Ah, the familiar three letter word that we’ve all heard so much about—fat. “It will cause heart disease and make you fatter than a pig!” “Huh!? That can’t be true, Jesus consumed fat for breakfast, lunch and dinner!" Between low-carb, low Fat and the likes of banting, ketogenic, Atkins and LCHF—it’s extremely easy to get overwhelmed and skeptical by the term. There has been a massive shift in our eating habits in last century. We have gone from eating predominately whole, healthy, fatty foods—to consuming low-fat processed shit loaded with too much sugar. Lets uncover the facts and myths around this seemingly simple, yet paradoxically complex macro nutrient, and why it's suddenly being introduced back into our diets.
With so many varieties and sources of fat, the fact that we have coined fat into one nefarious term is just wrong. I believe the right quality fat is, and will always be, the greatest source of sustainable, optimal and efficient energy to produce the most effective results physically and mentally in animals and humans. The problem lies in the quality and sources of fat.
The majority of my calories come from fat, which keeps me full, alert and summoned with energy for hours and sometimes days when fasting.
Why fat got bashed
Firstly, I would like to give a brief explanation as to why dietary fat has gotten such a bad rep in the last century or so. People that lived around the 80’s would have been in the very hype of the fat vilifying era. In short, a very persuasive guy by the name of Ancel Keys published a study on a bunch of countries about how fat was correlated with heart disease and completely omitted countries that did not fit into his hypothesis (like France and Switzerland—who have some of the highest intakes of fat and the lowest rates of heart disease). Dr Keys made these definite conclusions on fat, even though sufficient information was available from the World Health Organization on 22 countries -- yet, he chose to stick with the 6 countries that supported his hypothesis. I believe the reason fat has been so demonized is a mixture of corrupt government policies along with Big Food companies such as Coca-Cola paying off scientists to conveniently ignore facts in order to maximize profits at the expense of your health.
Types of Fat
To understand this beautifully complex nutrient, we need to understand the different types. We have the usuals such as Monounsaturated Fat ( found in olive oil and nuts), Polyunsaturated fat (Omega-6 and -3), Trans fat (an obvious villain found in processed foods) and then we have the one that is causing most of the confusion...
Saturated fat, friend or foe?
The surely familiar and controversial type of fat that, to most, is believed to be the “evil” cousin of the Fat Family—or is she...or he? Saturated fat can be found mostly in meat from land-based animals as well as butter and coconut oil.
In contrast to what we’ve been taught to believe in the last century, saturated fat is an essential part to our diets. Corrupt people and organisations such as Dr Keys, misinformed health practitioners, Big Food and even the Government have all aided in defining saturated fat as bad. However, this great source of fat is more than just a nutrient we consume. In fact, your brain is predominately made up of saturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids. It literally relies on the cholesterol you consume to perform optimally and survive. Eating a low-fat and predominantly high carbohydrate diet can starve the brain and cause inflammation—no wonder the rate of Alzheimer’s has gone through the roof in the last couple of decades.
According to Dr Mark Hyman in his book, Eat Fat Get Thin: “The kinds of saturated fats circulating in the blood that were associated with heart disease were even-chain palmitic and stearic acid. And guess what: Most palmitic and stearic acids in the body are produced in your liver when you eat carbohydrates. They don’t come from eating fat.” This is huge. This means that dietary cholesterol from sources such as saturated fat, in fact, doesn't cause the LDL particles in your in your blood stream to become small and dense—therefore, there is no correlation with heart disease.
In addition to the statements made by Dr Hyman, a 2015 report done by the US Department of Health’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee stated that “Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for over-consumption.” This means that, contrary to their previous statements, the USA are regressing their stance on saturated fat and cholesterol--and so should we.
Good Fat vs Bad Fat
Most people who hop on the Banting or Ketogenic diet, in South Africa at least I’ve noticed, will naturally eat any fat that they can get their hands on. Often, I see people at Wimpy (a fast food-like restaurant chain in South Africa) following a Banting diet and ordering a cheese griller breakfast without toast. Sounds healthy and trendy right? Little do they know that poor sausage, bacon and eggs have been cooked to a crisp in highly processed vegetable oil—not exactly ideal considering vegetable oil is shown to cause oxidized LDL particles in your blood—which can, in fact, cause heart disease.
