Food For Thought: Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat

One of the biggest misconceptions in our society is the idea that consuming dietary fat makes you fat. I think many fear that the dietary fat they consume is going to jump directly from their mouths to their hips!

Luckily, that’s not how the body works.a spoon of coconut oil

Ever heard of foie gras? It’s a fatty French treat served in fancy restaurants, literally translating to “fatty liver.”

And do you know are the ducks and geese fattened up?

They are force-fed starchy carbohydrates! (Often, in the form of corn.)

In the body, sugar is turned into triglycerides (the fat in fatty liver), which can fill up the cells in our body, as well as damage our mitochondria–> the body’s energy factories responsible for burning fat and calories! This is what leads to a slower metabolism and weight gain.

The exact opposite occurred in the 1940s, when farmers attempted to “fatten up” their cows by feeding them dietary fat (in the form of coconut oil). To their dismay, the cows actually became leaner! Eventually, they found that a diet of soy beans and corn– which converts to sugar in the body– suppressed the thyroid and caused the animals to fatten up without even eating as much food. [source]

It seems that avoiding fat has actually caused our society more harm than good–> leading to a demand for “low fat” and “fat free” processed foods, and rising obesity rates. Fat is the macronutrient that keeps us full and satisfied, and is key to brain health! In it’s absence, we tend to reach for more sweet and starchy foods. Sugar, as we all know by now, leads to insulin spikes and cravings!

The following graphic is especially helpful in understanding WHY fat doesn’t make you fat:fat don't make us fat poster

[click above to see full image]

To be clear, we are talking about healthy fats–> including those found naturally in avocados, nuts and coconut oil.

Processed, refined and cooked fats can still be damaging to the body, so it’s still best to avoid them. If you choose to eat fat from animal products, it’s especially important that they are well-sourced, as any toxins that the animal was exposed to will be stored in their body fat. (You don’t want to eat the toxins that their bodies were trying to protect them from.)

If you do plan on cooking with fat, coconut oil and organic butter are the safest choices, as they don’t mutate when heated, like other oils do.

So, the next time you have a hankering for avocado pudding or raw fudge, you can indulge worry-free–> knowing that these healthy fats won’t make you fat!

Reader Feedback: Have you been leery of consuming dietary fat? I remember eating some pretty awful “low fat” cookies as a child… and needing to eat many of them to compensate for their lack of flavor!

A good thing to keep in mind…

poster about low-fat and fat-free

Now, I avoid anything marked “low-fat.” Unless it’s naturally low-fat, like a piece of fruit, it’s probably been processed with all sorts of stuff to make up for the missing macro-nutrient! Yuck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments

Nataliya @irunforicecream

Awesome blog post! I guess, I’ll go get a spoonful of almond butter now! 🙂

LizAshlee

I definitely used to be leary of fats in my diet…even though I knew avocado was healthy, I wouldn’t really eat it bc of the misconception…and yes, my older sisters used to buy ‘low fat’ 3 musketeers…I wouldn’t even taste them nowadays…funny shit storm image! Happy Friday!!

    Megan

    I remember buying low fat 3 Musketeers bars, too! I didn’t even like them much back then… but they were “low fat!”

    Bring on the avocados! 😉

      Casey

      Bring on the PUDDING!

Emily Alleman

so when it comes to dairy, would you recommend eating whole fat products (like whole milk and whole fat greek yogurt, etc.)? i’ve been doing a lot of research on the topic, and no one can come to a consensus about which one is actually better for you. normally, i drink unsweetened almond milk, but every once in a while i like to have cow’s milk in a latte or with a dessert, but i’m not sure which one to buy.

    Megan

    Personally, I always go with the full-fat option. Ideally from organic, grass-fed cows! Low-fat products usually have additives, to make them have a similar texture to the full-fat stuff.

    To keep your dairy intake even lower, I recommend ordering or preparing a black coffee drink– like an iced black coffee, americano, etc– and adding a generous splash of real cream! It’s so thick and creamy, it tastes like a latte, but without using that much milk!

    sophie

    If I find the source, I will get back to you – but I recently came across an article saying that full-fat dairy may be helpful in the absorption of the calcium found in milk. (There are of course other sources of calcium, but – I thought you would find this useful!)

      Megan

      I think I remember reading that somewhere, too. It makes sense to me, since the whole source may have other vitamins and minerals that we haven’t even identified yet, but that aid in absorption.

