Image by Robert S. Donovan
These days, everyone thinks that low fat is the way to go. It sounds good — if you eat less fat, you shouldn’t store the fat, right? Unfortunately, WRONG! Fat is absolutely necessary to your diet, and low fat is the worst diet you can have! Fats are absolutely KEY to maintaining proper health, and I’ll show you why.
The History Behind Fat’s Bad Name
In the early 1900s, people ate a very different diet. It was filled with red meat, bacon, cream, and butter. Yet, they were not overweight, and heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions that are common today were practically non-existent. Plenty of modern people have puzzled over this — HOW could they have eaten this type of diet and not had health problems? They’ve written it off as “coincidence,” that they later changed their diets to “healthy” low-fat diets, or that they use pharmaceuticals to help keep themselves healthy in their later years.
None of this is accurate, of course. There’s no way that an entire generation (in fact, many generations before them) could have eaten such a high-fat diet and lived healthy lives if this diet was UNhealthy. It’s true that these foods weren’t factory-farmed then, but were pastured and grass-fed and were often raised by each individual family, or certainly by local farmers. This was one good reason for the health of this diet, but the fact remains — this high-fat diet is the proper diet for people!
Saturated fat and cholesterol became the target of a smear campaign after the World Wars. You can read the entire story at the Weston A. Price Foundation’s website, but to make a long story short, after the wars the population was exploding (baby boom), the country was industrialized, and food needed to be produced in mass quantities and cheaply, and it needed to have a fairly long shelf life. This led to the development of mass farming practices, as well as the invention of hydrogenated oils (vegetable shortening and margarine). Hydrogenated oils increased the shelf life and stability of baked goods, and are full of trans fats. Suddenly, heart disease was becoming more common. Research was completed, and it showed that trans fats were bad, and so was oxidized cholesterol. But, researchers told the public that it was really saturated fats (not trans fats) and all cholesterol that were bad. That’s where it started. Ironically, many of the researchers who spoke in favor of the “Prudent diet” (corn flakes, margarine, skim milk; instead of bacon, eggs, and butter) died of heart disease or related problems while on this diet.
Image by udim
The Problem With Low Fat
Low-fat diets have led to many problems: processed foods with oxidized cholesterol, especially low-fat milks; excessive use of trans-fats and refined sugars (leading to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc.); hormonal issues (believe it or not, cholesterol regulates a lot of hormones, including serotonin, which affects mood; a lack can affect fertility too); and more. Your cells are also made largely of saturated fat and your brain of cholesterol, so a lack can cause problems with skin elasticity and regeneration, and problems with your brain (think ADD, memory loss, etc.). Low-fat means lots of problems; high fat is what you need!
To expand upon this briefly (to expand at length, click on all the links I’ve added), I believe many of our modern health problems can be blamed on our low-fat diets. When we don’t have adequate saturated fat and cholesterol, serotonin isn’t regulated properly, which can lead to depression. I believe this is why we have such a high percentage of the population currently taking SSRIs, like Prozac. I also believe that this is why we have such a large issue with fertility problems (along with aging first-time mothers). Sex hormones are controlled by cholesterol, and babies’ bodies are largely made of saturated fat and cholesterol. A lack can lead to problems getting pregnant or babies not forming properly (of course, other nutrient deficiencies are at play, too, such as a lack of B vitamins). Nutrients are not well absorbed without fat; this is why even modern diet “experts” advise a small amount of salad dressing with your vegetables. So, without fat, even those “healthy” meals with plenty of meat and veggies are not great, because you cannot actually reap the benefits!
