For years heart surgeons, doctors, the government – anyone you can think of – have advised us against eating fat. It has been drummed into us that saturated fat is particularly bad, and that if we eat a lot of it we will get fat and also develop heart disease. Eating too much fat was considered the primary cause of heart disease, the theory being that high fat results in high blood cholesterol, which clogs arteries. The advice was to switch to a low-fat diet, and take statins.
Now doctors, even heart surgeons, are admitting they were wrong.
There is NO link between saturated fat intake and heart disease, even in patients who already have coronary artery disease (Puaschitz et al. 2015)!
Heart disease is not about fat, its about inflammation.
With the advice to cut dietary fats came a boom in obesity, diabetes and other metabolic syndromes. Low-fat products flooded the market and we all felt virtuous when we consumed them. But what were, and are, we consuming? In an attempt to make these products appealing in the absence of flavoursome fat, low-fat foods are usually laden with sugar and additives. And this is a big part of the problem – these substances cause inflammation and don’t fill us up like fats do (so we often go back for more).
Inflammation is the underlying cause of chronic disease. It is a normal, natural and vital part of our immune system – we need inflammation to protect us from harmful bacteria, viruses, toxins and to seal our wounds. It needs to be activated quickly, contained locally and suppressed effectively – otherwise it becomes harmful. It is designed to be short-lived so that it doesn’t go on to harm our own body. When it is not short lived, and becomes chronic, we become diseased.
Our Western diets are largely based on refined carbohydrates e.g. white flour and sugar, and too much of the wrong fatty acids, plus we are surrounded by new and synthetic chemicals, that can also trigger the inflammation response.
Reduce Chronic Inflammation and feel better
Cutting fats from our diet robs us of vital nutrition and usually leads to an increase of foods and substances that are detrimental to our health, like processed low-fat foods. We need fat for vital body processes. Here are some examples:
- Blood cell formation
- Hormone production
- Vitamin transport (some are only soluble in fat)
- Protection of nerves and conduction of nerve impulses
- Cholesterol (yep, we need cholesterol – it carries vital fats and vitamins around our body and helps produce hormones)
Some fats, such as Omega-3 (an essential fatty acid) are vital to our health and need to be taken in through our diet. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are extremely beneficial for optimal brain function and in preventing disease like cancer, heart disease and arthritis. You’ll therefore be compromising your health if you avoid this form of fat!
Omega-6 is another essential fatty acid, but unlike omega-3, we tend to over consume it because it is present in high quantities in many processed foods. Over consuming this fatty acid causes inflammation – which is what we want to avoid!
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What fats should you eat?
Of course, what your body needs is entirely unique, and so, therefore, are the types and amounts of fats you need (read more about my health philosophy HERE), but in general it is all about balance – or regain balance if you are currently unwell. Yes, have some saturated fat in your diet, but ensure it is from a good healthy source – butter and coconut oil are good options – and don’t go mad with it. Ensure you only cook to a high heat with oils that are stable at high temperatures (i.e. saturated fats; coconut oil, butter, lard). My preference is coconut oil as I can’t tolerate dairy due to my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Use olive and nut oils on salads and generally where you are not using a high heat.
Ensure you are getting your Omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish (well sourced) as well as from nuts and seeds (Chia is particularly good – I always include this in my Omega-3 Super seed mix and sprinkle on breakfasts, soups, casseroles etc). You will not get fat from eating nuts and seeds as part of a whole foods, balanced diet (i.e. not based on processed foods). The additional minerals and fibre you will gain from adding nuts and seeds will help you feel even better.
Avoid packaged, processed foods, which are often high in trans-fats (usually artificially created to promote shelf life), refined flour and sugar.
Consult a doctor before making major changes to your diet, particularly if you have a chronic conditions. Remember you are the expert of your body. You can read some scientific articles about fats and heart disease HERE and HERE.
Want to decrease your chronic inflammation in a safe and sustainable way? Make a great start by completing The Reboot! The Reboot is an online health coaching package designed to help you get your energy back, take control of your health and embrace your life in just 4 weeks. Click HERE and HERE for more information.
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