7 Reasons Why Fat Is Great for You
There is always a vigorous debate when it comes to athletes and dietary fat. For years, we were told to avoid it or risk compromising all that hard-won athletic performance. Now, to a growing degree, we are told the exact opposite… so what gives?
Famed strength and conditioning coach Charles Poliquin lays out why you should be eating fat in the first place and provides seven reasons why fat is good for you, along with his famed meat & nut breakfast (see below):
1. The Right Fat Will Not Make You Fat, But It Might Make You Lean
Eating “good” fats won’t make you fat. Rather, they can improve body composition and make you leaner. Strange but true since everybody knows that fats contain a lot of calories — nine per gram. Fat is more calorie-dense than protein, carbs, and alcohol.
Fat tends to be known as the macronutrient that is most easily processed in the body, meaning it requires the least energy to break down—a process called the thermic effect of food. However, things are not so simple and all fats are not created equally.
Scientific studies show that the body processes the assorted types of fat very differently. The body does not store the essential fatty acids (EFAs) — such as the omega-3 fats found in fish and flaxseeds — as fat in the body. The body likes to use these fats to make hormones and build the lipid layer of cells.
The effect is that eating the omega-3 fats will raise energy expenditure, leading you to burn more calories than you would otherwise. For example, a study of overweight men found that when they increased their omega-3 intake from 0.43 g/day to 2.92 g/day, they experienced a 51 percent increase in the amount of calories they burned after eating…. We see this in practice: Association studies repeatedly show an inverse association between the consumption of “good” fats, such as nut and avocado, and body fat percentage.
2. Go Low-Carb When Eating Good Fats & Avoid All Processed Foods
The fats highlighted here will improve insulin sensitivity, decrease inflammation, enhance cellular health and gene signaling, and support hormone balance. But they can’t fix the damage that you do if you eat lots of carbs, trans-fats, or processed foods.
For example, recent research shows that it is carbohydrates, not fats, that elevate cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, contributing to the development of heart disease. Carbohydrates activate pro-inflammatory processes through their effect on the fatty acid composition of blood lipids and cell membranes. This leads to the development of atherosclerosis.
Therefore, eating a diet that limits carbs but is abundant in an array of healthy fats will give you the perfect diet for promoting health and preventing heart disease. Elements of the perfect diet include the following:
• Eat whole foods instead of processed or refined foods. Many healthy fats can be consumed in a whole form or a more refined form—opt for the whole form. Eat whole avocado rather than avocado oil and nuts rather than nut oils, for instance.
• When choosing animal fats—yes, they are delicious and healthy!—get them from animals that are pasture-raised and that eat a natural diet appropriate for them.
• Limit carbohydrates, particularly grains and sugar. Eat abundant green vegetables and a variety of other veggies and fruits. Choose local and seasonal when possible.
3. Eat a Lot of Omega-3 Fats
You shouldn’t be surprised that the fat derived from fatty fish is extremely important for a healthy body. The omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA, support body composition because they are incorporated into the outside lipid layer of cells. This improves insulin signaling to the cells, which allows for a better metabolism. …
Dietary Tip: Get EPA and DHA from fish, fish oil, and organic, pastured meat, wild meat and dairy. Eating a small quantity of flaxseeds to get the third omega-3 fat, ALA, is also ideal, but don’t rely on flax for all your omega-3 intake. Don’t cook with omega-3 fats because the polyunsaturated fats they contain are easily oxidized.
4. Use Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is full of medium chain fatty acids (MCTs), which have been shown to promote health, aid brain function, and improve body composition. The MCTs don’t enter the cholesterol cycle in the body. Even though coconut oil is 92 percent saturated fat, it won’t elevate cholesterol levels. …
Dietary Tip: Make sure the coconut oil you buy is “virgin” and not partially hydrogenated—this is extremely important! Use it to flavor coffee, or try cooking with coconut oil in place of vegetable oils. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature and can be treated like butter in recipes, however it has a high smoke point (around 350 degrees), making it ideal for stir-frying.
5. Eat Butter
Butter is good for you as long as it’s organic and from grass-fed cows. Butter has lots of fat soluble vitamins, especially vitamin K, which is important for bone health because it enables calcium metabolism. In addition, it contains conjugated linoleic acid, which is a potent cancer fighter, aids in muscle building, and has been found to produce fat loss when it is eaten daily.
6. Eat Avocado, Quality Olive Oil & Nuts
Avocado, olive oil, and tree nuts have all been called “anti-obesity” foods by food scientists. They all provide omega-6 fats, which when eaten in balance with omega-3s, are very good for you.
There’s much confusion about omega-6 fats because the typical Western diet is dangerously high in them from vegetable oil. Processed vegetable oils are fats you want to avoid, but avocado, unrefined, virgin olive oil (or olives), and tree nuts aren’t processed and can improve body composition, while countering inflammation. Plus, if you eat any of these fats with vegetables, the fat bolsters absorption of vitamins and nutrients in veggies.
Dietary Tip: Add them to salads, or cooked vegetable dishes.
7. Avoid Vegetable Oils—Canola, Corn, Soy, Sunflower, etc.
At first glance these oils are not so bad because they contain a high percentage of monounsaturated fats and omega-6s. This is partly why canola is being called “heart-healthy” by the mainstream establishment.
However, a closer look shows that these oils are highly processed—heated, washed, treated with the chemical hexane—and have a poor omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. These oils along with olive oil are easily destroyed by oxidation, which is damaging to the body. Avoid vegetable oils and restrict your intake of olive oil to a high-quality product that is minimally processed.
Dietary Tip: Use olive oil raw. Do not cook olive oil with high heat! This causes oxidation, which is very very bad for you!
Meat & Nuts Breakfast, Anyone?
While you are at it, give Poliquin’s meat and nuts breakfast a try, rotating your nut of choice every morning with a different meat:
Here are five sample rotations of the meat and nuts breakfast – give them a try this week, and remember the key point is not to add anything to them!
Day 1 • 1-2 Buffalo meat patties • 1 handful of macadamia nuts
Day 2 • 1 large venison steak • 1 handful of cashew nuts
Day 3 • 1-2 Lean turkey burgers • 1 handful of almonds
Day 4 • 2 lean ground beef patties • 1 handful of brazil nuts
Day 5 • 2 chicken breasts • 1 handful of hazelnuts
Read the rest of Charles Poliquin’s article “Why Fat Is GREAT For You: Seven Tips For Eating Fat So You Lose Fat” (originally published on June 12, 2013) and read the rest of “The Meat and Nut Breakfast” (originally published March 16, 2010).