Why Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat (and What Kinds to Eat)

Credit: Wikimedia, Muffet

Credit: Wikimedia, Muffet

Fat has long been feared as the enemy, and thought to be responsible for chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), coronary heart disease (CHD), obesity and the general expanding waistlines. “Fat makes you fat” led to the avoidance of the substance.

More research has had different findings – such as there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. In this study published by NCBI, it was even reported that eating fat actually promotes satiety, which aids in weight loss and management, and that certain fats, when used in moderation, have the potential to help your body in many ways. Various studies have also observed that fats:

  • Play a crucial role in brain function – According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, fats like the kind found in Omega-3 fatty acids, are “highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function”
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Protect against viruses and bacteria that can disrupt the body’s ecosystem from inside the digestive tract, because of the essential fatty acids provided that have antimicrobial effects. Essential fatty acids also can help fight against common eye diseases and conditions, and promote healthy, functioning eyes
  • Help with the absorption of micronutrients that are fat-soluble, such as vitamin D

The Different Fats, Explained

There are three categories fats can fit into: Saturated, Unsaturated, and Trans fat. All are included in a nutrition label’s listing of “Total Fat.”

  1. Saturated = Solid
  2. Unsaturated = Liquid.
  3. Trans fat = Liquid that turn to solid, by a process called hydrogenation

Different types of fats have different impacts on your body/total health, so we’ve further outlined them here.

Eating fat for your health – best to worst

1. Polyunsaturated Omega-3s. Optimal levels of omega fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, and many other inflammatory diseases. Higher levels of omega-3—especially EPA and DHA— are reported to correlate with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and depression. While the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have no specific amount they recommend, they have recommended eating foods rich in this healthy fat while staying within your total fat allowance (which is further detailed below).

Omega-3s are found in foods like walnuts, flaxseed, fatty fish and shellfish. salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, Pacific oysters, trout, Atlantic mackerel, and Pacific mackerel.

Omega-3s are a type of unsaturated fat, called polyunsaturated. When it comes to unsaturated fats, polyunsaturated means that the hydrocarbon tails constitutes of more than one single carbon–carbon double bond (because science). The other type of unsaturated fat?

2. Monounsaturated fats. Mono, meaning single – there is one double bond in the fatty acid chain with all of the remainder carbon atoms being single-bonded – these are typically fats that are liquid at room temperature, and are mostly in oils from plants. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans also recommend eating this healthy fat while staying within your total fat allowance.

Overall, eating foods that are high in monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and Omega-3 fats may help lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats may also keep “good” HDL cholesterol levels high; This may lower your risk of heart disease. The Mayo Clinic recommends consuming MUFA-rich and PUFA-rich foods instead of other fatty foods.

Be aware that when it comes to polyunsaturated fat, too high of Omega-6 levels can have a negative effect, as detailed in this interview with our founder and Dave Asprey, aka The Bulletproof Executive. The UMMC recommends a ratio in the range of 2:1 – 4:1, omega-6 to omega-3, and some health educators advocate even lower ratios. According to our medical director, Dr. Murdoc Khaleghi, “This ratio is more in line with what we supposedly ate historically.”

3. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Found in items such as coconut oil, milk, cheese, red meat, poultry, fish.

The debates and research are ongoing; While the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend keeping your saturated fat limit to no more than 10 percent of your total calories (based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, a 10 percent limit amounts to about 22 grams of saturated fat a day), the NCBI has also found that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.

4. Trans fat: Trans fat is a fat that is used to give foods a different texture/shelf-life. When reading labels, look for the ingredient of “partially hydrogenated oil” and “shortening” in items such as:

  • Processed foods
  • Fried foods
  • Snack foods, such as chips, crackers & cookies
  • Margarine & salad dressings
  • Pie crusts
  • Frozen pizza
  • Coffee creamers

Consuming trans fat increases LDL (aka “bad”) cholesterol and decreases HDL (aka “good”) cholesterol – both are risk factors that lead to coronary heart disease, according to the CDC.

Don’t eat it.

How to get fat into your meals

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a total fat intake of 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories. Based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, this amounts to about 44 to 78 grams of total fat a day. With that in mind, you can employ fats at:

Breakfast: Add sliced avocado to your plate; Cook your eggs in grass-fed butter or coconut oil; Add chia seeds or a nut butter to your smoothie or yogurt

Lunch: Toss sunflower seeds or walnuts onto your salads; Use olive or nut oils in your dressings; Dip veggie strips in homemade guacamole; Add real cream to your coffee, vs. processed coffee creamer

Dinner: Brush coconut oil on your vegetables before roasting or grilling; Replace traditional breading with nut or coconut flours; Use real sour cream instead of low-fat/fat-free, swap out one meat dish a week for a fish dish

How WellnessFX can help

When it comes to dietary fat, cholesterol and your health, you’ll want to monitor your LDL, HDL, Total Cholesterol, and Triglycerides, as well as your omegas.

We recommend an assessment of these via a biomarker testing in order to have an accurate picture of where you (and total health) are. Your blood cells regenerate every 120 days, so we recommend re-assessment every 4-6 months, after instituting new habits.

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.