Welcome the Right Fats Back Into Your Diet
Since as early as the 1940's some scientists were beginning to link dietary cholesterol to an increased risk for heart disease. And then came Ansel Key's 7 country study in 1958, which studied the connection between lifestyle, diet, and prevalence of cardiovascular disease in men from different world populations. This study was the first of its kind and despite being highly flawed by today's research standards, it became highly influential among the medical industry and worldwide. By the 1960s dietary cholesterol was portrayed as the dietary "bad guy" by the American Heart Association.
But later studies found that the cholesterol-heart health link was more nuanced than we thought. For example, a University of Connecticut study found that dietary cholesterol consumed from egg yolks can boost HDL, the "good" cholesterol.
Americans are no longer automatically advised to avoid cholesterol.
Cholesterol and other fats are essential for many functions of the body. In order to produce vitamin D, for example, it requires sufficient levels of blood cholesterol and sun exposure. Fats are necessary for the body's production of neurotransmitters and hormones, is essential in the development of myelin, the protective layer surrounding nerve fibers and is necessary for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K). Turns out fat is a more efficient source of energy than carbohydrates as well. We all know that eating too many calories from all sources, including protein and carbohydrates can pack on extra pounds, but research is continuing to unvail, that all calories do not impact the body equally. Any food source that has the potential to elevate insulin levels will contribute to fat storage more rapidly than those that don't, which is one reason fat is a better source of fuel than refined and processed carbohydrates.
The USDA's Recent Statement on Dietary Fats
In February 2017, the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) convened a panel to update national dietary guidelines. To the surprise of many, the 2015 Scientific Report written by the panel eliminated warnings about dietary cholesterol, reversing four decades of nutritional advice. The panel reported that replacing fat with carbohydrates doesn't lower heart disease risk. What is recommended (including for overweight people) is to optimize the types of fats in our diet. Including healthy fats, in a plant-rich, balanced diet can help people keep their heart disease risk under control and even lose weight.
Reducing Fat Intake Is Not Necessary to Avoid Heart Disease or Obesity
American dietary guidelines used to recommend limiting cholesterol consumption to 300 mg per day, which is about two eggs worth. Yet other researchers have long believed that the advice to limit total fat intake has done more harm than good, as we have observed the obesity trend in conjunction with increased consumption of sugar and refined grains in the typical American diet. Healthy fats, including some saturated fats, are important for physiological functioning and can play a positive role in health management for those with insulin resistance. So which fats are considered healthy?
Many fats, including organic cultured butter, are considered healthy fats.
Healthy fats include coconut oil (which is saturated) and coconut butter, the fat in organic, grass-fed beef, organic cultured butter and ghee, unsaturated fats like those found in nuts, seeds and cold water fish, like wild Alaskan salmon, tuna, sardines and anchovies. Olives, organic pasture-raised egg yolks and avocados are also healthy fat sources. Omega-3 fats are considered essential because they are not produced by the body and must be obtained through food. Studies of senior citizens who eat plenty of fish (high in omega-3 fats) and vegetables have found that they are less likely to die from heart disease or any other cause compared with their peers who don't regularly eat omega-3 rich fish. This advantage is most likely due to the anti-inflammatory impact omega-3 fatty acids provide.
Why Healthy Fats Can Help You Lose Weight
When cutting highly processed and low fiber carbohydrates from your diet and replacing those sources of energy with healthy fats, like the ones listed above, the hormonal impact on your body, particularly from insulin is much improved. By cutting down on non-vegetable carbs, you enable your body to burn fat for fuel instead of sugar. By reducing insulin spikes, your body is less inclined to store unused blood sugar as fat, which contributes to weight loss without making you feel food-deprived. An Australian study published in 2014 found that people on a ketogenic diet (high fat/low carbohydrate) experienced a gradual appetite reduction, even though they were consuming fewer calories. The result was easier weight loss.
Trans Fats Are Still Considered Harmful
Unhealthy fats still exist, however. Man-made trans fats are a type of saturated fat often added to processed food to lengthen shelf life and enhance flavor, but that are known to be remarkably unhealthy and should be avoided. They're primarily found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and are associated with increased heart disease risk. So keep in mind that trans fats are unhealthy forms of processed saturated fats.
Certain dietary fats, including cholesterol, are not the dietary demons you may have been led to believe for the past four decades. In fact, the proper balance of healthy fats in the diet is associated with easier weight loss and better health. For more information on how to incorporate good fats into your lifestyle, we invite you to get in touch with us. We would be more than happy to answer your questions.