Over the years, we've all heard about the benefits of low fat diets, but could that advice be wrong? After reading about the benefits of eating fat, you just might feel that you've been duped, but you most certainly will be thinking about changing up the contents of your grocery cart.
Have you seen the TIME magazine cover that was recently circulating on the web? You know, the one that says "Eat Butter."
Some people's minds were TOTALLY blown by that concept thinking "What in the world is going on? I thought fat was bad?!?!"
Or maybe they were thinking, "I thought if you were eating fat you should eat something like margarine because butter is made from... animal fat and is full of... cholesterol and... saturated fat....and EVERYONE knows that those are bad for you, right?!?!
But now TIME Magazine is now telling me otherwise!?!?
Eek! What's going on? Has the world turned upside down?"
Obviously, I wasn't surprised by the message that fat really is good that we saw on the cover of Time.
No, I discovered that several years ago. But I was surprised somewhat that mainstream media had finally picked up on the message. For years mainstream media has said that fat was a "bad guy," but now, things appear to be changing.
The Myth: Low-Fat = Healthy
Once upon a time, I totally bought into the low fat myth. I actually lived on low-fat, low-calorie, high-sugar, nutrient-deficient food in college and LOST weight. Yes, most people gain the freshmen 15, but I lost weight. But I wasn't healthy.
I lived on pasta with a sprinkling of parmesan, iceberg lettuce with fat-free Italian dressing (yuck! what was I thinking?!), Fruit Loops (yes, the kid cereal), Sprite, and fat-free microwave popcorn (ewww...). My years in college were fraught with colds, flus, sinus infections, pneumonia, mono, fatigue, and on and on.
Maybe I didn't gain weight, but I was on the road to disaster.
My diet set me up for a multitude of problems that I'm still dealing with today - fatigue, weight gain, and hypothyroidism.
Not only was I eating a nutrient poor diet, but my diet lacked essential fatty acids and I ate WAY too much sugar. That sugar caused serious inflammation and set me up for serious health issues.
What we need to realize is that most of the time, low-fat doesn't equal healthy. Most low-fat foods (unless they're things like fruits and vegetables) are filled with chemicals and sugar - inflammatory inducing components that set your body up for disease.
Why Fat Can Be Actually Be GOOD for You
Not only is most low-fat filled with nasties, but fat is actually GOOD for you. For quite some time, I've been a big proponent of REAL fats instead of fake fats. You know, good fats that are found in nature and not manufactured in a laboratory.
We need to focus on real fats. Fats like butter are still pretty much made the way they were thousands of years ago. Agitate cream until it turns to butter. Easy peasy. The same is true for other power-house fats like coconut oil and lard - they haven't changed.
Lard, yup, lard. You can read more about why lard is a super-food here.
Did you know that not only is butter better for you than margarine, but real fats like butter are vitally important to your health. Back in my low-fat days, I was terrified of fat and did whatever I could to cut the fat, but my health paid the price for that.
7 Benefits of Eating Fat
1. Brain Health
Fat is vital for brain function. The raw material your brain needs to function is fat. That's because fat is what your brain is primarily made up of!
In fact, as afraid as we are of cholesterol, it functions as a brain antioxidant!!! Our bodies make vitamin D from cholesterol and vitamin D is a crucial player in preserving brain function.
2. Vitamin Absorption
Fat is necessary for proper absorption of some vitamins, like A, D, E and K. Yes, there really IS a reason to drizzle butter over your veggies and put full-fat salad dressings on your salads besides just the taste! (source)
3. Lung Health
Your lungs require saturated fat for proper function. Our lungs are coated with a surfactant, which is necessary for lung function, and it is made up of saturated fat.
As we have eaten fewer saturated fats, there has been an increase in allergic diseases like eczema, asthma and allergic rhinitis. (source)
4. Liver Health
Saturated fat is necessary for proper liver function and helps to protect your liver from toxins and alcohol.
Saturated fat actually encourages the liver cells to dump their fat cells, which helps the liver to function more effectively. And since the liver is CRUCIAL to your overall health, it's important to keep it working optimally. (source)
5. Weight control
Fat can help you shed excess body fat.
Dietary fats are one of the most stable forms of energy. They'll satiate you and stabilize your blood sugar levels, leading to your most likely being able to shed those extra pounds. There are more reasons why eating low fat doesn't work, and you can read about them here.
6. Taste (not really a health issue, but it's important!)
Fat makes your food taste good. Have you noticed that low-fat foods typically have a TON of sugar and artificial ingredients added to them? That's because fat adds flavor to your food.
Remove the fat and you need to add "stuff" to make it taste good.
And typically that "stuff" isn't good for you.
7. Balanced Hormones
Your whole hormonal system depends on fat for good functioning. Eat low fat and you put yourself at risk for hormonal imbalance.
Fats are the building blocks of many critical substances in the body, including prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances that regulate many of the body’s functions. Fats regulate the production of sex hormones, which would help to explain why some teenage girls who are too lean experience delayed puberty or loss of their menstrual cycle (amenorrhea). (source)
There's a lot of conflicting information out there about fat and health. Of course, speak with your practitioner about any concerns you have as it relates to your personal situation, but it's important to see that fat quite likely has been demonized for the wrong reasons.
Maybe it's time to let fat be a bigger part of your diet!
What do you think about these reasons to eat more fat? Does this change your thinking on fat consumption?
Trisha Gilkerson is a homeschooling mom to four crazy boys. She blogs with her awesome hubby Luke at Intoxicated on Life where they talk about faith, homeschooling, and health.