News Flash: Fat isn’t bad for you… necessarily…

Let’s cut to the chase – you need to consume dietary fat.

No two ways about it. The demonization of dietary fats wrecked our health. I’m not just talking about how artificially removing fats from the foods we eat led to overconsumption of carbohydrates (and sugar). Fat isn’t bad for you… necessarily.

I could spew a whole bunch of information at you about why low-fat and non-fat versions of products that contain plenty dietary fats in their natural state is a mistake, but how about I just give you a quickie list of a few of the things your body needs dietary fats to do:

  1. synthesize hormones
  2. metabolize vitamins A, D, E and K
  3. rebuild cell membranes

Hormones regulate everything in our bodies.

Starve yourself of dietary fats and you can’t make estrogen, testosterone, growth hormones and a whole host of other crucial hormones that determine whether or not your body functions properly. Feeling like crap? Looking terrible? Aging faster than you think you should? Are you on a low fat diet? You might want to rethink that.

Vitamins A, D, E and K are essential nutrients.

Without sufficient levels of vitamin A your eyesight will diminish (particularly in low light conditions) and you become more susceptible to infection. We are, as a country at double risk of vitamin D deficiency because the primary source is sun exposure, and we live in our houses, our offices and when we do get outside we’re slathered in sunscreen that prevents our skin from making this crucial nutrient. Go on a low-fat diet and what little you are making won’t be taken up by your cells and puts you at risk of weak, brittle bones, muscle fatigue and a weakened immune system (it also, ironically enough, makes you more prone to sunburn). Lack of sufficient vitamin E again impairs your immune system and can contribute to anemia, impaired eyesight and can cause neuromuscular problems. Lack of vitamin K can increase your chance of atherosclerosis and impairs your ability to heal injuries. Without sufficient dietary fat you can take all the supplements you want to prevent these deficiencies and the effect will be negligible.

Last but not least, the membranes of your cell walls are made from fats.

What kind of fats you consume will determine the quality of these cell walls. Fat deprivation deprives you of the raw materials your body needs to rebuild your cell walls, and diminishes the quality of what can be rebuilt.

So, why were fats demonized in the first place?

An error in judgement is the answer. Some correlations were seen between high fat consumption and heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The problem here is that correlation is not causation. The studies that indicated fat intake might contribute to these health problems failed to screen out other risk factors, like genetics (if your family has a history of cardiovascular disease, you have a higher risk for it), smoking, alcohol use, stress levels and a sedentary lifestyle.

What the video above points out is the type of fats you consume matters more than how much. However, fats are calorically dense. 1 gram of protein or 1 gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories, while 1 gram of fats contains 9 calories. So a high fat diet is likely to have you consuming more calories than you need. The thing is though, fats trigger the systems in our digestive system that signal to our brains that we’ve had enough much sooner than carbohydrate or protein do, so if you really do eat too much dietary fat you’re likely to know it.

What’s the takeaway – Knock off the low-fat and non-fat nonsense. Eat a balanced diet that includes fats, but avoid trans fats altogether (anything that says it was partially hydrogenated) and limit your intake of saturated fats and you should be good to go.

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