Fat: Friend or Foe?
Nutrition Facts: Fat contains 9 calories per gram
Low fat was all the rage in the 90s, and now high fat seems to be back in vogue. Avocado Toast, Bulletproof Coffee, Coconut Oil with everything. So what is the truth of the matter?
Fat is essential. Without fat, you will die. Essential Fatty acids are fats that your body can’t produce internally, omega 3 fatty acids are the ones who receive the most attention and an easy way of ensuring adequate intake is to supplement with fish oil or consume fatty fish 2–3 times per week.
Saturated Fats are the most inert and stable of the fats. Historically they have been implicated, many would argue unfairly, in heart disease. Good examples of Saturated Fats are Cream, Butter, Ghee and Coconut Oil. Because Saturated Fats are unreactive, they are good for heating and make excellent cooking fats. Note that most meats contain equal parts Saturated and Monounsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats are the ones which most health experts would agree are the most beneficial. They are a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet. Think olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Avoid cooking with Olive Oil, particularly the Extra Virgin kind, save it for salad dressing instead.
Polyunsaturated Fats, Omega 3 and Omega 6, are essential fats and need to be consumed in a balanced ratio. Modern food processing techniques tend to push us towards overconsumption of Omega 6 and under consumption of Omega 3. Don’t use oils high in polyunsaturated fats for high heat cooking- sunflower oil, soybean oil and corn oil are all examples of cooking fats that would be best swapped out for Saturated fat.
Most people would benefit from eating a balanced intake of dietary fat.
Why is fat so controversial then?
• It is energy dense. Fat contains nine calories per gram. This makes it very easy to unconsciously overeat. Every time you eat in a restaurant, you are eating food that has been adulterated with extra fat to heighten the textural and flavor experience.
• Examine your home cooking habits. Do you add a lot of oil or butter to the pan? Is your drizzle of Olive Oil better describes as a deluge?
• Eating a high-fat diet makes you burn more fat. This is true, but irrelevant if the goal is fat loss. Burning more fat as fuel simply means that you are burning the fat you are consuming, it doesn’t mean that you are accessing your body’s fat stores any more than you would be if you were eating the same calorie intake but eating more carbs and fewer fats.
• Exclusionary diets. A lot of low carb zealots underplay the role of calories in weight loss; this creates a halo effect around fats, and a loose “the more, the merrier” approach. Exclusionary diets can create the mindset that everything except the excluded item is fair game and can be consumed “ad libitum”.
Take this example of a personal training client: He was struggling to lose body fat, was in great shape from years of training but had never been as lean as he wanted. He was very fitness savvy and was aware of the latest trends in the fitness world. I analysed his food diary.
• Ribeye Steak cooked in Butter
• 2 eggs
• ½ Avocado,
• Handful of Nuts.
All healthy choices in isolation, however, combined in one meal we’re looking at at least 100 grams of fat. Did I mention that this was washed down with “Bulletproof Coffee”? Add another 30 grams of fat for that concoction and were looking at well over 1000 calories in fat alone consumed at breakfast.
Can you see why he might not have been as lean as he wanted? We stopped the analysis at breakfast and I gave him some very simple guidelines to implement, which had his total daily fat levels capped at 120 grams (still moderate to high). The end result- within 12 weeks he was in the best shape of his life.
This is the primary reason that we keep most of the meals lower in fat. We don’t add significant amounts of fat to our food as we recognize the needs of our clients. Most of our customers want to be able to enjoy a meal in a restaurant without worrying overly about the impact on their waistline. Keeping fats low during the week allows for a higher consumption of calories at weekends. Simple maths.
So there you have it, fat shouldn’t be deified or demonized. It should be dosed appropriately for the individual