Everything you need to know about Fat
For decades, we were told by everyone from well-meaning doctors to food companies that fat was the enemy. After all, fat was high in calories, so if we wanted to be healthier and achieve a leaner body mass, consuming high-calorie foods simply didn’t make sense. But the more it was studied, that theory was completely debunked. Especially for active people, gym goers and high performance athletes.
To maximize endurance, sports nutritionists now advise that your diet should not be devoid of fat. In a study of trained runners, researchers at the University of Buffalo proved the theory. After spending one month on each of three diets dubbed low-, medium-, and high-fat, runners worked out significantly longer before exhaustion set in when eating the medium-fat diet as compared with the low-fat diet. (The athletes on the high-fat diet did not see any greater benefit.)
Turns out, there are many benefits of eating more fat. And it’s time we started rethinking this essential component of our diet. That’s good news because, well, it often makes meals a whole lot more fun. But also, it does a body good. Here’s how.
Calories = Energy = Endurance
If your diet is too restrictive, it’s unable to properly supply active bodies with the energy it needs to perform at maximum capacity. Eating foods that contain fat is an easy way for athletes to meet their energy needs and boost performance. During the low-fat diet phase of the Buffalo study, athletes not only ate less fat, they also consumed almost 20% fewer total calories than during the medium-fat phase.
Eating Fat Makes You Lean
“Healthy cell walls made from high-quality fats are better able to metabolize insulin, which keeps blood sugar better regulated,” says physician and New York Times bestselling author Dr. Mark Hyman. “Without proper blood sugar control, the body socks away fat for a rainy day … but the right fats also increase fat burning, cut your hunger and reduce fat storage.” He advises that eating the right fats makes you shed excess weight, while eating low-fat, high-sugar processed foods or trans fat can contribute to inflammation and lead to weight gain.
Our lungs are coated with a lubricant-like substance—composed almost entirely of natural saturated fat—which helps them expand and contract. Without enough saturated fat, our lungs can be compromised. Several studies are now examining the link between the low consumption of saturated fat and asthma as a result of the breakdown of this fatty coating within the lungs. And as any athlete knows, the better you can breathe, the harder you can push yourself.
Our Brains Need Fat
“Your brain is about 60 percent fat,” says Dr. Hyman. “Of that percentage, the biggest portion comes from the omega-3 fat called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).” The brain requires DHA in order to spark communication between cells but our bodies can make a small amount of DHA from other fatty acids, so you need to consume it directly from food or a supplement. These high-quality fat supercharge your cognitive function and happiness while reducing inflammation and your risk of chronic diseases. However, studies link a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids to everything from depression and anxiety to dry skin and trouble sleeping.
Fat Can Improve Liver Function
The healthier your liver, the happier you’ll be. That’s because, among other vital functions, the liver metabolizes proteins and carbohydrates while storing minerals and vitamins. And it, of course, filters things from your blood that are toxic such as alcohol. Studies published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology have found that healthy saturated fat protects the liver from alcohol and various medications, including acetaminophen and other drugs commonly used by athletes and active people for pain and inflammation.
Boost Your Immune System
Drs. Michael and Dr. Mary Eades, who have written several best-selling books on the effect our diet has on our health discussed the role that saturated fats found in butter and coconut oil play in immune health with Tim Ferris. They stated that the “loss of sufficient saturated fatty acids in the white blood cells hampers their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi”.
Fat Strengthens Bones
Our bones support us and allow us to move. They protect our brain, heart, and other organs from injury. Even if you’re not an adrenaline junkie, stronger bones are a good thing. Our bones also store minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, which help keep them strong, and release them into the body when we need them for other uses. And it’s been found that in order for calcium to be incorporated into bone, the body needs saturated fat for proper absorption.
* Know Your Good Fats:
Saturated fats such as that found in beef and milk may not be as harmful as once thought. Monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil and canola oil) have increasingly shown their value in promoting health. Polyunsaturated fats are also thought to be healthy. Foods that contain polyunsaturated fats include the following: Nuts, natural peanut butter, olives, avocados and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines.