Last week, a group of us pledged to ditch the coffee creamer, forgo the flour, and give up grains – we’re doing a Whole30 Challenge–30-days of eating a very specific diet of only whole foods. I went through the Whole30 a couple of months ago and had great success with it, so I decided to join in and refresh my system again. After my first Whole30 challenge, I ended up completely eliminating gluten from my diet after I saw a huge improvement with several issues I’d been having. I’m excited to see where I am at the end of this month.
Whole30 is not for the weak of heart. You eliminate a lot of things, and one of the biggest changes that people struggle with is adding fat into their diet. It’s been pounded into our heads for many years that fat is bad, but the truth of the matter is that we need good fats in our diet in order to live healthy lives. It’s time to say YES to fats!
The book, It Starts With Food, covers the fat issue in Chapter 15. The good fats are critical to metabolic processes (helping you lose weight) and it also helps your vital organs (including your brain), cells, and hormones function properly. Good fats play a vital role in brain function.
Fat also helps gives us the feeling of satiety and satisfaction so we aren’t hungry as much as if we’d had a high-carbohydrate, low-fat meal. Healthy fats ensure we get enough calories to maintain a healthy weight loss and the ability to exercise and participate in our normal activities. When we eat healthy fats (and the right amounts of them) we are able to go longer between meals and our body performs better. When you get enough good fat, your body can start getting rid of the “fat stores”, i.e. the belly fat, thigh jiggle, arm jiggle… all the fat on the body that you don’t want. Good fats give your body the energy it needs to help get through highly intense exercise, too!
What Kind of Fat?
The monounsaturated fats (one of the good fats) may benefit insulin and blood sugar levels too, according to the Dallas & Melissa Hartwig, authors of It Starts With Food. Avocados, avocado oil, macadamia nuts, olive oil, hazelnuts, and olives are all excellent sources of monounsaturated fats.
The other ‘not-so-bad-for-you’ fat is saturated fat. Yes, that’s right – saturated fats can be good for you IF YOU ARE EATING THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF THEM and eating the right kinds of foods to get that fat! Eating whole, unprocessed foods with the right amount of fat and other nutrients is GOOD FOR YOU! Overeating refined (processed) carbohydrates is not! The over-consumption of those kinds of carbs and fats is what creates a myriad of health issues, including heart disease and obesity.
Coconut is an excellent energy source with lots of healthy saturated fats. Coconut has about 66% of the very healthy medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). They are easily and quickly absorbed and metabolized, so they are more likely to be burned as fuel by muscles and organs, instead of being stored as fat in our body. MCTs are also known to help prevent cardiovascular disease by helping lower the blood glucose level, at least slightly.
Polyunsaturated fats are the next ‘good-for-you fat’, with the caveat of making sure you have the right amounts and the right kinds of them. Hormone-free, organic meats and nuts and seeds are the easiest ways to get your polyunsaturated fats from a whole food source. They provide a wide range of micronutrients and some act as antioxidants, too. The biggest issue with this kind of fat is to make sure it’s coming from a source that isn’t processed. Cashews, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts (or nut butters) are the best source of healthy polyunsaturated fats in your diet. Getting your meat from free-range animals raised without hormones and other medications is key when purchasing meats.
All boiled down, eating real, unprocessed foods (raw nuts, meats, and eggs) is the best way to make sure you are eating a healthy amount of fats. Eating processed, packaged foods with “no fat” is the best way to make sure you WILL NOT BE HEALTHY and satiated.
This article has more detailed information on choosing healthy fats. The bottom line is we NEED good fats to be healthy and we DON’T need the majority of the fats that are in processed foods. Stick with unprocessed, real foods, including nuts, fruits and veggies, and meats to be your healthiest!
This article from the Harvard Health Publications talks about the good, the bad, and the in-between in fats. The thing that I found interesting about this article is that they are emphasizing the difference between each of the fats, making sure you have the RIGHT amount of fats to be the healthiest you can be. Yes, greasy cheeseburgers and fries are loaded with fats, but they aren’t the right kind of fats. The source of fats matters. Try to stick with little-to-no trans fats, a moderate amount of saturated fats from healthy sources like whole dairy and meats, and more polyunsaturated fats from sources like salmon, nuts, healthy oils, and avocados.
How Much Fat?
How much fat is too much depends on your lifestyle, your weight, your age, and most importantly, the state of your health. The USDA recommends that the average individual:
- Keep total fat intake to 20-35% of calories
- Limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your calories (200 calories for a 2000 calorie diet)
- Limit trans fats to 1% of calories (2 grams per day for a 2000 calorie diet)
Hopefully, this will help clear up some of the confusion about fats in your diet. If you have any other questions or comments we would love to hear them!!