If your diet is lean and mean, I have three words for you: fatten it up! A diet full of low-fat foods is not the ticket to health. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Fact is, fat is absolutely essential for every function of the body, especially in the brain, as well as aiding essential healing and repair processes. In addition, numerous research trials have shown the success of higher-fat diets in countering obesity, diabetes, and heart disease — all following high-fat, low-carbohydrate protocols. One more reason to embrace a more fat-inclusive approach! And, if you’re a holdout, still trying to game the system with low-fat or fat-free Frankenfoods (Snackwells anyone?), kindly cut the crap, and buy full-fat across the board to support the health of all your body’s systems. It’s high time to get over the fat-o-phobia we all grew up with and dig into the good stuff. Here’s how and why.
Fat actually does good things for you.
When you eat enough fat every day, you enjoy a bounty of benefits, including stable, longer-lasting energy, fewer hunger highs and lows, a more efficient metabolism which means stable weight, clearer thinking and more balanced moods, healthier hormones, and better hair, nails, and skin. And because fat makes food taste good, you enjoy what you’re eating so much more.
But I thought fat was a demon in disguise?
Plenty has been written about why fatty foods have been wrongly demonized for the last five decades. Long story short, the medical establishment and our culture in general completely adopted the fat-is-bad mantra. The one-two combo of government low-fat dietary guidelines and Big Food’s marketing muscle led to a tsunami of highly processed products that traded good fats for carbohydrates, refined sugars, and industrial seed oils — and Frankenfoods were born!
Low-fat living is lousy for women!
We’re just waking up to new insights about fat’s central role in health, such as the realization that women are at a higher risk of heart attack on a low-fat diet than a high-fat one, and the importance of cholesterol to a range of body functions. In light of this, I urge everyone to stop fearing the fat stuff and come back to a more balanced diet that has a proper place for fats.
Fall in love with fat…
If the thought of eating more fat sends shivers down your spine, fear not. This is about adding healthy real-food fats to your plate — and most certainly not those grown-in-the-lab Frankenfoods. We’re talking naturally fat-rich foods and unprocessed fats in their original states — and letting them crowd out the refined carbs and sugar that take up so much space in fake foods. Real-food fats deliver powerful protective benefits, and they’re hard to overeat because they digest more slowly, giving your brain and hunger-regulating hormones more time to register fullness.
…And fat will fall in love with you.
As we emerge from the fat-o-fobia of the last five or so decades, it’s time we change the conversation and look at all the amazing things naturally fat-rich foods do for your body — and it’s quite an impressive list! Natural, wholesome, fat-rich foods will:
- help your body absorb critical vitamins (the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K)
- strengthen your immune system
- support proper integrity of your cell membranes
- feed the unique needs of your brain
- lubricate your digestive system
- protect your vital organs
- reduce inflammation
- feed your mitochondria, the cellular powerhouses that determine how energized you feel and how you age
- help support the health of your heart, lungs, liver, and bones and help healthy gene expression
How to do fat right
To do fat right, you don’t need a rigorous or elaborate dietary plan to get the job done. Just focus on adding fat-rich ingredients in small ways throughout the day while simultaneously being careful to keep your starches and sugars low, because adding extra fats to a high-carbohydrate diet will certainly encourage weight gain! Keep it simple, keep it consistent, and soon you will forge a fast and enduring friendship with this super-powered macronutrient. Here are 14 easy — and ridiculously tasty —ways to add a few natural fat-flourishes:
- Bone broth (for sustenance throughout the day)
- Smoothies with added nut butter, coconut oil, MCT oil, chunks of frozen avocado
- Fat-enhanced (aka Bulletproof) coffee with added MCT oil, grass-fed butter, or grass-fed cream
- Eggs cooked in ghee or butter
- Sardines or wild salmon with avocado
- Slow-cooked pork or lamb stew on vegetables/salad
- Extra-virgin olive oil drizzled over vegetables and proteins
- Tahini sauce drizzled over a vegetable bowl
- Almond butter dressing for zucchini noodles
- Brussels sprouts with bacon
- Dark chocolate
- Coconut milk curry
- Coconut yogurt (or full-fat dairy yogurt if tolerated) chia pudding
- A spoonful of ghee in your evening tea
Get fatty with it!
The lingo around fats can get confusing (saturated, unsaturated, poly-, mono-, and omegas). My general rule of thumb for fat: if it comes from nature, it’s probably healthy, and if it’s made in a factory, be it feedlot or processing plant, it’s probably not. But do take it easy: even with healthy fats, high fat plus excessive carbohydrates will derail you. In other words, pick the unsweetened coconut yogurt (or the grass-fed, whole-milk kind) over the gourmet, but sugary, ice cream. How to know if you’re getting enough fat? Your body will give you the cues: pay attention to your energy level, feeling of satiation, and any symptoms of fat deficit, like brittle hair and nails.
Here’s my list of favorite ‘raw materials’ for fat-friendly meals and snacks. When you’re buying ingredients, be conscious of your sources — the fattier the food, the more important that it comes from a high-quality source, as nutrient values vary and toxins accumulate in fat. Basically stay away from factory-farmed meat, chicken, and fish.
- Organic chicken with skin (dark meat)
- Grass-fed and finished red meat
- Pastured pork, including pork belly and bacon
- Eggs, ideally pasture-raised and organic
- Fatty cold-water fish (sardines, mackerel, herring, wild salmon)
- Dairy that works for you (goat and sheep cheese, cow cheese if tolerated, grass-fed butter, yogurt/kefir)
- Bone broths
- Nuts and nut butters (in moderation, preferably raw/unroasted)
- Seeds (pumpkin, chia, sesame, flax, hemp)
- Chocolate, preferably dark
- Olives and olive oil
- Coconut (oil, butter, milk, cream)
Pouring and spreading fats
- All those delicious things you spread, or spoon, over your food (or into your smoothie or coffee), straight from the bottle: extra-virgin olive oil, flax oil, hemp oil, nut oils, nut butters, MCT oil (liquid coconut), cacao butter, dairy butter, and ghee
- Animal fats like ghee and butter, duck fat, pork fat, chicken fat, tallow (to sear your protein)
- Plant oils like coconut oil, sustainably sourced palm oil, avocado oil, and quality olive oils
The bottom line
Fat-rich foods from clean, natural, healthy sources in your diet are one of nature’s greatest gifts — so imbibe and enjoy regularly to support vibrant and sustainable health!