FOOD, NUTRITION 4th January 2017

It’s RIP to chicken breast, if you want to get lean


SPOILER ALERT: chicken breast does not equal weight loss. Nor does anything labelled non-fat. To lose fat, you must eat fat.

Part of me didn’t want to write this. I’m David, taking on Goliath. Goliath represents mainstream media: newspaper outlets, magazines, and TV shows. And now that resolution season has arrived, these self-proclaimed pundits of nutritional authority are busy taking it upon themselves to teach us a thing or two about weight loss.

Over at, Delia Hammock and Alison Sturm, serve up a 1,200 calorie diet plan with the declaration that it helps you to ‘slim down fast and still feel satisfied’. 

In case you were wondering:

  • Breakfast: 3/4 cup bran flakes, 1 banana, 1 cup of fat-free milk
  • Lunch: 1 mini whole wheat pita, 3 ounces of turkey breast, 1/2 a roasted pepper, 1 teaspoon of light mayonnaise, mustard, lettuce, 1 stick of part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • Dinner: 4 ounces of broiled flounder, 2 plum tomatoes sprinkled with 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, 1 cup of cooked couscous and 1 cup of steamed broccoli. Dessert: fat-free pudding

Thanks to Delia and Alison, my inner David piped up. Straight off the bat, this diet is dangerous. No one can realistically live off 1,200 calories a day, let alone look good doing it (I tried many moons ago, and it wasn’t pretty). But more than that, the implication that avoiding fat is a must if we are to lose weight, is just not true.

Delia and Angela, Biology begs to differ with you. Consuming a diet high in fat actually keeps you lean and healthy. Here’s how:

  • Humans possess fat burning enzymes that are activated by eating high-fat foods. Foods such as:
    • Oily fish, nuts, whole eggs, avocados, olive & coconut oil, and animal fats (from sustainably farmed animals)
  • Low-fat foods deactivate these enzymes (weight gain lurks)
  • Certain cuts of meat: chicken breast and lean ground turkey, are low in fat (hint hint)
  • Good fats are nutritional powerhouses. They require additional time to be absorbed by the body, which means they keep you fuller for longer

Nutrients found in high-fat foods*:

  • Biotin – Regulates blood sugar and promotes healthy, supple skin
  • Choline – Plays a key role in DNA development, heart function, and intestinal processes
  • Omega 3 fats – Decrease inflammation, help relieve arthritis and reduce symptoms of depression
  • Vitamin D – Critical for a healthy immune system and regulating calcium uptake

  • Alpha Lipoic Acid – Protects from oxidative stress which causes diabetes, heart disease, and cancer

  • Conjugated Linoleic acid – Lowers body fat whilst preserving muscle, reduces inflammation and regulates insulin to prevent increased blood glucose

When you go back to basics and just look at the science, the case for a high-fat diet is beyond reasonable doubt.

Even our Paleolithic forbearers, the so-called cavemen, knew this. They fed lean cuts of meat to the dogs, savoring the fatty cuts for themselves.

If a high-fat diet delivers nutrients, satiety and keeps you healthy, why aren’t we doing it? Ultimately, eating fat to lose fat is still a notion that most of us can’t come to terms with. The guilt associated with whole eggs and bacon, cooked in butter, brings fear to our faces. The paradox is striking.

That said, high-fat diets did enjoy a moment in the early 2000’s when Dr. Robert Atkins released his controversial book ‘Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution’ noting that carbohydrates, not fat, are the real enemy.

The moment was short lived, leaving only a handful of practitioners in the field of medicine, to advocate for a higher fat (ketogenic) diet if we are to enjoy optimal health and weight.

Sadly, the low fat manifesto has been indoctrinated into us through daytime TV, magazine articles, and endless diet products, funded by food manufacturers who we seem to trust more than science itself.

You couldn’t be further from the truth if you think an item labelled fat-free helps you lose weight. It’s time to turn on the stove, drown some chicken thighs in butter, cook with the skin on, and say RIP to chicken breast.

As always, pushing for health.