Why I Prescribe High Fat Diets
It's Heart Health Month and I want to address the pink elephant in the room...fat does not make you fat, nor does it cause high cholesterol.
The Problem with Food Fats
Fatty foods have a bad image. They are accused of all kinds of unfair things- from making us fat, to causing heart attacks, and even being the root cause of inflammation.
The truth is that fats are being accused of crimes that they didn't commit- well, not entirely.
Before we jump into the reasons to be cautious around certain fats let's get some facts straight.
Not all fats are "bad." Saturated fats are the fats to be concerned about- and that doesn't make them bad- just not good. Saturated fats come mostly animal sources- like dairy, meats, and baked goods- and you don't need to completely cut these foods out, just be mindful of how much you're eating in an average day.
Fat doesn't make you fat. Eating in excess of what your body needs to perform it's daily work (you know, breathing, pumping blood, detoxing, moving around, etc) that's the culprit for weight gain. If you eat too much of any macronutrient you'll likely gain weight.
Low fat is not a better option. With the exception of most low fat dairy, low fat foods have fillers and additives to give you the nice creamy, melty, crunchy texture you would have gotten from fat. So beware the "fat-free" options. They might not be what you want.
Fat is tasty. It gives food the textures we like: crunchy, smooth, crisp, the taste we remember fondly: ice cream, butter, crusty bread dipped in oil, and the satisfaction we want from our food. Without fat your meals will likely be bland and tasteless.
Now, what about the valid reasons to be cautious around fat? There are a couple, but they are totally manageable without swearing off your favorite flavor of ice cream.
Foods high in saturated fat are linked to increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, high fat diets can be pro-inflammation, and fat calories are concentrated calories- meaning for a smaller amount you get twice the energy. It makes sense to pay attention to the sources of your dietary fats and making choices that make sense for you.
The Benefits to Eating Fats
Believe it or not, fat is actually good for you- in fact, some types of fats are essential, meaning your body needs them from food sources. Aside from tasting yummy fat from food does a few very important jobs...
Helps you absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K
Supports eye and brain health
Is a factor in your moods
It's necessary for hormone production
Certain fats fight inflammation, others keep your heart healthy
You get about 1/3 of your energy from fat
Your microbiome needs fats for the work it does to keep you healthy
Now that you have that information, let's take it a bit further. Some fats, like the fats that are found in fish, walnuts, and flax seeds are PUFA's (Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids). These fats actually decrease LDL or bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. In studies where they removed fat and replaced it with carbs the HDL (or good cholesterol) actually decreased along with the bad cholesterol!
We also know that people who ate at least 25% of calories from fats ate less overall in a day- fewer calories without being hungry- seems like a good idea to me.
Seems to me that there are a number of reasons to eat Chocolate Covered Strawberries this Valentine's Day. (Grab a recipe for that here.)
Meal Planning for Heart Health
So now that you know the pro's and con's of fat in your eating plan let's look at why I prescribe high fat diets...
In my years of practice I've seen a lot ( I mean a LOT) of diet trends. Low fat is among the worst. When you cut out fat you have to replace it with something- and it's usually carbs, the wrong carbs. Eating higher simple carbs in place of fats leads to faster weight gain, more inflammation, and less enjoyment of your meals. All of which leads to frustration and failure.
I prescribe "high fat" meals that are 25-30% of total calories- it's also the recommendation of the AND (Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics), AHA (American Heart Association), and ADA (American Diabetes Association).
You can grab a sample day meal plan in the Nourished.Mindfully Community
If you want to learn more about my recommendations for "high fat" eating plans join me for the weekly coffee chat on Wednesday this week in the free private community: Nourished. Mindfully. Even if you can't catch it live, the replay is available.