Local Nutritionist Gives the Skinny on Fat
I remember growing up in the midst of the low-fat diet craze. Entenmenn’s came out with fat-free cakes, and everyone thought they could eat an entire loaf in one sitting because, hey, they were fat-free, and fat is what makes you fat, right? Every source, from the media to the medical community, was reporting that a practically fatless diet paved the way to ideal weight and good health.
In response, Americans replaced those fat calories with starchy carbohydrates in the form of breads, pastas, and other processed foods — and the nation got fatter and sicker. Enter: Adkins. Adkins said fat wasn’t the enemy and advised that we eat as much plant and animal fat as possible, because the true villain was carbs. But, those on Adkins for any length of time (and most couldn’t go for too long without bingeing on carbs) suffered from ailments like gout, kidney stones, and cognitive impairment. Turns out, living on steaks and pork rinds just isn’t a healthy and sustainable option.
Then came the discovery that all those trans-fats we’d been told were perfectly safe, and had been eating en masse via every processed food out there, were toxic to our systems.
Truth is, it’s a tad impetuous to make sweeping generalizations on how much fat, and what kinds, an entire populace should consume; it often comes down to the individual. Still, in the world of dieting and nutrition, fat has always been — and remains — a confusing and controversial topic.
Dr. Mark Hyman’s webinar, The Fat Summit, featured doctors and specialists offering two opposing perspectives. One side believed the ideal diet for optimal health includes a lot of high quality fats. In today’s society, the Paleo diet is a popular, high-fat diet. It focuses on both animal and plant fats via meats, nuts and seeds, avocado, and oils like grass-fed butter and coconut oil.
In the opposite camp, the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and others recommend a low-fat, plant-based diet with natural plant fats, like avocado and nuts, but little to no added oils. Who’s right?
Sifting through studies and commentaries turned up one recurring concept: biodiversity, or the idea that one specific way of eating isn’t ideal for every person. Genetics and medical history play their parts in determining what works best for each person, and even that is variable over the course of a lifetime. Given that, and based on what I’ve gleaned through seminars, clinical and observational studies, and personal experience, here are my discoveries and best recommendations:
The bottom line actually ISN’T calories in/calories out when it comes to achieving ideal weight. The quality of those calories really does matter and, across the board, all camps advocate strongly against consuming processed foods. Eat real food.
Cholesterol is the primary building block for hormones, important for things like quality of hair and nails, libido, and mood. Studies suggest as we get older, a moderate amount of cholesterol may be needed for some people — specifically women — to balance hormones. On the flip side, animal proteins like red meat, processed meats and dairy, where cholesterol is found, have been linked to colon, breast and prostate cancer through multiple studies. Listen to your body when it comes to animal proteins and fats. If you do consume them, do so in small quantities, and always go organic.
Low-fat or high-fat? I really feel this is individual. Plant fats encourage commitment to a plant-based and healthy diet. I favor fats through whole foods like avocado, nuts and seeds. And it’s helpful to be cognizant of how much (if any) oil is used in food preparation. I avoid vegetable oil like the plague (canola oil is classified as a pesticide by our FDA), using only cold-pressed sunflower oil or toasted sesame oil to sauté and olive oil for cold dishes. However, whether or not a person can consume added fats like coconut oil and ghee, as well as how much fat to consume, is really about listening to your body and honoring your bio-individuality.
Don’t let the topic of fat trip you up. Eat real food, and tune into your body. You’ll know when you’re “in the flow.”
For more information, visit www.theinnerstrengthlife.com.
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