For the past 40 years doctors have insisted that a low fat diet is the key to good health, we have always been led to believe that in order to have a healthy heart, lower body fat and lower risk of disease we should keep our fat intake to a minimum. It would seem to make sense though right? You eat protein, it gets broken down and used to repair the body, you eat carbohydrates (sugars) they get broken down and used as energy to keep us going throughout the day, you eat fat, it gets broken down and you get fat…
As I’m sure you have anticipated I’m not here to tell you what you already know, there’s a bombshell to be dropped and therefore I’m here to tell you what you think you already know is wrong, this one may take a while to get your head round but here it is: Consumption of fat is probably one of the single most important aspects of daily diet, while Carbohydrates (sugars) are one of the most detrimental to health and actually one of the predominant factors of obesity, that is to exclude the obvious cause of putting too much in to your mouth for your body to be able to use efficiently / overeating.
So, to elaborate fat as a food type is not bad for you, it’s actually very good for you! Not only is it good for you it is essential for our optimal function. Now, before you head for the double cream and scones in the hope of toning up and curing ailments you need to understand a little more about fat and sugars and what effect they have on the body.
Losing Bodily Fat: Surprisingly by increasing your fat intake and reducing your carbohydrates accordingly your body will become more insulin sensitive which will ultimately help reduce chronic inflammation, noticeably in your digestive tract and also improve your metabolic rate. This works mainly through the intake of the fat Omega 3 which will help your body to use fat as an energy source while turning down your bodies fat storing mechanisms. Omega 3 is present in all good fats and is also a good natural thyroid regulator and a healthy thyroid makes it easier to burn body fat. It also helps stop hunger pangs and cravings provided the diet is balanced with protein. This means you can cut the sugary cereal and upgrade to bacon and eggs for breakfast instead, it just keeps getting better. Don’t be naive though, popping an omega 3 supplement now and again alone won’t turn you into a fitness model overnight.
Fat Improves Muscle Gain in Men and Toning Up in Women: Cholesterol from fat is responsible for helping make hormones, it helps balance estrogen and testosterone increasing weight loss and improving muscle tone. Combined with a low carbohydrate intake you will also help your body to increase its Growth Hormone production which will increase the loss of body fat, maintain muscle tone and improve the function and recovery of your body from exercise.
Fat is Good for Diabetics: A recent study has shown that diabetics who have adopted the high fat low carb diet have lowered the need for insulin while also generally making them healthier.
Fat Aids Brain Function & Good Mood: The brain is pretty much made up of fat, relying on fats and cholesterol for maintained brain function. One of the side effects of a lack of cholesterol and fatty acids is a lowered output of serotonin (the chemical that makes you feel good and awake).
Other Benefits of Fat Include:
- Crucial in maintaining good Cardio-Vascular health
- Speeds up recovery from muscle and joint injury
- Improves the health of eyes/hair and nails
- Helps boost your immune system
- Improves skin health
- Shown to reduce risk of some cancers
- Aids bones in becoming stronger
- Increases libido
- Helps maintain reproductive organ health
- Saturated fat is the best for cooking as it maintains its structure under high temperatures. It is best to avoid cooking with olive oils as they become very unstable with heat and convert to a trans-fat which is the bad stuff that the body hates.
Where can I get the good fats from? It’s all very well saying fat is good for you but not if you have to go on a food feasting frenzy to try and work it out yourself. Here is a list of some of the types of food which contain good and bad fats. Upsettingly it’s the bad fats that are present in most of the products that you can buy on the supermarket shelves that can end up making up most of the fat intake in your diet.
Good Fats: Unrefined, natural and in simple form
- Meats – Unprocessed and preferably free range/grass-fed/organic. Buy either the very best meat on the shelves at the supermarket or find a good butcher and get the same or better quality for less money!
- Butter – 100% pure and preferably from grass fed cows
- Fish – It goes without saying the fresher the better
- Coconut Oil
- MCT oil as a supplement (I will explain how this can be used at a later date)
- Olives and olive oil (cold)
- Nuts – avoid too many peanuts but go nuts on the rest…
- Cheese – the less processed the better
- Yoghurt – full fat and natural
Bad Fats: Basically the more refined the fat the worse it becomes
- Vegetable fats/oils – this doesn’t mean vegetables are bad for you! Stay away from margarines and butter/vegetable oil blends.
- Palm oil – this can sneak up in some foods in order to add texture so it’s sometimes worth checking labels to switch to another brand, if you don’t feel you can justify the extra 50p it might cost to switch then just have one pint of beer a week less at £3.50+ and you kill 2 birds and maybe lose a stone!
- Corn oil/fats– Corn has its place, unless you are at the point of starvation avoid letting it in to your body.
- Sunflower Oil/fats – Although these are more temperatures resistant that olive oils for cooking, there are better alternatives.
