Fat is Back!
Yes! You’re reading this right!
Take a minute. Let that sink in.
Fat is actually KEY to good health!
I know you’re probably thinking this is the complete opposite of everything you’ve ever learned.
But it turns out, those food guide recommendations that we’ve grown to rely on for nutritional guidance our whole lives were based on some pretty crappy science.
Now, don’t go running to your nearest Mickey D’s in search of the fountain of youth, health and everything holy. This is not the kind of fat we’re talking about here.
We’re talking healthy fats.
One of the leading voices forging the way in this new school of thought is Dr. Hyman, a practicing family physician, internationally renowned leader in the field of Functional Medicine and a 10-time #1 New York Times bestselling author.
Today, I want to share with you a great video interview where Dr. Hyman speaks about his most recent book Eat Fat, Get Thin. This amazing interview is conducted by another great mover and shaker, Lewis Howes, a revered online guru, advisor, motivational speaker, lifestyle consultant and a New York Times bestselling author himself.
In the interview, Dr. Hyman debunks some old health theories and talks about why fat is critical to good health and keeping trim. They also touch on lots of other important findings you’ll want to hear about to stay healthy.
Because I want you to get the most from this interview, I created a list of my major takeaways. I still really recommend you listen to this interview though, whether on the run, while doing the dishes or cooking supper. There is sooo much good information here, I just couldn’t squeeze it all in.
Warning! This may shake your dietary foundation just a little.
My Major Takeaways
1. Food Changes Everything
Finally the “Calories in, Calories Out” theory has been debunked and emphasis is now back on what we put in our bodies rather than how much. So no, getting 2000 calories a day from pop is not the same as getting it from vegetables, fruit, healthy fats and protein. Who would have thunk right? It’s pretty common sense really. Yet cola companies tried hard to make this argument for years, and did. Thankfully, we’ve come to realize that food is so much more than just calories. It’s vitamins, minerals, enzymes, nutrients, phytonutrients, prebiotic and probiotics that our bodies need to function and thrive. So if you’ve been living off pre-packaged “food-like” substances and have been taking multi-vitamins in the hope of staying healthy, you’ve probably been missing out on most of the benefits of eating real food.
Real food is critical in the regulation of hormones, inflammation, brain chemistry and gut flora. Bad bacterial balance in your tummy is linked to weight gain, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disease, heart disease, etc. We now know that everything we eat is information for our cells, and that food can turn our genes on and off, impacting whether disease is expressed or not. Dr. Hyman explains that food is often the cause of chronic disease but also the cure. So let’s get munchin’ and crunchin’ on some serious veg.
2. Fat is your Friend so Eat Up
Dr. Hyman promotes getting 50-60%* of your calories from fat. The healthy kind. I know you’re probably doing the math and thinking “This is redonkulous!”. I agree! It sounds crazy at first. But when you consider the number of calories in a small amount of fat (we’re talking 120 calories per tablespoon of olive oil), it really doesn’t take much for you to reach the targeted 800-1500 calories. Now you’re probably adding it all up and thinking “Well won’t that mean I’d have to eat less food?” and “Won’t I be starving all the time?”. Actually, quantity wise you probably will consume less but you won’t go hungry. Why? Healthy fat satisfies hunger in a way sugar does not. It actually stops the addiction center in the brain that causes cravings.
An added bonus of eating fats is it actually speeds up your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories (up to 300 calories a day “sans” exercise). This is how fat can help keep you slim and trim. Omega 3 fats, in particular, are extremely good for you. They help lower inflammation throughout the body and are crucial in the fight against diseases such as heart and auto-immune disease.
If you’re concerned about your cholesterol, Dr. Hyman says not to worry about dietary cholesterol in fat. As of 2016, the US government agrees and has declared cholesterol is no longer a nutrient of concern. For info on how to optimize your cholesterol, see Dr. Hyman’s 7 Ways to Optimize your Cholesterol.
*Note: There’s no debate that eating healthy fats can be beneficial to our health, especially Omega 3 fatty acids that are not so readily available. There is, however, varying schools of thought on how much we need. I’ve seen recommendations for calories from healthy fat vary from less than 10% to up to 60%. There seems to be agreement that a balance between Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids (1:1 ratio) is necessary to keep inflammation and disease at bay. The current ratio of consumption is estimated to be a whopping 1:16 ratio due to Omega 6 fatty acids (e.g. soybean, safflower and sunflower oil) being in almost all processed foods. If you decrease your consumption of Omega 6 fatty acids, then the amount of Omega 3 fatty acids needed to maintain a healthy balance can be significantly less.
