Last Thursday a report was released by the American Health Association (AHA) advising against the use of coconut oil.
The report stated that “randomized controlled trials that lowered intake of dietary saturated fat and replaced it with polyunsaturated vegetable oil reduced cardiovascular disease (CVD) by ≈30%, similar to the reduction achieved by statin treatment.”
“Taking into consideration the totality of the scientific evidence, satisfying rigorous criteria for causality, we conclude strongly that lowering intake of saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, will lower the incidence of CVD”
My facebook feed has been filled with articles arguing passionately about fat since then!
The Daily Mail reported margarine was now healthier than butter and USA Today scared people into throwing out their coconut oil. Gary Taubes, an investigative science and health journalist who has written three major books (Good Calories, Bad Calories; Why We Get Fat; and The Case Against Sugar) that have challenged our received ideas and beliefs about nutrition, then provided this guest post in response to the report. Gary goes into how science is sometimes not totally scientific and his view on the dietary fat debate.
No wonder everyone is confused about what to eat?
I thought we were done with “saturated fat is bad”?
Now it’s back?
Here’s my opinion.
Why do we keep talking about avoiding fat or avoiding carbohydrates when neither of these macronutrients is keeping us fat and sick.
There are healthy saturated fats and unhealthy saturated fats, there are healthy polyunsaturated fats and unhealthy polyunsaturated fats. There are healthy carbohydrates and unhealthy carbohydrates.
Seriously do we still think that something processed to be “low fat” or highly processed soybean oil is going to be healthier than organic virgin coconut oil?
I don’t think anyone is getting heart disease through over consumption of coconut oil and I’m sure as hell not switching out my coconut oil for canola oil anytime soon. Or switching from butter to margarine!
There are so many studies to show us that when people change from their traditional diets whether that may have been low fat or high fat, to a more processed foods based modern diet they start to get sick.
Processed foods, junk foods, takeaway foods are keeping us sick and switching to a plant based whole foods diet can seriously help everyone feel better. Now within that how much fat or carbohydrate you eat, whether you eat meat or avoid it, can totally be up to the individual. Everyone is different and so different dietary choices work for different people. Experiment and see how you feel.
But don’t be scared of saturated fats.
In fact a review of 21 studies concluded that there was no significant evidence that actually linked saturated fat with increased risk of heart disease.
More research also shows that although “Saturated fat does increase your blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is known as “bad” cholesterol, what is often ignored is that saturated fat also raises levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol. HDL has a protective effect against heart disease. Additionally, not all LDL is dangerous. There are different types of LDL and it’s the very small, dense particles of LDL that have the most damaging effects on the heart and arteries. Interestingly, saturated fat actually changes LDL from the small, dense particles to the large, less harmful particles.”
Choose Healthy Fats
Like I said above, healthy fats are good for you and unhealthy fats may cause weight gain or make you fat and you know what, it’s not actually very complicated to choose healthy fats.
Just….. EAT REAL, CLEAN, WHOLE FOODS….. most of the time.
Chemically, all fats are made up of hydrogen, oxygen & carbon atoms arranged in different orders. The more carbon atoms there are in a fatty acid the longer chain will be. There are short chain fatty acids, medium chain fatty acids & long chain fatty acids.
So lets talk about some fat basics. There are four main types of fats:
- Saturated fats – animals foods, full fat dairy & coconut products
- Mono-unsaturated fats – vegetable oils
- Poly-unsaturated fats – vegetable oils
- Trans fats – junk foods
A saturated fat has each carbon atom bonded to two hydrogen atoms, a mono-unsaturated fat has a carbon bonded to only one hydrogen atom and double bonded to another carbon atom and a poly-unsaturated fat has more than one of these double bonds. A trans fat is an artificially manipulated version of an unsaturated fat.
But you see it doesn’t really matter if it’s a saturated fat, mono-unsaturated fat or poly-unsaturated fat. Stick to real foods, avoid highly processed, artificial and deep fried foods and it’s likely you will be getting all the healthy fats and avoiding the damaging ones.
Healthy Fats For Healthy Cells
Did you know that your cell membranes are made predominantly of fat? Your cells need fat to function optimally so that you have the energy you need to perform at your best all day.
Healthy fats also help:
- Keep your skin soft
- Deliver fat soluble vitamins throughout your body
- Essential for brain health
- Help you maintain a healthy weight
- Helps you balance hormones
- Promotes healthy cells
- Helps your cells repair and recover while sleeping
- Give you energy
- Reduce risk of chronic disease
- Help you feel satiated and great!
So there are some good fats, which you want to make sure you are getting into your diet. They can also help with sugar cravings, plus help your body burn fat!
Yup, it’s true! Then there are some bad fats and these you want to try to avoid whenever possible.
Now while there are healthy versions of saturated, mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, there are also, not so healthy versions. Here are some fats that we should be eating.
Healthy Fats to Enjoy
- Olive oil
- Fish or crill oil
- Hempseed & oil
- Flaxseed & oil
- Nuts & seeds
- Coconut products & oil
- Grass fed, organic butter
- Organic full fat cheese & yogurt
- Grass fed, organic meat & dairy
- Free range eggs
- Wild salmon, sardines & other oily fish
Unhealthy Fats to Avoid
- Vegetable oils or any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils
- Soybean oil
- Corn oil
- Safflower oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Canola oil
- Margarine & other butter substitutes
- Pre packaged salad dressings
- Trans fats in takeaway & processed foods
- Non-dairy creamer
But Aren’t Vegetable Oils Healthy?
Virgin cold pressed vegetable oil such as olive oil is super healthy. However, modern technology has changed the way most vegetable oils are processed and delivered to us. This led to the introduction of hydrogenated oils several decades ago. These oils such as canola oil, safflower oil, etc. are found in many processed foods. They are produced using high heat and chemicals, which actually change the composition of the oils.
These changes mean the oils are not recognized by your cells and wreak havoc on your body. They are hiding in all sorts of products like processed peanut butter, breakfast cereals and granola bars. Which is another reason to stick to whole foods whenever possible. This will help you avoid the trans fats and hydrogenated vegetable oils found in these processed foods. These bad fats cause hormone disruption, gut problems, weight gain, difficulty focusing and depleted energy levels.
Will Too Much Healthy Fat Make You Gain Weight?
Just like anything, you can overdo a good thing and when it comes to healthy fats generally a little goes a long way. In saying that there are multiple studies that show that people who ate healthy fats actually weighed less and were healthier than those that didn’t.
Even though they are high in calories, one study showed that people who eat avocados tend to weigh less and have less belly fat than those who don’t.
There are also studies such as this one, this one & this one that show that people who eat nuts tend to be healthier, and have a lower risk of various diseases. This includes obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Coconuts, and coconut oil are also high fat foods with lots of health benefits! Coconut fats are actually different than most other fats, and consist largely of medium-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are metabolized differently, going straight to the liver where they may be turned into ketone bodies. Studies show that these medium-chain fats suppress appetite, helping people eat fewer calories, and can boost metabolism by up to 120 calories per day and can help you lose belly fat.
So don’t be scared of these REAL FOOD sources of healthy fat including coconut oil!
Eat up and enjoy 🙂
To your health,
P.S. If you are struggling to lose weight or meet the health goals you want despite doing all “the right things” click below on my new free quiz to find out whats holding you back and what you can do about it. It may not be what you think 🙂