out nations with data that did not match the hypothesis, and even within the data he published, populations existed in which diet and heart disease were wildly out of sync with his model.
Now however, all of those assumptions and hypothesises have proven themselves to be either overstated, oversimplified or wrong, and that has unfortunately led us astray. Very, very astray….
By 1970, an English researcher named John Yudkin would argue that sugar in the diet was the cause of heart disease in wealthy nations, but Keys, sensing that his theory was suddenly vulnerable to reconsideration, aggressively led the charge to have that research discredited. This information makes me equally enraged and sad. For Yudkin’s pioneering research at the time and also for our society who need not have experienced all that we have over the past 60 years.
Although I don’t like saying “what if” I do find myself thinking that if Yudkin’s research had not been pushed aside and people had not backed Ancel Keys as they did, the world would be a very different place. Perhaps you wouldn’t be struggling to ween yourself off chemicals and sugar right now and maybe there would be no such thing as obesity.
Oh to dream.
The other dream I have is that our health in general would not be so intrinsically linked to medication. Living with an autoimmune disease and genetic PCOS myself, I know a thing or two about this topic and the sad truth is that all too many medical practitioners treat first and solely with pharmaceuticals.
In the case of heart health, the belief in the lipid theory of heart disease led to a windfall for pharmaceutical companies who today earn billions of dollars on statin drugs, designed to lower cholesterol levels.
The reality is that, science does not back up the lipid theory of heart disease, and since we now have decades of experience showing that limiting saturated fat from our diet and using cholesterol lowering drugs does not improve people’s health or improve their risk for heart disease, we need to change our thinking.
TIME Magazine certainly wants us to and so do I.
There was a fascinating two-part program called Heart Of The Matter late in 2013, on ABC Catalyst which covered in detail these two enormous topics; fat linked to heart disease and cholesterol lowering medications. Both programs have since been pulled from the air in an apparent breach of impartial journalism. Funny, I thought lifting the lid on research that has been deemed overstated as well as the pharmaceutical industry that is still making money from this research would be exactly the kind of news that we need to hear about. It was a fantastic program of which I hope there will be more of in the future.
OK so this is all wonderful though how then does FAT make you THIN?
What we do know (and have for some time) is that saturated fats found in food like butter (yes butter!!) containing natural cholesterol, are in fact beneficial to health and not the dietary demons they’ve been portrayed as for the past 5 or so decades. If you want to know more specifically about or are curious as to the benefits of cholesterol from whole foods, check this out.
It needs to be said however, that when we are talking cholesterol benefits, we refer only to those unprocessed whole foods which naturally contain cholesterol. Oxidised cholesterol that is found in processed foods is to be avoided and it is this damaged cholesterol that contributes to the build up of plaque in the arteries, to atherosclerosis and not the natural cholesterol in whole foods.
What are these unprocessed whole foods then? This is where clean eating principles come in to play; eating food as close to its natural state as possible. In terms of saturated fats and natural cholesterol in whole foods think, full fat. As bizarre a concept as that may seem after years and years of hearing and doing otherwise, try it out. Ditch the skim and low-fat and go fat! Eggs, avocado, olive oil, nut oil, coconut oil, free-range red meat, nut butter, cheese, coconuts, oily fish, nuts…..
When it comes to milk for example, you can easily locate the ingredient milk powder on a carton or bottle of skim milk and it is this product containing oxidised cholesterol that food manufacturers add to skim milk to give it body. Steer clear.
Low-fat and skim products are most certainly not the health food portrayed by conventional dietary dogma. Worse still, ask yourself what they add to replace the fat in such products; sugar and chemicals.
Fat is flavour. Run your eye over the whole food options that I listed above which have saturated fat and think about their taste – flavour flavour flavour!
This topic was keenly discussed during my recent Clean Eating Workshop and since that time I have received messages from workshop attendees on this same topic who have said how excited they are to buy butter, yes butter! In contrast, the heavily-processed and oxidised-cholestrol product also known as margarine lurks in many people’s fridges and most guests at my workshop were shocked to find out that this little tub was not doing them any favours! That instead I was sharing with them what we know about margarine, what it is and that butter is indeed wonderful.
One particular lady has since told me that she bought the goodness that is the handmade and incredible Pepe Saya Cultured Unsalted Butter from Australia. This is one of my favourites and I was overjoyed to hear how much she is enjoying it. Another fabulous option is the unsalted option from Lurpak, a Danish butter also made from happy, grass-fed cows. The audience at my workshop were indeed shocked to find out that I cook with butter, often eat up to 4 eggs per day and that covering yourself and your food in coconut oil is OK too!
I shared excitedly with them, as I will do with you now, that eating saturated fat from whole foods is one of the best changes that they can make to their eating habits. Although each of us has a different biochemistry and requirements, there is so much positive research on the subject of moderate-to-high fat diets and as someone who chooses to live and eat that way I can tell you that it rocks!
How does fat make you thin?
Through stabilising your blood sugar, making you feel satisfied and nourished at the same time. Fat tastes great so in addition to the other facts, you are far less likely to reach for something that won’t love your body. A client that I work with has reported this exact (and welcome) side effect on her weight loss journey and she is down 30kg so far whilst managing significant food intolerances.
Another obvious difference for me in eating this way is how clear I feel each day. The fogginess that is often associated with high carbohydrate diets is non-existent for the majority of the people that eat good levels of saturated fats from whole foods so your brain is happy with the decision as well!
Where do you start?
- Ditch the processed versions of fat – margarine, skim-milk, low-fat cheese etc…
- Each week challenge yourself to introduce one new type of saturated fat from whole foods – eggs, avocado, olive oil, nut oil, coconut oil, free-range red meat, nut butter, cheese, coconuts, oily fish, nuts…..
- Try out some new recipes embracing saturated fat like my nut & seed loaf smeared with avocado, raw chocolate bark with nuts and lamb meatballs
- Ditch the guilt and diet-mantra about full fat and embrace the less processed and more nourishing options for your body
- Enjoy the difference!!
There are more recipes on this blog, or my eBook that can send you in the right direction for meal ideas and my instagram is another source of inspiration if you need it! If you have some fabulous ideas or insights please do share them by commenting below and maybe helping someone on their journey as well.
Share the ❤ and this article with someone else who would enjoy it too.
xxx Nadia xxx