3. Say “No” to Sugar and Refined Grains.
Sugar has the opposite effect of good fats. Sugar makes us fat. Instead of satisfying your hunger, sugar raises your insulin, leaving you hungrier and searching for your next fix. Eating refined grains increases your insulin the same way eating sugar does. Dr. Hyman explains that sugar also up-regulates your liver, turning on “a fat producing factory” that makes high triglycerides, causes fatty liver and raises the hormones that make women grow hair on their face and men to lose testosterone and their hair. No one wants that! And because sugar is converted to fat in your body, Dr. Hyman says that SUGAR is THE biggest contributor to abnormal cholesterol, NOT fat.
Fructose in particular, is almost only used by the liver to form fat, while glucose is used as energy in every living cell in the body. That’s why consuming large amounts of fructose can make you fat and be really hard on your liver. Regular table sugar is made up of glucose and fructose, about a 1:1 ratio. High-fructose corn syrup, found in pop and lots of other processed foods, is notoriously bad since it’s highly refined and made of a whopping 55% fructose. Agave syrup, which has gained a lot of popularity with people trying to control blood sugars because of it’s low glycemic index, is also dangerously high in fructose. Depending on how it’s processed, at a minimum, it contains the same amount of fructose as high-fructose corn syrup but sometimes it’s much more. Wholesome Live Sweetly, a major agave syrup producer, states right here on their website that their Organic Blue Agave syrup contains 75% fructose and should be used in moderation.
While fruits also contain fructose, they’re perfectly packaged in fiber to slow the release of sugar, all while providing vital nutrients. They’re super healthy for you and you should eat them, just in small quantities. Fruit juice, on the other hand, should really be limited since it’s generally straight up fructose without the fiber.
4. Stay Away From Food Additives, Dyes, Hormones, Antibiotics, Pesticides, GMO’s, Artificial Sweetener, etc.
Every day, you’re exposed to environmental stressors in your home, in the food you eat and the products you use. Every day, foreign substances make their way into your body and blood. Your body is constantly burdened with trying to deal with them. Some are excreted while others stick around for the long haul. Some chemicals wreak havoc as they interfere with natural body processes.
Xenoestrogen for example, is an estrogen-like substance found in things like sunscreens and food dyes. It accumulates in your fat and is believed to contribute to breast and prostate cancer as well as reproductive issues. Then there are the hormones given to the animals you eat. These affect your hormones too.
GMO seeds, which are modified to contain their own pesticides, grow to become plants that are uber resistant to the use of more pesticides. Then YOU eat them. The pesticides, intended to destroy the GI tract of insects, destroy YOUR GI tract.
And then there’s the issue of antibiotics in your food, mainly from animal products. It totally messes with your gut bacteria and your immune system. Increased exposure to antibiotics from foods and medications, which tend to be over-prescribed, is why we’re now seeing more drug-resistant bacteria. This means if you’re truly sick and NEED antibiotics, they may not work for you. Or you may require a MEGA-dose, where a single dose once would have done the trick.
5. Avoid Dairy & Grains (Especially Gluten)
The dairy and grains you eat today are not the same as what your grandma and grandpa ate. They’re more inflammatory now than ever, for many reasons. The majority of what’s available is highly processed, the good extracted, and is exposed to antibiotics and pesticides. Dairy contains mama cow’s hormones and pesticides from the feed she eats, while grains are engineered to withstand tons of pesticides making them more difficult to break down and digest than their predecessors.
When grains are processed to make bread, baked goods and pasta, even if whole wheat, it actually increases blood sugar more than eating straight up sugar. We talked earlier about why that’s not good! Also in Dr. Hyman’s book Eat Fat, Get Thin, he explains that gluten-grains in particular, tend to be highly inflammatory and contribute to autoimmunity, GI disorders, mental illness, autism, depression, schizophrenia, obesity, heart disease, dementia and cancer.
As for dairy, it’s tolerated by very few and for many, contributes to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, dementia, cancer and may even increase the risk of osteoporosis. And then there’s the more commonly known dairy related afflictions: allergies, asthma, eczema, postnasal drip, acne and irritable bowel syndrome.
Needless to say, for so many, consuming dairy and grains causes undue stress to the body. Inflammation is your immune response to stress, environmental or other. Though inflammation serves a critical function in your body, being in a constant state of inflammation is not good. In fact, Dr. Hyman explains that inflammation is believed to be the root cause of many diseases such as autoimmune and heart disease. For more information on why Dr. Hyman says we should stay away from dairy see here, and why gluten is bad for so many here.
6. Meat’s OK but Shouldn’t be the Main Act
In a nutshell, Dr. Hyman says eating small quantities of high-quality meat can be a part of a healthy diet. In his research, he’s found no significant difference in the health outcomes of vegans vs. meat eaters who lead an equally healthy lifestyle. The closer an animal is to its natural state of living, a.k.a. in the wild, the better. Dr. Hyman recommends eating less meat, not only to improve your health but the health of our planet too. Energy from large stock animals isn’t sustainable because the energy needed to raise and feed them is considerably greater than the energy provided by the animal itself as food.