      Nature is very smart– so I think we need to just stop messing with it so much! 😉

        Alexis

        Raw and unpastuerized, organic, grass fed/finished dairy is amazing for you.

steph

Do you think that we should still limit oils like olive oil and nuts because they are so calorically dense? Aren’t oils processed?

    Megan

    I do tend to limit oils, since I think it’s better to get the fats from “whole” sources– like olives, rather than olive oil. Coconut oil is the exception for me, because it’s just so darn tasty. 😉

    And yes, it’s important to get extra-virgin, cold-pressed oils so they aren’t damaged through processing!

Emil

Great graphic – thanks for sharing!
I have never really been in to low fat products, but I can attest that years ago when I converted from lattes to soy lattes, I put on weight (and experienced other side effects too). When I went back from soy to dairy, I lost a lot of weight (and when I went to black coffee, I felt even better!).

    Megan

    Wow, that’s really interesting about your switch away from soy! Glad you’re feeling good now! 😀

      Emily

      I was seriously stunned at the effect, had no idea it’d be so indigestible at the time! I am however tempted to try your coffee creamer on the weekend 🙂

    Meg

    Often times consuming SOY will make you become more Estrogen Dominate which causes weight gain… This Estrogen is not the good kind either…

Amber Shea @Almost Vegan

AMEN! I love my fats.

Sarah

I cannot remember the source, but there’s a saying: If a “food” has a health claim on it, it’s probably not a food but a food-like product.

    Megan

    Yes, I totally agree with that statement!

jeanne

Love it, Love Fat! Back in my low fat days I could literally hoover food, I binged all the time on carby baked goods, cereal and cookie dough. Now that I eat alot of fat at every meal I am satisfied and don’t get that compulsion as much anymore.

Although I have to say that I also love my carbs, in the form of fruits and sweet potatoes 🙂 If I go too low carb I turn spacey, cranky, and I get the binge compulsion again! I have to make sure that I eat some carbs at each meal of my cravings overwhelm me.

Lisa

Now I definitely avoid low fat items, especially because they are usually loaded with sugar! When I had an eating disorder, I definitely avoided all fats, big mistake! My hair and nails were a mess, now I have super long, nice hair which is a plus 🙂 I love fats and can’t believe I ever had a “fear” of them. They are so necessary for the body to function properly.

Allyson

Thanks for the post, I have been learning a lot about the evils of low-fat foods. In the Defense of Food is a great book that deals with this issue. One question I have is whether raw organic dairy products are good fat or not, I hear so many contradicting view points. If cows milk or cream is raw and from grass-fed cows will it still have harmful effects? I have also heard alot about how you should put a lot of fat (organic butter or coconut oil) on any vegetables or grains you have to make them more digestible, any thoughts on that?

    Megan

    I loved reading In Defense of Food, too. As far as the dairy controversy goes, I’m of the mind-set that fermented, quality dairy products might be beneficial in a healthy diet, like in the form of yogurt or kefir. I still prefer goat’s milk over cow’s milk, since it’s got a smaller protein molecule and is, therefore, easier to digest.

    In the terms of a detox-friendly lifestyle, goat’s milk and raw cow’s dairy are considered “safe poisons, ” meaning they are perfectly acceptable when eaten with plenty of veggies–> they are actually helpful in slowing down a cleanse, so your body doesn’t get overwhelmed from eating too cleanly!

    I’ve also read about adding fat to grains and veggies to make them more digestible… but I don’t feel like I know enough on that subject to have an opinion yet! I’ll let you know if I learn more. 😉

Joan

There is so much contradiction about fat it makes me crazy! My Mom is on a Dr. Ornish-style low-fat vegan diet and has lost a ton of weight… I tried the 80/10/10 diet and was always hungry no matter how much I ate. Plus it was so restrictive. Ultimately it seems like the most important thing is finding the most wholesome, least processed sources of carbs and fats (e.g. bananas and avocados, etc)

    Megan

    I tried 80/10/10 briefly a few years ago, and it just didn’t work for me, either. But I do agree that the most important thing is focusing on whole, unprocessed foods, regardless of how many “carbs” or “fats” are involved!

