Dietary fat has a really bad reputation and got demonised for years now. However, fat is crucial for your health.
Here's another episode of "Exposed & Solved". Let's put these fat myths to rest for good!
Low-fat diets are the healthiest
That is such an old-fashioned train of thought.
Everyone is different. Everyone has a different metabolism, taste, schedule and goal. Some people do very well on a ton of carbs, some do very well on a ton of fat.
Some do well on high glycemic foods, some crave sugar all day if they eat them. Some are super satiated from fat and protein, some will feel they haven't eaten anything.
No, carbs are not evil. Fat is not evil. Nothing is evil, unless you consume too much of it!
However, low-fat diets are much easier to follow for most people, because you can eat more volume: dietary fat is the most calorie-dense macro-nutrient with 9 kcal per gram. Plus, most people do better on a higher carb intake, rathern than a fat intake, when it comes to energy levels. Depending on your body type, genetics and preferences, you should have one of them high and one low. Don't do high fat AND high carb!
Foods rich in cholesterol are bad for you
One of the most common myths, that is propagated by the media and even some GP's.
Eating foods, that are high in cholesterol isn't linked to an increase in "bad" cholesterol levels. There is literally no evidence to support those claims!
However, there are studies, that show eggs raise the "good" cholesterol.
In fact, eggs are a great source of protein, healthy fats and many other nutrients.
Eating fat makes you fat
"Eat fat and you will get fat". Sounds familiar? This myth is coming back again and again. Let's get rid of this nonsense for good!
Eating fat isn't what makes you fat! Eating too many calories makes you fat. If you are in a caloric surplus, a low-fat diet won't make you magically lose weight.
Dietary fat is vital for our health. Fats are crucial for regulating our hormones to ensure a proper function (especially when it comes to testosterone and oestrogen). The only dietary fat you want to stay away from are trans-fats, found in highly processed food like sausages and pastries.
Margarine is better than butter
Because dietary fat is demonised, butter was labelled as an unhealthy food. That's where food manufacturers smelled a pinch and started to produce margarine.
The thing with margarine is, that it contains huge amounts of processed vegetable oils, mixed together with trans-fats (the bad guys).
Butter is now actually considered a healthy food, especially if derived from grass-fed cows (Kerry Gold without added oil for instance).
Low-fat foods are an healthier option
There are so many new fake "fitness foods" out there, it's unbelievable.
Foods labeled "low fat" or "fat free" aren't the healthier option. Why? That stuff is packed with preservatives, sugar, artificial ingredients, thickeners and much more.
Let's take salad dressings for example. Many fat-free dressings contain additives and a huge amount of sugar to compensate for the taste (dietary fat is a taste enhancer). Rather squeeze some lemon juice in your salad, along with olive oil, fresh herbs and spices.
There's one exception: When it comes to pastries it's much healthier to make your own healthier version of it, since they are most likely filled with trans-fats. Plus, if you do it yourself, you know exactly what goes in your mouth! Huge advantage when it comes to calorie tracking.
Foods that are low fat naturally are also fine of course!
All fats are the same
Even though every kind of fat provides the same amount of calories, they're not all the same. There are healthier ones and not-so-healthy ones.
- Monounsaturated fats: Very healthy kind of fat. Considering monounsaturated fats instead of trans-fats will help you to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Good sources of them are extra virgin olive oil, peanut oil, avocados and nuts in general.
- Polyunsaturated fats: Very healthy kind of fat. Polyunsaturated fats are vital for building cell membranes and the covering of nerves, for blood clotting, muscle movement and to help fight inflammations. Maybe you know omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids, which are the most common types. Eating more healthy fats will reduce harmful LDL and improve your total cholesterol level by lowering triglycerides. Add fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines as well as flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds to your diet.
- Saturated fats: In between good and bad. Eating a high amount of saturated fats can increase your total cholesterol and tip the balance towards more LDL. For that reason you should limit the intake to under 10% of your total calories per day. Coconut oil is a special case though — you can consume it safely.
- Trans-fats: Literally the worst variety of fat. Trans-fats are a byproduct of a process called hydrogenation. Eating a diet rich in trans-fats increases the amount of LDL tremendously and reduces the amount of HDL in the bloodstream. Just a small amount of trans-fat can harm your health. That's why you should really avoid foods like: cakes, pies and cookies (especially with frosting), margarine, fried fast foods and cream-filled candies.
Dietary fat is very important and consuming too little will leave you with messed up hormone levels, for instance low testosterone in men (very likely!) - that's why it's called "essential fatty acids". But always aim for healthy, natural occuring fats, mainly from fish, eggs, nuts and avocados.
But how much is enough? Aim for at least 0.5g of fat per kg of body weight or 0.23g per pound. A 90kg/200lbs person would therefore need at least 45g of dietary fat per day, to stay healthy.
So make sure to get enough dietary fat in!