"While "healthy fats" are a better alternative to artery-clogging saturated and trans-fats, overdoing it can still lead to weight gain and health issues."
~ Maria bella, R.D.
You may have noticed that the latest nutrition “trend” is to eat a diet high in healthy fats". Or you may have heard that “fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar makes you fat”. Yet, personally, I found that I gained weight and began to feel less and less well the more fat I consumed. So, I decided to take a closer look to understand what’s really true.
Like proteins and carbohydrates, fats are essential to our diet. We definitely need a certain amount of "good" fat in our diet to stay healthy. It provides energy, stabilizes blood sugar, helps the body absorb important fat soluble vitamins, makes food taste better, and helps up feel full after meals.
However, healthy fat is still fat, and just like unhealthy types of fat, it's loaded with calories. Fat is also a hormonally active tissue. It produces estrogen, and when consumed in excessive amounts it increases our risk of cancer.
"Excess consumption of fat is one of the major causes of disease and premature death in modern societies. It is intimately associated with the current epidemic levels of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer of the breast, colon, and prostrate. Though over-consumption of fats clearly presents us with serious health risks, certain types of fat are actually essential for maintaining optimum health. A healthy-promoting diet must contain an adequate quantity and quality of essential fatty acids, while still avoiding excess intake of fat."
~Alan Goldhamer, D.C.
In addition, the recent death of George Michaels has put the spotlight on fatty liver disease. While alcohol is a leading cause of fatty liver, it can also occur in those who consume little to no alcohol, but are overweight or obese, have high cholesterol, or high triglycerides due to a diet high is sugar and/or fat - even good fats!
You see, one of the many jobs our liver does is to process fat. It breaks it down and releases it as an energy source. But if your diet is too high in fat, the liver starts storing it - which eventually can lead to a sluggish or fatty liver and a whole host of health challenges associated with that.
"Too much of a good thing doesn't turn it into a GREAT thing. Healthy fat is no exception."
~ Willow Jarosh, R.D.
It's so easy to get carried away thinking that we are doing a good thing for ourselves. A salad with salmon, olives, nuts, avocado, and salad dressing contains a tremendous amount of fat. Another example is a smoothie that contains coconut milk, avocado, chia or flax seeds, and protein powder made from hemp or some other kind of seeds. And dinner is when we can REALLY get into fat overload. And then there's lattes and desserts - oh my!
As a rule of thumb, incorporate fat at every meal but ONLY 1-2 servings per meal. Here are some examples of a serving of healthy fat:
3 oz salmon
1 Tbsp nut butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp seeds
1/4 cup coconut milk
"There are many people out there that struggle with 5 to 10 pounds and they're eating all the right things but they're eating too much of the right things."
~ Heather Bauer, R. D.
Please note that the KEY to following the higher fat diet “trend” that is popular right now is to severely limit carbohydrates (grains, starchy veggies like yams and potatoes, fruit, sugar, and alcohol) so that your body burns the fat as fuel (rather than the carbs) instead of storing it in the liver. However, while many people are seeing some positive short term health results from this method, there simply isn't enough data on the long term results of this trend.
I'm all for reducing or avoiding sugar and alcohol, however, consuming complex carbohydrates is the body's "natural" and most efficient source of fuel. Plus the glucose they provide is a necessary source of fuel for the brain - which makes them kind of essential, right? Already some studies are showing an earlier onset of cognitive challenges and Alzheimer’s disease due to an insufficient supply of carbohydrates that the brain needs to function, as well as earlier onset of cardiovascular disease due to the high fat consumed on these diets. So, if you want to include these necessary carbohydrates as part of your healthy, balanced diet, then it is imperative to moderate your fat intake.
Happy, Healthy Living!
JoAnn Newton is a Holistic Nutrition Educator and Master Massage Therapist with a private practice in Graton, CA.
Passionate about helping people transform their health through holistic nutrition, she facilitates the 23 day online Nutritional E-Cleanse Program with coaching, compassion, and humor.