PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Eating fat is not a precursor to weight gain, heart disease or diabetes contrary to advice prescribed by the medical community ever since the 1950’s. Doctors told us to follow a low fat diet and sadly, butter was out, margarine was in.
Fast forward to 2016 and for the most part we know the opposite to be true. The low carb high fat diet first discovered by Dr. Atkins at the turn of the millennium pioneered a new way of thinking but there is still more that can be done. For example, it still baffles me when I see nutritionists and healthy eating bloggers posting turkey burger recipes using ‘lean’ ground meat containing 1% fat. How is something devoid of 99% it’s nutrition a good thing? Dr Atkins was onto something, unfortunately his untimely death meant he never fully exploited the benefits of a high fat diet. Here are four reasons why fat is good:
1. Weight Loss: Without turning this into a biochemistry post, here is what you should know. The body has a fat burning enzyme known as hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL) who’s job is to release the hormone Glucagon. Glucagon in conjunction with HSL breaks down triglycerides (the fat stored in your cells) into fatty acids so they are used up and burnt as energy or excreted from the body all together. Voila: Weight Loss. HSL is activated when you consume a diet high in good fats such as grass fed meat, oily fish, avocado’s, coconut or MCT oils.
2. Bone & Joint health: In the caveman era, our ancestors would eat meat off the bone, opting to give the lean cuts to the dogs (true story, and btw here is a snap of my good friend Samson from the Bronx, his owner feeds him chicken breast too!). Our ancestors knew that for their joints to survive often hazardous unknown conditions, they needed to stay well nourished, and this nourishment came from the bone – explains why bone broth is having a moment as of late. Bone broth contains minerals in forms that your body can easily absorb: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and others. They contain chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, the compounds sold as pricey supplements to reduce inflammation, arthritis and joint pain. But if bone broth isn’t your thing eat meat off the bone for the next best thing. Thighs, legs, drumsticks are all good choices.
3. Mental health & Autoimmune diseases: The connection between our gut and brain is an extremely undervalued concept when it comes to treating mental conditions and autoimmune disorders. Yet, Dr. Terry Wahls (author of the Wahls Protocol) used this very connection to heal herself from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) which saw her wheelchair bound within three years of diagnosis. Using a Hunter Gatherer diet (which includes foods high in fat), Dr. Wahls went from wheelchair ridden to completing an 18 mile bike ride in just one year, much to the astonishment of her physician (http://terrywahls.com/about/about-terry-wahls/). Fat played a prominent role in Dr Wahls recovery in many ways. Fats, especially Omega 3 insulate the wiring and development of our brain (Salmon is a great choice as are grass fed meats). Likewise, organ meats (Liver, Kidneys, Heart) are high in fat but also contain nutrients critical to our brain cells and mitochondria which fuel cellular processes that keep cells alive. In the West we have come to dine predominantly on lean cuts, but tribes from across the world eat organ meats as part of a regular healthy diet.
4. Taste: Fat contains flavor and lots of it. When you roast, fry or grill meat on the bone there is no denying it tastes better than chicken breast. Equally, a cookie baked with (grass fed) butter and whole milk will undeniably score victory over the skim milk and margarine version. Why? One explanation is that fat triggers the release of volatile compounds in foods, which in turn release flavors satisfying to us humans. In a study of how flavor is released in low-fat versus high-fat ice cream, food scientists found that flavor was intensified in the full fat version. I guess that explains why Fro-Yo will never be as good as plain ole ice cream….a fat substitute that doesn’t sacrifice flavor has been the holy grail of the food industry for decades.
I now predominantly buy chicken thighs and full fat ground meats. My fish is usually wild caught salmon, but I do indulge in sea bass now and again. I eat whole eggs and use butter as much as possible. I’m not saying we should toss out everything in our kitchen that is low fat and lean, but try to be cognizant of the fact we need fat for good health and to enjoy our food. Next time you reach for fat-free greek yoghurt, you may want to think twice.
As always, pushing for health xx