Eat, Food & Health
The Skinny on Fat
High-quality fat is essential for optimal wellness.
For years, saturated fat has been made out to be the dietary villain. We’ve identified the gristle on our streak, that pat of butter and the yolk of the egg to equate the heart attack special and muffin-top builder. Thanks to a study begun in 1956 and published in 1970 by University of Minnesota researcher Dr. Ancel Benjamin Keys, our country adopted the position that saturated fat is a killer.
When the population began to demand “fat-free” products, corporations had to replace the flavor with something. And sugar was that thing. But throughout the fat-phobic 1980s, incidents of obesity and heart attacks continued to rise in the U.S.
The “fat-free” epidemic was like one large population clinical trial of Keys’ research. After years of running on tread mills, wearing leotards and bouncing around in group classes attempting to sweat the calories we consumed, one thing became evident: We were not winning the war on fat! This inspired many scientists to reexamine the data. What they discovered is that saturated fat is not the enemy. Looking closer at Keys’ study, it was seen that he’d researched over 22 countries, not seven, as his report indicated. Taking into account the “new” information, it appeared that Keys had published data only on the countries that supported his killer-fat hypothesis.
Fast-forward 50 years and butter is gracing the cover of Time magazine with the confession, “We were wrong.” (Ancel Keys had been on the cover in 1961).
Why did we all get so fat and sick by cutting the fat? The truth is that fat is essential! Every cell in your body has a phospholipid bilayer (aka fat barrier) that allows nutrients and water into your cells and helps to remove toxins. Without this fatty cell layer, even exercise and staying hydrated could be working against you. A perfect balance of fats can be found in a piece of grassfed pasture-raised meat or wildcaught fish.
Vegetable and hydrogenated oils found in most restaurants and processed packaged foods are the real culprit for artery-clogging heart attack issues. Your hair, skin, nails and brain need a balance of omega 3s, 6s and 9s to function optimally. The optimal ratio of 3s to 6s is 1:2 or 1:4. As a result of our government’s flawed advice, the estimated ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the U.S. diet is somewhere between 1:20 and 1:60. That is why people begin to feel better when they supplement with fish oils that are high in omega 3s…everything in the body just works better!
Protein, fats, carbohydrates, liquid carbs…What fuel do you feed your metabolic fire?
Imagine your body is a machine and it needs fuel to feed the fire of your metabolism, the engine. You are the hearth builder of your metabolic fire and the fuel is your food. When your fire burns bright, everything just works better. You are in a good mood, you don’t get tired or wired and your body is strong and feels superb. It is your job to make sure the fire does not go out! I am going to help you understand this fire a bit more by showing you what the three building blocks—protein, fats, carbs—do to your metabolism.
Carbohydrates are any foods that do not have eyes. They work like kindling on your metabolic fire. Most people think of bread, pasta and potatoes when I say carbs; we will call those empty carbs, as they give you quick (cheap) energy without much nutrient value. But did you know that spinach, kale and even apples are carbohydrates? Yep, these are complex carbohydrates; they will start your fire and provide the nutrients and minerals your body craves!
Protein and fats work like a big cedar log and shovelful of coal. They will keep your fire burning for hours. When I talk about proteins and fats I’m referring to any food that has eyes (meat) or came from something with eyes (dairy & eggs). Yes, you can get protein and fat from plant and nut sources. To do so, you will need an extensive knowledge and selective array of foods to receive the full spectrum of 26 amino acids in the right ratios that the body needs and that you get naturally from animal products. Anyone who has been a healthy vegan for years knows this and works to combine foods in order not to deplete the body. For the sake of ease, we will be talking about animal proteins.
What happens when you feed a fire with only kindling (carbohydrates)? What happens when you try to light a log (protein) with no kindling to get it burning? The same thing that happens to the body when you deprive it of any of the essential building blocks of protein, fat or carbohydrates in any meal. If you eat only carbs, you get a quick burst of energy that is gone within an hour or two, leaving you with the need to graze, to continually feed your metabolic fire throughout the day. If you eat a fat steak with no salad or rice, you will feel full, heavy and lethargic. When you figure out the right mix of fuel for your body, you will feel full of energy that lasts for hours. You can handle stress easily, blood pressure and cholesterol will be at healthy levels and your body will naturally look its best. This is what I do for a living…I teach people how to fuel there bodies and what it feels like when they’ve got it right. Once you know the feeling of wellness and what your personal needs are, you will never need to open another one of the 17,000 diet books on the market again, or continue to pay me to coach you!
There is no one-size diet that works for everyone. If I tried to feed an Eskimo who lives on whale meat and blubber a Pygmy’s diet of roots, fruits and antelope, his metabolic fire would not be very happy. This is because the human genome only changes .1% every 10,000 years and our body’s dietary needs have changed less then 1% in the last 100,000 years.
The human diet, however, has changed immensely over the last 100 years with the introduction of over 4,000 chemicals and food additives. The sooner we can get back to traditional eating, the more readily our bodies will heal. The bonus of eating clean is that as your body heals, so does the Earth. The cleaner we eat, the more our dollar goes to support Earth-friendly farming practices. Our dollar is the final deciding vote.
Healthy fats to incorporate daily into your diet
*Grass fed butter
*Nut or seed oils
Do not skimp on quality when it comes to dietary fats. You want the best organic, unrefined and extra virgin options. Refrigerate animal oils.
Nicole is a mom, holistic health coach and faculty member of the CHEK Institute. She co-owns Iron & Salt, a multi-fusion gym. When not in the studio you can find her traveling and teaching around the world, dancing in her kitchen or just snuggling with her family. www.nicoledevaney.com