- Canola Oil
Avoid “low fat” options as they most commonly replace fat with ingredients that are bulking agents and sugar.
A diet high in good fats, protein, fresh vegetables and low in carbohydrates is a good starting point to being healthy, leaner and feeling much better. weather you work in an office based environment or out and about on the road all day long you will find your energy levels and concentration levels to be better and more consistent throughout the day, meaning you have more energy when you finish work to go to the gym, go for a run or just walk the dog, whereas before all you wanted to do was kick your shoes off and slump in front of the TV.
Final words on Fat – Remember, reduce carbohydrate intake to a minimum, increase fat & protein and of course fresh vegetables and fruit. It is of utmost importance to realize that what you are reading here is a lifestyle choice, it’s not a 3 month crash diet, it’s not supplementary advice, its a complete switch in approach and attitude to the way you see food. It’s something that for some may require a little preparation to get started and for others it might be possible to start right now. There are no negatives to this, it tastes great, it makes you feel great, it helps you lose weight and helps you get stronger and it improves health. When used in synergy with regular exercise it will speed up a healthier you, with minimal exercise it will take much longer but still a healthier option than your low fat high sugar diet. If you are willing to accept that you have not been told the truth about the health benefits of a diet high in fats and protein then you really could open yourself up to start a new approach to being healthier and happier.
Sugar Coated Lies – Choosing to believe it or not we’ve been lied to about Fats and Sugars for as long as there has been profit to be made from us willing to stuff our faces and fill our tummies with convenient, pre-prepared or part prepared foods. The food industry is one of the largest businesses in the world and through the power of media and advertising it has shaped our understanding and belief of what and when we should eat. Just keep in mind that at mass commercial level only profits matter. So of course soft drinks companies are going to promote how much energy their products give you with the same great taste and no fat and of course why wouldn’t you believe that the ready meal from your local supermarket is healthy, because after all it has a label on the front bold and proud saying “Healthy Option”, and needless to say, it’s low in fat…
People don’t get fat from eating too much meat or fish or vegetables, they get fat from eating breads, sweets and cakes or drinking too much beer. We have been spun a web of confusion when it comes to what is healthy for us, leaving us to wade through the fibers of information we are given trying to decide the best option for our next meal. One of the best places to start however is that refined sugar isn’t good for you, there are very few circumstances when consuming sugar is actually a benefit to the body and the instances it is potentially required usually refer to forcing a required insulin response or ramping calories when other options are not appropriate or available which applies to very few of us.
As early as the 1970’s John Yudkin tried to warn the world of our fatal relationship with sugar and the way it has been woven in to our diets through advertising and inaccurate clinical trials, however, even with a revived publication of “White and Deadly” in the 1980’s to this day, some 30 years later we are consuming more sugar than ever, welcoming the diseases and illnesses that hamper our daily lives we arm ourselves with an arsenal of medication as the cure. Feeling tired, lethargic with low mood with an endless excuses to skip doing exercise the proceeded foods we eat are killing us softly.
As humans we have a deadly vulnerability of addiction. Addiction can sometimes be a good thing, many people who exercise hard find an addiction to the feeling of endorphins release after a workout. We can quite easily have an addiction to of some pretty fatal substances too though, whether it be alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or sugar, yes sugar, I’ve gone and lumped sugar (excuse the pun) in there with cigarettes and drugs, after all do you honestly believe that sugar is less damaging or indeed any less addictive than cigarettes? In the short term it could be argued that sugar is in fact far more damaging to health than cigarettes and as damaging in the long term. Some of the diseases and illnesses we are faced with today are in far greater numbers than they were say 70 years ago, following trends in sugar consumption it is possible to map out trends in illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and various other conditions, although if this is the case why isn’t there more done about the amount of sugar we consume, why are we given drugs instead of diet advice and why are children weaned on to sugar foods from a very early age? Sugar is cheap to make, makes things taste good and keeps you coming back for more, get a nation hooked and it’s a money maker for sure.
When I talk about an excess of refined sugar, in an ideal world I’m really referring to any refined sugar we consume as being an excess, although for the purpose of Joe and Gill Blogs and what the NHS guideline report we should keep refined sugar to under 10% of our daily calories 50g pd Women – 70 grams pd Men (I am unsure of how these figures were justified), this being the equivalent to around 10 teaspoons of sugar in your hot drinks throughout the day, I don’t claim to be any kind of whiz with math but if you have 5 hot drinks a day with 2 sugars in each you’re pretty much at your limit. For Coke you’re looking at 53g of sugar for a 500ml bottle, 3-10g for cookies and about 50g for a couple of donuts. So if you have anything that looks similar in your daily meals/snacks you instantly hit your NHS recommended limit. The irony is that if you were to eat the right things on a daily basis you would never crave sugar and in fact would end up disliking how sweet it was.
