There is a ton of bullshit around the public about fats. Some consider fat as the devil himself, while others think of fats as the healthy holy grail for longevity.
As with every nutritional topic – it is individual, but extremes miss the point nearly every time with enormous precision. Sorry, my ketos, frutarians and carnivores!
Some of the best-known myths are:
Fats make fat and there are few benefits of fats
Fats are unhealthy
Fats kill your cardiovascular system
I think you too might have encountered many of these. May it be by your aunt suffering an eating disorder, your I-know-everything-better-friend, or the idiot at every gym who positions himself as a guru but knows less than John Snow.
Even health professionals act all too often on that outdated knowledge.
Fortunately, many of these myths have been crushed by science and instead, fats offer many health benefits.
So – let’s make it better and update that Jane-Fonda-Era-Knowledge and look at fat. The No-Bullshit way.
Nonetheless, the broad assumption that fats are rich in energy is true. 1g of fat equals 8kcal, while protein and carbs only grant half that energy per gram.
That’s why it is true to watch how many fats you consume. 10g or 30g of butter may look the same, but there are whopping 160kcal in between.
Fat ≠ Fat
Inside the big group of fats are three subcategories which can be split up even further.
That may sound really complicated, but it hasn’t to be that way. SO – stay with me!
There are two types of unsaturated fats: mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
You should consume a variety of both of them. They play a role in terms of general cardiovascular health and to avoid inflammations.
Good examples of polyunsaturated fatty acids are nuts and fish. Fish oils even go further and are separately grouped as the well-known omega-3-acids*.
You can find high quality monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil, seeds, and nuts.
Many of these fatty acids can be found in various vegetable oils, like canola or sunflower oil, too. But I would advise strongly against using them. We’ll take a precise look at that later on.
You can find these dudes in animal products and surprisingly everything made from coconuts.
There was a big fear of saturated fats.[efn_notes]I look at you 90’s and early 2000’s![/efn_note] These poor guys were accused of being one of the main contributors to strokes, coronary heart disease, and many more cardiovascular pathologies.
Fortunately, this isn’t that true anymore. In medicine, it is hard to blame one single fact for an outcome. It is more often than that a bunch of factors that contribute to the illness.2
So – don’t be afraid of butter or your nice tomahawk steak.
Instead of being seen by the incarnation of doom, research showed that saturated fats health benefits exist, too.3
Transfats are chemically processed vegetable oils often used by the industry because they are more simple to use.
They are the devil. Maybe science tells in 10 years otherwise – but I don’t think so. Transfats are by definition highly processed garbage. That can’t be healthy even in 10 years.
You can find transfats in margarine, frying fat and hardened fats.
Stay as far away from these products as you can. Don’t believe anyone, who tells you that margarine is great for your heart. Better shoot them instead. Or if you don’t like going to jail – walk away mid-talk.
Are fats healthy or not? The Benefits of Fats!
Why does my body need fat?
Your body uses fats for way more than fuel. It builds a lot of cool stuff from it.
Let’s have a look at which ones:
Fat as storage for energy
Your body is excellent at storing fat. I don’t think this is big news.
Plus fat is a great heater. It keeps the warmth inside your body and can even produce heat by itself!
Fat as a building block
The most important point is that your body needs fats every day to build hormones and cell membranes.
I recommend to never eat less than 1g of fat per kg of bodyweight.
If you eat too few fats, you will get hormonal problems, especially when combined with a strict workout regimen.
Every bodybuilder who is in prep for a contest, or everyone who diets to strict will know that struggle. Go ahead and ask them if they are into sex at the moment. I guarantee you, if they are no nymphomaniacs, they will have problems to hiss their flag. They will shiver even in well-heated rooms, their hair quality will be awful and suffer a lot more hormonal-caused issues.
More important than the sole fact of how many grams omega-3 you take, is the relation of omega-3 to omega-6 and omega-9 acids.
All these fatty acids are important but the problem with our modern nutrition is that we consume way too much omega-6 and omega-9 acids. That tilts the balance and promotes inflammations.
Fats ≠ unhealthy
As you know now – fats aren’t inherently unhealthy.
Solely, because unhealthy foods can make fat, fats aren’t unhealthy. Just because Adolf Hitler was a passionate artist, artists aren’t prone to genocidal thoughts. This is binary thinking at its finest.
But one thing, that every as general unhealthy seen foods have in common, is their composition. They all consist of a mix of:
Quick digestible carbohydrates
High in salt
And have a strong umami taste
Avoid vegetable and processed oils
Marketers and misinformed nutrition coaches often claim that vegetable oils and margarine are a healthy alternative to traditional fats.
And that’s partly true! The fatty acids that they are made of seem quite reasonable. But at a second glance, you see that the problem is their high amount of omega-6 fatty acids.
They are essential for your body, but with such high amounts, you can quickly tilt that balance towards inflammation.
Try to avoid using vegetable oils, like canola oil and sunflower oil. Also avoid transfats in any case, like margarine and frying fat.
But there are no rules without proper exceptions! Exceptions from that are the very beneficial vegetable oils, like olive oil, linseed oil, pumpkin seed oil, walnut oil, and coconut oil*
Don’t be afraid of fat fish or meat cuts
Don’t be afraid to eat saturated fats.
As we’ve talked about, there are health benefits of saturated fats and much we don’t know. See them most of the time as a simple and reliable energy source.
Never, ever avoid a whole group of macronutrients.
Low-Carb, Keto and even Carnivore diets are trendy. They give you something to identify with, to extend your personality to it sometimes, but they can become dogmatic quickly.
These trends have one error in common. They avoid whole groups of macronutrients:
Ketos hate carbs
Low-Carbers hate carbs, too. Maybe not that much as Ketos.
Carnivores love meat. And hate everything else there is.
While in the 1990 fats where the devil it shifts now onto the carbs. Poor carbs!
Who knows maybe in 10 years, marketing manages it to accuse protein of everything bad in the world. #proteinkillsyourkidneys
Therefore, don’t make the same error and keep your nutrition somewhat in balance. Don’t avoid one macronutrient completely. They all have their use for us. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have adapted to eat them.
If you avoid something because you are convinced to save every little piggy there is. That’s totally fine. Ethics doesn’t have to be strictly logical. But just make sure to compensate for your loss in form of supplements.5
Cheatsheet: How to use fats, the right way!
Never ever eat less than 80g fats per day. If you like to eat more – feel free to go for it! But don’t eat less.