Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat
Has anyone noticed the fat-free craze that has been sweeping the nation since the late 80’s? It seems like everywhere we look there are marketing labels touting fat-free! As if to make us think that eating dietary fat is what actually makes us gain body fat. It’s time to undress this issue to uncover the dirty truth about this fat madness.
First thing’s first, fat generally does not make you fat. If we consume too many calories for our body then we will gain fat. It doesn’t matter whether these calories come from fat, protein, or carbohydrates. Also, more than dietary fat, one of the biggest culprits for gaining body fat is actually carbohydrates and especially the ones that are high-glycemic like bread, pasta, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, etc. Not only do these spike our blood sugar (which can lead to fat gain) but they also make it easy for us to overeat, especially when processed and lacking fiber. Furthermore, stress and lack of exercise also play a big role in fat development in the body. You can sleep easy knowing that dietary fats are our friend, but before you lay your head down just yet, read below to learn about the different types you should be eating, specifically about the often avoided saturated fat.
The type of fat that gets the worst rap is saturated fat. This is because we typically think of this kind of fat as the one that comes from animal sources such as, meat and dairy, and clogs our arteries. On one hand this is true and on the other hand it can be misleading. Saturated fat is further classified into short chain, medium chain and long chain fatty acids. The kind I was just talking about is the long chain fatty acids. They stay solid at body temperature, which means they form sticky clumps in the blood and are more likely to form clots throughout our blood vessels. This in turn will raise our LDL cholesterol in an attempt to solve the problem. So yes, these long chain saturated fats should be consumed in moderation. However, they should not be completely eliminated as they are still needed for building cell membranes.
Short and medium chain fatty acids however, are liquid at body temperature, are easy to digest and are used mainly for energy. This means that unless you eat excessive amounts of short and medium chain fatty acids, they won’t likely be stored as body fat. There are certain types of these fats that have added beneficial functions as well, including Lauric and Caprylic acid that have anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-microbial properties and inhibits the growth of yeast in our intestines. These types of fats can be found in coconut sources such as coconut milk, shredded coconut and coconut oil.
As I mentioned with the long chain fatty acids, all fats form the structure of each of our cell membranes. This is why the saying, “you are what you eat” holds very true when it comes to fat. Our cell membranes need structure and permeability. The structure mainly comes from the hard saturated fats but we want to ensure that they also contain a great deal of unsaturated fats so that nutrients can flow freely into them and wastes can flow freely out of them. Eating a diet rich in hard sticky fats can lead to rigid cell membranes and, therefore, an inability to take in nutrients from other areas of our diet. So we can see unsaturated fat is also important. What is it you may ask? Let’s take a closer look to see how it differs from saturated fat.
Unsaturated fat is often referred to as “good fats”. They are similar to saturated fats but they have one or more double bonds in their structure that makes them liquid at room temperature. Therefore, these fats are slippery in our arteries and won’t clog them. But not only do they help to keep arteries clean, unsaturated fats play a key role in the immune system, nervous system, digestive system and in our skin, eyes, hair, nails and lungs. Since these fats have so many important roles in the body and get used up quite readily, they are rarely stored as body fat. Monounsaturated fats are high in foods like avocados, avocado oil, olives, olive oil, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and macadamia oil. Adding more of these into the diet will benefit your health greatly and can actually help with weight loss as well.
Essential Fatty Acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6)
Along with unsaturated fatty acids are the essential fatty acids, which are sometimes referred to as superunsaturated. These are the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that are vital to our bodies and must be consumed in the diet because we cannot make them ourselves. Every organ needs essential fatty acids in order to survive. They are involved in everything from the proper nerve conduction of the brain and heart to the balancing of hormones. The typical diet today leaves us lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, so snacking on a high omega-3 nut like walnuts is a good step in the direction of restoring the right balance of this nutrient.
Increasing essential fatty acids in the diet will improve your health on the inside as well as keep your skin and hair glowing on the outside. Another added benefit for athletes is that consuming a proper balance of these essential fatty acids can help decrease inflammation in the body and speed up muscle healing time after a workout!
Why You Should Be Going COCONuts!
As previously mentioned coconut is an excellent source of the medium chain saturated fats and also has amazing healing properties to the body due to the specific types of saturated fat that it contains. It makes a great cooking oil because saturated fat doesn’t get damaged at high heats so it is much safer to consume than rancid oils.
Another great benefit about eating coconut is that it is very filling. Since it does contain a high level of fat, it keeps you satisfied after eating it and provides lasting energy that will maintain a stable blood sugar level throughout the day. In addition, it is naturally a low glycemic food so using coconut nectar as a sugar replacement is another great way to keep blood sugar levels from spiking too high.
Coconut is a very versatile food as well. Every part of the coconut is used in a different way. Coconut milk is delicious in smoothies, desserts and main dishes. Coconut water is an excellent post-workout drink for its high electrolyte content that is so similar to blood plasma it has even been used during surgeries. Shredded coconut can be added to trail mixes, smoothies, desserts and just eaten on its own. Coconut oil is not only used for cooking but also for skin and hair treatments, prevention of razor burn, sunscreen, chap stick, cavity prevention, and many other uses! Lastly, as mentioned, coconut nectar is a great alternative to sugar and even other sugar substitutes that are higher on the glycemic scale such as honey and maple syrup.
As you can see there is no reason to fear fat in your diet and it is definitely not wise to avoid saturated fats just because of the negative connotation they’ve been given. Fats are an essential nutrient that makes up every cell in your body and is required for proper functioning. If you haven’t already, start adding coconut into your diet today. It will have you feeling and looking better from the inside out.
By: Megan McDonald CNP
- Book: Fats that Heal Fats that Kill by Udo Erasmus
- Book: The World’s Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan
- Book: Why We Get Fat and What to do About it by Gary Taubes