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Nicole Moore Master Nutrition APD5 min read

The skinny on fat: We've been lied to for decades

How the hell did we decide fat was bad?

Seriously, when did fat become the enemy? After all, our great grandparents ate fat and meat and vegetables. They didn't sit down and tuck into bowls of sugar-laden cereal, breakfast biscuits, power bars and fat-free products.

They lived off local, seasonal produce. They ate butter and cream. Basically, they ate real food!

Why then, have we been convinced that fat is bad for us? In Australia, according to the Australian Burea of Statistics, obesity and type 2 diabetes is higher than ever, with obesity increasing from 1 in 5 people in 1995 to 1 in 3 now being obese, and 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, with 1 person every 5 minutes being diagnosed! Even our kids are sicker and fatter, with obesity rising to 25%, one quarter of our kids, due to less activity and eating more sugar. Something is clearly not working.

Where did it all go wrong?

Well, I blame it on Ancel Keys. About 60 years ago he reported finding a bad link between saturated fat and heart disease.

I guess because he was ‘a little famous’, he convinced people they should avoid fat. And later the lovely dietary guidelines and diet pyramid appeared, and it supported the message to eat a low fat diet. Suddenly everyone stopped eating fat and started eating more carbohydrate and sugar, filling up on bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, rice and potatoes. They ate more fat-free food higher in sugar, like low fat milk, ice cream and snacks, and loads more processed foods.

These foods were low in fat, but the real problem is they were high in sugar. People stopped using real saturated fat like butter, ghee and lard, and started cooking with inflammatory seed and vegetable oils (more on these villains in a moment). This low fat revolution created massive health problems.

So, we were falsely led to believe fat was bad, but we replaced healthy fat with sugar and the starchy overload of carbs that has now caused us to get fat and sick.

As they say: Don’t blame the butter for what the bread did!

Our body needs healthy fats

Our bodies need healthy fats. In fact, they’re essential to our health. They provide energy, support cell growth, protect organs and also keep our body warm. Essential fatty acids are necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K and help with hormone production.

When you eliminate fat, you tend to eat more but feel hungry, and so need to snack more frequently. On the other hand, fat makes you feel fuller for longer, and your body can burn your fat stores for fuel.

‘Good’ fats V ‘bad’ fats

Let's take a closer look at good fats versus bad fats.

We were led to believe by the infamous Ancel Keys that the bad fats were the saturated ones such as butter, ghee, lard, and even cream. In their place, unsaturated vegetable and seed oils were promoted.

Unfortunately, vegetable and seed oils can damage the cells in our bodies, causing inflammation, which makes us sick. When heated, they cause large amounts of damage to our bodies due to the release of free radicals from the oil. Chronic inflammation is the underlying factor in some common Western diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. We also now know the good fats are the saturated fats, fats such as butter, ghee, lard and cream.

We shouldn’t be afraid of using these, because they don’t become oxidised and damaged when heated, and therefore, don’t cause inflammation in our bodies.

What I’m saying is, focus on using real fat and avoid processed vegetable and seed oils, which are inflammatory and make us sick.

When is too much fat, too much?

On our Defeat Diabetes Program, we encourage you to eat proteins like chicken, fish, eggs, full fat dairy and nuts. We also encourage healthy fats such as butter, ghee, lard, cream, olive oil, and avocado. We know both protein foods and healthy fat foods are essential for our bodies to function.

Fat and protein, unlike carbs, helps us lower blood sugar and drop weight because they do not elevate the fat storage hormone insulin. It’s not the calories but the type of calories that makes us gain weight. Sugar calories trigger the fat storage hormone insulin, and triggers the body to hold onto fat.

However, sometimes people find when they follow their low carb program that they don't get the weight loss results that they would like. Their blood sugars improve and they feel better, but the scales are not dropping.

So if you’re not successfully dropping weight, then the question is how much fat is too much? Is there a limit?

My advice is that if you are consuming protein and healthy fat and you are not dropping weight, the first step is to pull back the added fat you are using.

For example, at breakfast drop the cream in your coffee, poach vs fry your eggs. At lunch use less olive oil in your salad, drop the cheese and nuts. At dinner, reduce or eliminate the butter when cooking your steak, eat more fish as it is leaner in fats.

So, just take a look at the meals and snacks you’re consuming, and see where you can pull back the added healthy fats. We’re not suggesting to be low fat, quite the opposite actually. Just consume less good fat if you are not dropping weight.

Also, watch out for those sneaky salted high fat nuts, they can be very addictive, so make sure you have small serves, and always make sure you are snacking because you are hungry.

Try this test: If you feel hungry have a glass of water first, if you're still hungry, then it’s true hunger, if not, you are just thirsty! People following low carb tolerate different amounts of carbs, but people also tolerate different amounts of fat, so if you're eating the low carb Defeat Diabetes Program foods and not dropping weight and you'd like to see the scales drop then pull back all those healthy good fats just a little until you start to see the scales drop or your clothes get looser.

We’re here to help you reach your goals

Following the Defeat Diabetes Program food list can help you meet all of your nutritional goals, but if you’re not meeting your other goals like weight loss and lower blood sugars, then it's a matter of making sure you use the same foods, but pull back portions.

Our food lists of green to eat ‘plenty’, amber foods to ‘moderate’, and red eating lists to ‘avoid’ are a great guide, so if you're eating from the green and the amber lists, then you’re getting the balance you need to defeat your diabetes!

Join Australia's first evidence-based and doctor-led program transforming the health of Australians. Download the Defeat Diabetes app today.

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