Fats are a vital component of every cell in the body. In fact, our brain is actually made up of nearly 60% fat!
Dietary fats play a major role in supporting several health-related aspects in the body and are crucial to optimizing health and longevity. Benefits of consuming fats include:
This list goes on...
However, when we discuss dietary fat consumption, it’s important to realize that the type and quality of the fat source is extremely important. Arguably, even more important than that of protein and carbohydrates.
Denatured (heated or oxidized) fats are known to induce large amounts of oxidative stress in the body, and because fats are the storehouse for toxins, eating low quality or denatured fats can end up having more negative effects than eating low-quality protein or carbohydrates.
Fats can be divided into two main categories with several sub-categories.
In general, you should focus on consuming monounsaturated fats often, polyunsaturated and saturated fats cautiously, and avoid chemically processed trans-fat at all costs.
Wait, but aren't saturated fats bad for you? The answer - NOPE!
For years we have been taught that saturated fats are bad for our health, “clog” our arteries, and cause heart disease. This could not be further from the truth! Recent studies have cleared up this myth and provided evidence that there is no significant link between saturated fats and cardiovascular disease. [*]
As mentioned earlier, one of the main differences between healthy, high-quality fat and an unhealthy or denatured fat is whether or not it can easily be oxidized or go rancid in the body. Oxidation leads to the creation of free radicals and increased inflammation, something we definitely want to avoid.
So let’s break down the above categories and discuss which foods you should focus on consuming when it comes to high quality, nutrient-dense fats. Most foods contain a combination of saturated and unsaturated fats but are generally categorized by the fat that makes up the majority of its contents.
Saturated fats – like coconut oil, MCT oil, butter, ghee, cocoa butter, lard and other animal fats such as beef, pork, lamb, and egg yolks – are some of the most stable fats, meaning they are less likely to oxidize and cause increased inflammation in the body. Choose wild or pasture-raised, organic sources of saturated fats when possible.
Monounsaturated fats – such as macadamia nuts and macadamia nut oil, avocados and avocado oil, olives and olive oil, nuts and seeds – are moderately stable fats that are best consumed in their whole food state. When buying these oils, look for dark bottles that are labeled “cold-pressed,” “expeller-pressed,” or “centrifuge-extracted” to minimize the risk of oxidation.
Polyunsaturated fats – like canola, corn, sunflower, safflower, soybean, rice bran, cottonseed, and grapeseed oil - are categorized as omega-6 polyunsaturated fats and should be avoided as often as possible. These oils (also labeled 'vegetable oils') are highly processed and prone to oxidation, leading to increased inflammation in the body. It’s best to choose whole food sources of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats instead like fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel, tuna) nuts (walnuts and almonds), and seeds (hemp, flax, pumpkin, and chia seeds).
Trans fats – like hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, margarine, vegetable shortening, and most fried foods – should be avoided at all costs. These chemically processed trans fats are extremely inflammatory and have been linked to several health issues. One exception to this is the naturally occurring trans fat, vaccenic acid, which is found in grass-finished meats and dairy fats.
One of the biggest fears of consuming more dietary fat is the fear of raising cholesterol levels. Just as we have been taught to fear saturated fats, we’ve been brainwashed into believing that a diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol leads to high cholesterol levels and therefore causes heart disease. This was known as the “diet-heart hypothesis” and turned out to be completely false! [*]
Heart disease is the result of atherosclerosis (when the arteries of the heart become narrowed and hardened by built-up plaque). This build-up is not due to circulating cholesterol but rather the result of inflammation that causes the walls of the arteries to become damaged.
Cholesterol is essential to life. It is responsible for building hormones, protecting the brain, strengthening cell membranes, transporting vitamins and minerals, absorbing nutrients, and much more.
Your liver actually makes the majority (about 80%) of the cholesterol circulating in your blood, with only 20% coming from the food you eat. So, if you eat less cholesterol-containing foods, your body will actually make up for this by simply making more in your liver -- hence why there is something very wrong with pointing the finger at cholesterol as the enemy.
Research actually shows that 80% of what actually clogs your arteries is not saturated fat or cholesterol, it’s the rancid/oxidized unsaturated fats from refined, overheated vegetable oils and processed crap. [*]
Moral of the story: stop worrying about cholesterol and turn your focus towards reducing inflammation by lowering your sugar intake, reducing vegetable oil consumption, and priming your body with high-quality, healthy fat sources.
The fat you eat is not the same as the fat that’s stored in your body.
Here’s the difference:
Body fat consists of adipose tissue made of triglycerides. Any time you eat more calories than your body needs, your body converts the excess to triglycerides, stored as body fat--whether that comes from carbs, fat, or protein.
Dietary fat consists of essential fatty acids. Essential being the keyword. Your body requires these acids to function and absorb nutrients. Eating dietary fat doesn’t lead to gaining body fat...unless you eat more than your body can use.
The 90s showed us that low-fat diets wreak havoc on our health. Levels of chronic disease and obesity rates skyrocketed!
The keto diet, on the other hand, reinforces our body’s ancestral mechanisms. By limiting carbs, our bodies tap into our triglyceride stores to actually burn body fat.
For more info on keto and fat loss, check out this blog post: Keto For Weight Loss...The Truth Revealed.