The problem I have with most LCHF diets is the parameters around the quality and/or cooking method. That is the reason I like following Dave Asprey’s guidelines in The Bulletproof Diet. Dave specifies in great detail the type, quality and cooking method of fat in order to retain the maximum amount of nutrients and avoid oxidation. Cooking under high temperatures like frying with the wrong oils and fats can cause oxidation—as with olive oil. Cooking with oils that have a high smoke point will greatly decrease the amount of damage that occurs. Ghee and coconut oil are awesome alternatives for frying.
Being a college student it is sometimes difficult to follow some of these guidelines to a tee. I try my best by planning my meals throughout the week by cooking in bulk to save time. My university friends laugh at me while I eat an avocado for lunch and bring my Bulletproof Coffee in a flask to lectures. Looking down at me with sorrow, they are always asking if I struggle to follow such a "strict" diet. The truth is, the way I feel when I eat good, wholesome food--is the way I want to feel for the rest of my life.
Fat in my Diet
Fat plays a fundamental role in my diet. It curbs my hunger by increasing Leptin (a hormone made by your fat that decreases hunger) and decreasing Ghrelin (a hormone that increases appetite). Fat also aides me in a big way when it comes to ketosis—which is a point you reach when your body is not relying on sugar and carbs to function and perform, but purely the fat you eat and have on your body. Majority of the calories in my diet, about 60-70%, comes from fat.
My favourite fatty meals:
- Omelette w/ bacon, cherry tomatoes and baby spinach cooked in ghee or coconut oil
- Grilled Salmon w/ a large salad and lots of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
- Lamb Chops w/ bacon and cauliflower mash
- Grass-fed steak w/ herb butter, broccoli and avocado
My go-to fat-bombs for quick energy:
- Poached free-range eggs from pasture-raised poultry
- Bulletproof Coffee
- Raw almonds or cashews
5 ways to introduce fat into your diet
- Substitute Sugar for Fat: To start, try not having sugar or milk in your coffee or tea. This small, but major step forward, will create a snowball effect which will replicate into other tough dietary choices you may have to make. Try weaning yourself off sugar by either having Bulletproof Coffee w/ grass-fed unsalted butter or black coffee w/ a teaspoon of Raw Honey or Xylitol (preferably sourced from American Hardwood).
- Cook with Quality Fat: Cooking your food with quality fat like coconut oil, grass-fed ghee or butter can not only make each meal more delicious, but it will provide that extra dose of ketones to kick your cognitive and physical functioning into 7th Gear.
- Supplement with Krill Oil: found at the bottom of the food chain, therefore having lower levels of toxins, while containing the most amount of EPA and DHA.
- Bringing Bacon Back (I hope you read that with JT's voice): Don’t be afraid to have bacon and eggs (minus the toast obviously) in the morning if you want. This high protein, high fat combo will ensure your mid-afternoon cravings dissipate.
- Go Nuts on Avocados: If you happen to be craving a snack, go with a raw almonds or an avocado. Easy and viable--there are no excuses.
Obviously I'm not an expert, doctor or nutritionist--nor am I pretending to be one. So please don't go and do stupid things without consulting your doctor first. Through my own experience and the research I've done, I think fat should never have left our diets. It is a vital component to functioning at your best with pure and sustainable energy that is readily available.
I would like to encourage you to do research and start by substituting the sugar and carbs you consume for quality, healthy fat. Does this mean you have to say no to your beloved gluten forever? Definitely not. Schedule a day of the week--preferably Friday or Saturday (also known as Faterday)--and eat whatever your heart desires. This increase in calories, which bodybuilders have been doing for decades, is like a jolt to your metabolism. It will actually end up having a 1-step-back-10-step forward effect on your metabolism by burning more calories.
I hope you enjoyed this Blog post. If you have any questions please get hold of me via email or in the comments below.
I hope you have a fantastic week and be the best version of yourself.
Below is a list of resources that I recommend you take a look at if you're interested in delving further into the world of fat. I refer back to these often to clarify questions or thoughts I have on fat.
- Eat Fat Get Thin, Dr Mark Hyman
- Grain Brain, Dr David, Perlmutter
- The Bulletproof Diet, Dave Asprey
- The Four Hour Body, Tim Ferriss
- The Big Fat Surprise, Nina Teicholz
I would encourage you to take a look at this roadmap for eating by Bulletproof--I have a printed out version on my fridge which I refer to often when cooking and buying food.