Ashley

I am so confused with the conflict of opinions on this issue.
I would love your help.
For some reason I keep rapidly gaining weight even though I am eating healthy things (20 lbs in 3 months!!!). My willpower hasn’t been the best, but the things I am eating haven’t been horrible (mostly veggies, unprocessed carbs, nuts, avocados, very little meat and dairy, etc… I started doing some research and then ran across forks over knives. Dr. McDougall, one of doctors listed has a weight loss program that I am or was about to begin. It focuses on consuming a good amount of carbs and veggies so that you don’t have those huge binge cravings and also focused on eliminating fats and oils. I am desperate to lose some weight and I would love any input you can offer.

    Megan

    Hi Ashley! I would recommend you visit a doctor to make sure your thyroid is functioning properly– it can cause weight fluctuations, even if you’re eating a healthy diet and proper portions.

    Every body is different, so I can’t possibly tell you which diet is right for you. I’m personally not a fan of any low-fat diets, so if you’d like some reading recommendations, I’d start with The Raw Food Detox Diet or Ultra-Metabolism. Hope that helps!

auna

Great article, but I actually think the type of carb is just as important as the type of fat. For example, I live on a extremely carb-filled diet. I eat almost entirely (whole wheat) carbs- bread, pasta, everything- because of food allergies. I also happen to be very thin. My doctor actually worried because I was so skinny and had me start eating an avocado every other day. I gained 5 lbs within weeks… so actually, avocados can make you gain weight, and not all carbs will. The body is so complex and each person has his or her own chemical makeup to consider. Though, I agree that starchy and refined carbs are never good. Sugar is poison!

    Megan

    That’s a good point, Auna! In my experience, most healthy diet changes lead to a healthy weight– whether it’s gaining weight or losing weight that’s needed.

Stacy

How much fat per day (in terms of macronutrient percentage range) is optimal? There is such a dichotomy between theories… Some say no more than 10 percent gat, and other say upwards of 60-80 percent fat. The not-so-awesome food pyramid says 30 percent. So, detoxinista, what do u feel is optimal and what macro ranges of carbs, fats, pro do u personally average?

Thanks so much for the great recipes and info!!!

    Megan

    I couldn’t possibly tell you what I average on macronutrients, since I don’t count them myself. As individuals, we humans vary so much that there’s no way we can assume what works for one person will work for another. I’d recommend experimenting with your own intake (without necessarily counting specific grams) and see what makes you feel best!

Stacy

I asked bc i want to learn how to balance my meals and plan what to eat… Like jow much of a serving of fat pro carb and such.. And what that would look like for each meal and snack. Any advice?

Also. What protein powders are good? I worry abt the metal contamination issue… Nutribiotic has the California prop 65 warning on it and it seems it failed the consumer report test… I used to use it all the time, and with my malabsorption, i think adding a pro powder back in would be helpful. I’m allergic to hemp, so that basically leaves rice. Pea pro had a ton of sodium and tastes icky. Any thoughts and brands? (garden of life has ingredients I’m allergic to and sun warrior is gritty). I don’t make shakes, but i mix the powder with nut butter and a smidge of water and spread it on a rice cakes (lightly toasted) … Its delish… But is it healthy?

Nina

We just watched a video in my nursing program about how the low fat craze actually made Americans fatter. I think it was called “diet wars”. Atkins is based on high fat, no carb, I heard it makes you satiated, but with no energy. So I agree, it’s a balance of REAL foods =)And if your trying to loose weight, balanced calorie restriction and EXERCISE! I have never been able to loose without exercise.

Alana

So happy to see this post! I am a strict vegan and get a lot of the “won’t you get fat from all that fat” looks when I have a whole avocado for lunch. I’ve tried 80-10-10 as well and have found that a high whole fat vegan diet is much more effective for keeping my skin smooth and my weight stable. Cheers to avocados and pumpkin seeds! 🙂

Abby

I drink 1% milk, about a cup everyday, but when i switch to whole milk i tend to gain more weight? Can u explain that to me please? So, if i switch back to whole milk,as long as i reduce the amount that i drink everyday should i be fine? I know that alot of people recommend almond milk instead but almond milk isn’t really within my price range, that why im asking about dairy milk?

Elizabeth from The Healthy Highchair

Well said! We need to spread the word. It’s a great thing that this has become more common knowledge and lots of authors have books out on the subject. Fat is brain food! Fat is so essential. I love grass-fed butter, and make sure my son gets lots of healthy fats.

Best,
Liz

Never Miss a Post!

Get a FREE 3-Day Detox Plan when you sign up for my email newsletter