A recent study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that analyzed data related to fat consumption and heart disease risk. Turns out that increased eating of omega-3 fatty acids doesn’t show much of a difference in risk than eating regular ol’ fats. Time magazine reported on this story and of course their headline is about how “good” fats might not be so good for us after all, but I have a different take on it – maybe ALL fats aren’t so BAD for us after all.
In the 70s and 80s, the nutritional messages around us were about how bad fat is, with trends focusing on low-fat and fat-free food and the use of butter and lard fell out of favor. The rate of death from heart disease has been steadily decreasing since the 1980s, more likely from a combination of many factors, including: medical advances in surgery, disease detection, and medication, decrease in smoking rates, increase awareness in importance of physical activity. During this same time period, the incidence of diabetes has tripled (according to CDC stats) in the population – is it possible that trading out fat for sugar and fake-sugar is causing more harm than good? (I include fake-sugar because we’re still learning how our brains and bodies process it and haven’t concluded that it’s definitively better or worse for everyone across the board.)
Stop being so afraid of fats! Eating fat doesn’t magically become the fat on our bodies, if that’s what you’re concerned about. (That would be excess sugar.) Omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and egg and flaxseed are delicious, so eat them. Fats in beef and pork and chicken are delicious, so eat them. Fats from olives and coconuts and avocados and nuts are delicious, so eat them. Full fat dairy and butter, high in protein and minerals and butyric acid, are delicious, so eat them. You will feel full after eating, but not as sleepy! Your hair and skin will look great! You will lose so much mental weight after dropping those judgey thoughts about eating full fat! I’m not trying to engage in fights about diet soda and margarine, which tend to get snide and uppity. Nor do I want to take up the mantle of “clean eating” which similarly creates problems by implying others eat “dirty”. Instead I just want to sing the praises of full fat on its own accord and encourage people to add them to their diet without fear.
The fact is that stats apply to large groups of populations over time and aren’t direct indicators for what one person should be eating and drinking. We are all individuals who have different dietary needs at different times of our life, so rather than demonizing entire categories of food or locking into one idea of what’s healthy for everyone, take the time to see what makes your body feel best. This means rotating things in and out of your diet according to the season. This means trying new foods and giving up other foods for trial periods to see how you feel. It’s true, I do lean towards not making processed foods the bulk of my food intake, but that one time I eat a candy bar because I’m starving is not going to hurt me, because in that moment, it provides calories, which is energy for my body to function that day, and ultimately, energy is energy.