7. Be Good to your Belly Bacteria
Your health begins in your gut. Up to 50-60% of your immune system is in your gut. Why? Because it’s your first line of defense. When you consume food, you’re letting tons of bacteria and foreign bodies right into your stomach. At any given time, there’s only a one-cell-thick layer between you and disease. That’s why it’s so crucial to ensure you’re taking good care of your belly health. The bacteria living inside are huge players in your immune function.
Bad belly bacteria = Bad immune function
That’s also why autoimmune disease is now being linked to gut issues. Caring for your gut by eating the right foods (probiotics and prebiotic foods) and staying away from bacteria-busting drugs and foods as much as possible is so important.
Watch Dr. Hyman’s Video Interview here:
You’re probably thinking “What in the heck SHOULD I eat?”.
Dr. Hyman recommends eating an anti-inflammatory low-glycemic Pegan diet. It’s a part vegan, part paleo diet consisting of whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods. And because we want to avoid the nasties, you should stay away from foods containing additives, preservatives and artificial colour. And as much as possible, go for organic, GMO-free, pesticide-free, hormone and antibiotic-free foods. Here’s what Dr. Hyman recommends in a nutshell:
7 Things to Do to Improve your Health
- 1. Fill up on non-starchy Vegetables. By volume, Dr. Hyman recommends getting at least 70-80% of your food from plants. Mainly non-starchy veg (so less potato, squash, carrots, beets, green peas, beans, etc.) to keep your insulin in check. A good goal is to fill at least half your plate at each meal with non-starchy vegetables and also have vegetables as snacks. A good way to up your veg intake is by starting each day with a green juice or green smoothie.
- 2. Eat a rainbow of color every day. The fruit and vegetables we eat are beaming with living enzymes and good-for-you bacteria and nutrients. Those multicolored vitamins just won’t cut it. The phytonutrients in colorful produce have powerful anti-aging, health restoring properties. Variety is truly the spice of life when it comes to produce and your health. When buying fruit and vegetable, you might want to consider going organic whenever possible to minimize exposure to pesticides, especially if it’s from the Dirty Dozen list. If this is not an option, by all means, don’t let that stop you from eating your fruits and veg. Just be sure to give it a thorough rinse before eating up. Also, check out the Environmental Working Group‘s Clean Fifteen list to help chose produce that generally have less pesticides.
- 3. Enjoy low-glycemic fruit. Fruit is truly nature’s candy. Like with all treats, we need to eat it sparingly. Focus on eating low-glycemic fruit that won’t spike your insulin such as apricots, blueberries, plums, cherries, pears, apples, oranges, grapefruit and peaches.
- 4. Load up on healthy fats. Dr. Hyman believes 50-60% of the calories should come from healthy fats. He promotes eating avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, small fish, eggs, nuts such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts and seeds such as Omega 3 rich chia, hemp and flax.
- 5. Eat small portions of beans, lentils and whole grains (gluten-free if intolerant). These foods can be nutritional powerhouses, but they’re also packed with starchy carbs that can spike your insulin sending you in a downward spiral. A good rule of thumb is to limit starchy carbohydrates (such as beans, quinoa, rice and buckwheat) to 1/2 cup per meal.
- 6. Focus on high-quality protein. If you eat meat or any animal protein, quality is everything. You want to eat small quantities of high quality, ideally ethically raised grass-fed, free-range, organic or wild meat. By small quantities, we’re talking 4 oz, the size of a deck of cards. Think of it as a side-dish and not the main act. If you eat soy, think organic and minimally processed like edamame. If you want to do tofu which is more processed, the fermented stuff is the way to go.
- 7. Limit sugars. Sugar isn’t something we need to consume and eating it can lead to inflammation. Dr. Hyman recommends only eating it occasionally, in small amounts. When considering what sweetener to use, stevia is a good naturally calorie-free option. If stevia isn’t your cup of tea, consider using small amounts of pure maple syrup, raw honey or organic coconut palm sugar. Adding vanilla or cinnamon to food is a healthy way of enhancing their natural sweetness without adding extra sugar.
If you’ve read my blog post Your DNA is NOT your Destiny, you may have noticed that Dr. Hyman’s and Dr. Ornish’s dietary recommendations conflict in some areas, most notably when it comes to fats, animal protein and high glycemic foods such as grains, fruit, starchy vegetables and legumes. Regardless, their core message is very much the same: Eat mostly a whole foods plant-based diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, with very limited sugars or refined carbs.
My hope is that you’ll use these recommendations as a guide on your journey to lasting health. Maybe you’ll try some, or all of these, to see what difference they make in your life.
Cutting out additives, dairy, gluten and sugar were key for me!
Try listening to YOUR body and see what it might be trying to tell you.
It truly is the key to lasting health.
P.S. If you’re interested in figuring out more about fats, especially saturated fats from animals, and whether or not they’re really bad for you, I’ll be posting another article real soon. Stay tuned! xo