The other day, I was shopping at Costco. It was a weekend afternoon, so the place was busy. As I often do, I was quietly checking out what was in the carts of my fellow shoppers. I’m always curious who is into “real food” and what that means to them!
I noticed a common trend among the shoppers: lots of fruits and vegetables, organic items, and… low-fat foods, especially milk.
This, honestly, made me sad. No judgment towards those people — they are clearly trying to do the best they can for their families. But they have been lied to and told that low-fat products are healthier. And they still believe it. They still do it. Heck, the government still promotes it constantly! What chance do they have to hear otherwise?
You might even be surprised to hear this today. But it’s true: low-fat products are not healthy for you! Full-fat products are much better, and no — they won’t make you fat.
In fact, you need the fat. Let’s look at seven reasons why fat isn’t making you fat — and why you need it to be healthy.
Reason #1: Fat Provides Energy
We believe that when we eat fat, that it’s stored as fat. But it’s not usually stored as fat. In fact, the fat is digested by bile salts (and other enzymes) and is absorbed through the small intestine to be used by the body. Fat is an important energy source, and it provides energy more slowly and steadily than carbohydrates do. It is even possible (although not very desirable for most) to eat basically no carbs and lots of fat and enter a phase called ketosis, where the body burns fat almost exclusively for energy. Some claim that this leads to weight loss or can even cure epilepsy and other conditions.
In general, though, fat provides real, lasting energy — it isn’t simply stored as fat!
Reason #2: Fat Helps Use Important Vitamins
There are a number of important vitamins that are fat-soluble. That means if you don’t eat enough fat, you won’t be able to break down or absorb these vitamins, which could cause a deficiency. These are vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat is required to absorb these vitamins, and both monounsaturated fats and saturated fats seem to increase absorption (polyunsaturated fats decrease these important vitamin levels! PUFAs include canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, etc.).
Since these vitamins are really key to health — they affect your hormone levels, immune system, bones, nerves, heart, and so on — make sure you’re getting enough fat to keep your levels high!
Reason #3: Fat Improves Your Immune System
Believe it or not — yes, fat can keep you from getting sick.
Coconut oil, a highly saturated fat, contains large amounts of lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid. Lauric acid helps to boost your immune system so that you can fight off colds and other yuckies. Plus, since it increases your absorption of key vitamins (see reason #2), that makes you less likely to get sick too.
Reason #4: Fat Helps You Lose Weight
Lose weight while eating fat? Oh yes.
First, fat helps you to feel more satisfied so that you don’t eat as much. Second, coconut oil has been shown to promote weight loss (1,). Third, people who consume full-fat dairy weigh less than those who consume low-fat (1, 2, 3)!
Reason #5: Fat Promotes Hormone Balance
Remember reason #2? Well, all those important fat-soluble vitamins are pretty key to hormone balance, too. Plus, if you eat a healthy diet (including these good fats), you’ll start to lose weight — and bring your hormones back into balance. Women who get enough vitamin D (which is really a pre-hormone) are going to have a better hormone balance than those who don’t — and you need fat for that.
Reason #6: Fat Promotes Brain Development
Did you know most of your brain is made of fat? About 60% is fat! Kids and teens need a lot of fat in their diet in order to promote brain development — and so do pregnant women. In this case, DHA (a fatty acid found in oily fish) is very important. Cholesterol is also very important to the brain (so eat your butter). Even older people need the fat for their brains because some evidence shows that coconut oil may prevent or even reverse Alzheimer’s! To keep yourself mentally sharp, eat up!
Reason #7: Fat Improves Your Appearance
Anecdotal evidence suggests that consuming fat can reduce cellulite, minimize the appearance of wrinkles and stretch marks, and make your skin appear smoother and less dry. Who doesn’t want that? I’ve personally noticed most of these things, plus the disappearance of rosacea, since beginning to consume more fat. 🙂
There you have it! 7 reasons why fat isn’t making you fat, and why it will even make you healthy.
Throughout the year, we’ll talk more about the research into why fat is good for you, what kinds you should eat, and more.
Do you eat fat? Or are you still on a low-fat diet?