Defining Sugars – There are two categories of carbohydrates I will briefly address: Sugars and starches. Sugars are broken down in to further categories however for the sake of simplicity it isn’t overly important defining the two. In the terms of refined sugar the types are; Sucrose, Glucose, Dextrose, Fructose, Galactose, Lactose and Maltose. These types of carbohydrates and broken down very quickly and as a result enter the blood stream at a rapid rate. There is also High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), this acts differently and the bad things you could say about this could easily fill the space of this entire post, so for simplicity once again, just avoid it. Starches on the other hand are on the other arm of carbohydrates, a more complex structure that takes longer to break down and thus longer to reach the blood stream, found in forms usually closer to being unrefined, these include: Potato, Rice, Bread, Flower, Cous-Cous, Corn, and many more. The over consumption of such carbohydrates and the way in which they are prepared and further refined have their own related issues and therefore a diet high in the content of these food types should also be avoided, confusingly there is an endless amount to be said on starchy carbohydrates so I shall leave that for another time.
Blood Glucose & Insulin – Ideally we want to keep our Blood Glucose constant for as much of the time as possible, this process is related to our insulin levels and the importance of keeping them level throughout the day to help keep energy levels up and constant and long term health good. Consuming sugars will cause insulin levels to rise and fall quickly to deal with the excess blood sugar and moreover cause blood glucose levels to drop rapidly after the insulin as taken effect, shortly after which you find that there is an excess of insulin in your blood and a lack of sugar causing cravings and tiredness, you’ll seek something high in sugar to bounce you back and so your day of insulin trampoline begins, this is one reason why avoiding carbohydrates and sugars at breakfast (especially sugary cereals is important).
Eat Unrefined Sugars – When ingested in its unrefined/unprocessed form sugar is accompanied by an army of other vitamins and nutrients that not only help protect the appropriate passage of sugar from food to body but also utilized the fiber and other characteristics of the whole food for the optimal use of the food. For example; apples are relatively high in fructose but that does not mean that apples are bad for you, they hold a cocktail of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that help your body function correctly, nature makes fruits taste sweet so want to consume the micro-nutrients to make our bodies run correctly. Chart of fruits and nutrient breakdown
The stuff that’s not on the label – Eating sugar has actually been proven to inhibit the body from functioning correctly in a whole range of ways as well as being the common factor when looking at a number of other diseases:
- Causes damage to the liver, excess sugar and also a constant intake of sugar is responsible for liver damage and the commonly known fatty liver which seriously impedes the ability of the body to function correctly, not good when the liver is responsible for over 500 functions of the body.
- Alters the way our hormones behave and sometime inhibits certain hormones from functioning correctly
- Inhibits the absorption of protein, trying to gain muscle tone and bulk? Cut out the soft drinks.
- Rapidly increases tooth decay (even prehistoric records show there was very little dental decay then compared to now)
- Can’t be used quick enough as energy so gets stored as fat, when you hear that sugar gives you energy, it does but really it’s stored energy, fat. Not many people can say they don’t have enough “stored energy”.
- Stops other natural foods, vitamins and minerals working correctly in your body, having an adverse effect with the consumption of fat contributing toward cardiovascular disease and excess weight gain.
- Is defining cause diabetes in our modern society.
- Causes malnutrition in babies feeding from breast milk when mother has a high sugar diet and when feeding from a bottled diet when the milk contains sugar.
- Increases oestrogen in men and women
- Inhibits nutrient uptake.
- Reduces proper cell growth, causing bones, muscles and vital organs to be underdeveloped.
- Common factors of: Certain types of cancer, gout, migraines, crones disease, cardiovascular disease, cellulite, acne, cirrhosis, fungal infections, depression, vision impairment (short sighted) and a whole range of other skin diseases.
Still think I was exaggerating when I compared sugar to cigarettes?
To round this all off, if one can begin to accept, believe, appreciate or even have faith that as a species we have taken a slightly wrong turn in terms of the food we put in our body every day, especially the refined sugar content and that this is causing us to become unhealthier and ill then all that needs to be done now is to make correct it. Fast food burger chains and soft drink companies aren’t going to start putting health warnings on their products, most doctors don’t give accurate or detailed diet advice about how to be healthy and negate the need for most medications and media will continue drip feeds us with the ideas that we should eat the foods that are cheap to make and leave us wanting more.
Fill up on natural whole foods, unrefined foods, and make a conscious effort to avoid refined sugar. Make a fruit and vegetable smoothies every day to help fill you up and replenish the nutrients you need. Try it for just 14 days and see how much cleaner your skin gets or hair shines, how much more energy you have, how sharply you can think, how aches and pains start to diminish and how your body will start to change in shape for the better. Remember that many clinical studies, research and health guidelines are ultimately funded by drugs companies and the food industry and that the information gathered from these studies is among the same information taught at universities to most doctors and nutritionists.
There is a lot of good information out there too, visit the BioFit360 website for recommended reading and easy to digest documentaries.