Without Fat We Need Something
When we remove fat from our diets, we have to replace it with SOMETHING. For most, that’s sugar and grains. Most low-fat processed food relies on sugar for flavor (and most of that sugar is high-fructose corn syrup, a highly processed food in itself). Fat is actually the body’s primary source of energy. When we remove that (the government currently recommends that no more than 30% of calories come from fat, and some recommend even lower levels; traditional diets have people eating 50 – 60% of their calories from fat and most of that saturated fat), we must get energy from somewhere. Carbohydrates is where we’ve turned. High-grain diets have their own problems (that’s really another story in itself), but basically it leads to the body breaking down a little bit of the carbs for energy, and storing the rest as fat. Eventually this leads to not recognizing leptin (the body’s hormone that signals you to stop eating), and can even suppress leptin production. This leads to being overweight. It can also lead to yeast issues, because sugars and grains feed the yeast in your body, messing up your gut flora and causing the “bad” yeast to overgrow. If you have recurrent yeast infections, you’re eating too much sugar and too many grains and not enough fat!
You CAN retrain your body to use fat as energy. I would recommend you go gluten-free or even grain free for awhile, and cut out all processed sugar, which will help to kill the yeast overgrowth that many adults have (raw honey is okay — I will do a post on this in the future). Eat large amounts of healthy fats, like coconut oil (which is almost entirely saturated). Seek help from a qualified alternative health practitioner to learn more about your specific dietary needs (and run very fast from any doctor who recommends you eat a low fat diet rich in vegetable oils, which are actually very bad for you!).
We’ve focused on eating a lot more fat over the last several months. Curious how we’re doing? Currently we try to eat 50% or more of our calories from fat each day, along with plenty of fruits and veggies and limited grains. Most of that fat is saturated. I tried to eat 4 – 6 tablespoons of saturated fat per day when I was pregnant. Yes, TABLESPOONS. We eat a lot of eggs, grass-fed beef, coconut oil, etc. Ben’s continued to lose weight despite not exercising, and has dipped below 190 (he is 6’2″) and my weight remains basically steady around 130. I was 150 lbs. when I was 9 months pregnant with Daniel, and dropped nearly all that weight a week after his birth. Extended family has also adopted this diet, and some have experienced weight loss for the first time in years! One family member could not lose weight on a standard “healthy” (i.e. low fat, grain-filled) diet no matter what, not even with daily exercise…but upon adopting this diet, dropped 20 lbs. or so with no effort and is now concerned about dropping TOO MUCH weight! Yes…really.
Bekah eats a lot of fat, too. Far more than most kids her age do, I’m sure. Her diet consists primarily of eggs and grass-fed beef at this point, with some fruits and veggies and occasionally coconut flour products (which are high in fat, too, since they contain coconut milk and oil). She is very healthy (other than her allergies; but she fights off acute infections very easily and has no chronic conditions) and at a good weight and height. I’m estimating she is 33 – 34″ tall and a bit over 25 lbs. — rather tall and thin for her age, yet very strong. Daniel’s still only on breastmilk (which is very nutritious with the type of diet I’m eating!). He just went through a major growth spurt, growing 2″ and gaining 1 lb. in a week, putting him at 25″ and 13 lbs. at 14 weeks old! When he does start solids, he’ll get homemade chicken stock mixed with coconut oil, egg yolks with coconut oil, mashed vegetables with coconut oil (see a pattern here?), ground chicken and beef, etc. He won’t have any grains until he is past 18 months. At his age, he is nearly sitting up already, and can certainly do so supported. He’s been able to bear weight on his legs since 2 months, and is a great sleeper and very calm, predictable baby. He also has extremely long, thick, beautiful hair! I can’t go anywhere in public without getting comments on his hair. Some think that hair is a sign of health, and if so, he’s really healthy! lol. Here is a recent picture of him:
So how do you eat more fat? Here’s 100 Ways from Anne-Marie at Cheeseslave, and 7 reasons to do so from Dr. Mercola. By the way, increase your fat intake SLOWLY because your body will be in shock and will not react well to a drastic diet change. Adding an extra tablespoon per day and giving it at least week to adjust is probably a good idea (but see your alternative practitioner for specifics).