The number one comment I get when I discuss how I eat or what Paleo is all about is, “Yeah, but that can’t be good for your heart. All that fat and cholesterol can’t be good for you.”
Oh, contraire, Mon frère. I’m going to just say it, and let the point settle in. Eating saturated fat doesn’t make you fat. Eating saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease. Eating saturated fat is not the leading driver of high cholesterol, and eating saturated fat does not cause Type 2 Diabetes. (There are more ills that dietary fat is blamed for, but you get the picture.) Study after study now shows that total dietary fat intake does not cause these problems. (More on that later) What does? Sugar does. Another culprit is trans-fats. There is a great article that discusses the problem with the “lipid hypothesis” in great detail from the Weston A. Price Foundation. Here is the link:
“Fat, to all humans means ‘survival’ to our physiological functioning. Diets low in fat paradoxically cause the body to more easily synthesize fat from other sources, most notably carbohydrates, and to absorb and store the unwanted fat.” ~ Nora Gedgaudas, Primal Body, Primal Mind.
Being overweight is not a problem of eating too much fat or even eating too much, period. It is a problem of STORING fat. This is a storing problem, not an eating problem. Gary Taubes, in the book, Why We Get Fat, does a great job of explaining this concept. The whole “calories in/calories out balance” to losing weight doesn’t work. There is a great YouTube video featuring Dr Robert Lustig, titled, “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” that explains this well. What foods cause us to store fat? Sugar and starch do. (More on the metabolic evils of a high carbohydrate diet in another post.) For now this is all about why fat is our friend!
Of the 3 macro nutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrate, our bodies can use only two of those for fuel, fat and sugar. Sugar is a toxin to the body and the brain. The body doesn’t want the toxin, so it burns it off as fuel as fast as it can, thus the sugar high you experience after eating something sugary or starchy, and the subsequent crash. Insulin, swoops in to save the day by shuttling glucose in the blood stream and storing it for later use. Unfortunately for most of us that ends being stored in our fat tissue.
So, here’s the thing. If we eliminate the sugar (and starchy carbohydrates) and replace it with enough of the right fats (saturated, monounsaturated and essential polyunsaturated fats; avoid trans-fats at all costs and avoid vegetable and seed oils) then the body will switch to burning fat for energy. The body actually prefers to burn fat for energy. It burns slower, energy levels last longer, and we end up avoiding the blood sugar rollercoaster ride that we are used to as sugar burners. We should be burning fat, not storing it, and with the absence of sugar producing foods, we will!
Fat also makes our food taste good so we feel satiated. It also triggers the hormone, Leptin, which is the hormone that tells us we are full and to stop eating. Any guess as to which macro-nutrient suppresses Leptin? You know the answer. Carbohydrates do, and the more refined they are, the worse they are.
No more having to eat every 3 to 4 hours in order to maintain energy and blood sugar levels. Halleluiah!!!! Honestly, why would mother nature ever have intended for us to eat small meals every 3-4 hours throughout the day in order to be healthy? You have to be kidding me!! Our earliest genetically identical ancestors were lucky to eat once or twice a day sometimes when food was scarce during winters or after an unsuccessful hunt. Nature is not that stupid.
We are NOT naturally built to run on carbohydrates, we were built to run on fat. Grains and sugars were not a part of our diet originally. From an evolutionary standpoint, these are new food sources to us and we have not adapted to metabolizing them without physiological damage. Fat is something we have ALWAYS metabolized with great success. It wasn’t until the introduction of starch as a staple in our diet that the diseases referenced in my second paragraph even emerged.
Some practical guidance: When cooking, cook with saturated fat as a preference. Use coconut oil, butter, or lard (fats that are solid at room temperature but NOT any kind of margarine or Crisco-like substance). It is far more heat stable and will not break down into free radicals when heated over high heat and you only need a little bit. I use olive oil after cooking or on salads. Some other unsaturated fats to consider are macadamia nut oil, walnut oil, sesame oil, or avocado oil. All of these are best used after cooking or on salads.
So, you have my permission to shake off your fear of fat. Fat is our friend. Use it with love and happiness to make your food taste good and to help kick that sugar monkey off your back!
Until Next Time,
Laura, Mom Gone Paleo