Should I eat a low-fat diet?

 Should I eat a low-fat diet? Is saturated fat bad for me?

The low-fat diet has been around for many decades, and I still hear nutritionists touting it as a the main way to lose weight. But does a low-fat diet really help you lose bodyfat? Is saturated fat evil? Will low-fat yogurt fix all of my problems?

In short, the answer is…no. But that’s a bit too simple.

And don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting a high-fat diet. or at least not a diet filled with fried foods and cheeseburgers. You can go overboard with anything, and I’ve seen some meals that could cause heart palpitations by sight alone. (Creamy Alfredo with bacon, ham, and butter, anyone?) But except for extreme overuse, integrating fats into your diet can be incredibly helpful, it’s really the source of the fat you need to worry about.

Fat can help make us feel more full, and keep our sugar cravings and low-blood sugar attacks at bay. Our body uses fat for various repairs and energy; and I actually lost a lot of weight when I stopped my low-fat habits. It’s been proven that there have been more heart problems and fat-gain once the low-fat diet gained popularity.

coconut oilThe video below describes the simple chemical make-up of the different types of fat. I’ve also written an article with similar information giving the chemical make-up of the different fats, and another article about the dangers of vegetable oil. Start there to get an idea of the science behind it. But here are my basic suggestions:

Saturated Fat:
Saturated fat has gotten a bad rap, but it’s actually an important part of our diet. Our brains use it, and our cells use it for elasticity. Like any calorie, it’s also a form of energy. And it’s actually easier for our body to convert fat into energy than it is to convert protein into energy! So I purposely make sure that fat is included in most of my meals. I prefer saturated fats from vegetable sources, since the medium chain triglycerides are a quick source of energy, and most vegetable sources have other benefits (coconuts are magical). But fat is very “dense” in calories, so don’t overdo it. If you eat animal protein, you’re automatically getting saturated fat, and I wouldn’t suggest adding any more. There are various amounts of saturated fat in most oils and plant foods, the percentage just varies greatly. I’m only listing the sources that contain a large percentage.
Here are the common sources of saturated fat:

  • Meat of any kind
  • Dairy (cheese, milk, butter, and all other forms of dairy).
  • Coconut Oil
  • Palm Oil

Monounsaturated Fat:
Monounsatured fat is found mostly in plant sources. (Olives, nuts, seeds, etc.) The most common source is olive oil. Saturated fat is the most stable, but monounsaturated is the second most stable. Unsaturated molecules are “empty” and are open to becoming rancid or destroyed by heat. If unprocessed and unheated, then this fat is very healthy. In monounsatured fats there is only one molecule that is “unsaturated,” so the rest of the fat is stable, and it will only get partially destroyed. This is safe to eat raw, or at a very low heat. Most plant sources have both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, but they have a varying percentage of each. Here’s the ones that are high in monounsaturated and low in poly:

  • Olive Oil
  • Almonds
  • Avocado
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Hazelnuts

 Polyunsaturated Fat:

Polyunsaturated fat has several unsaturated molecules. This makes it very unstable, and easily susceptible to damage. In a raw, unprocessed form, these fats can be very good for you. Omega 3 and Omega 6 are both polyunsaturated fats. But…most of these oils can be damaged just in the processing to make them, so they’re often already destroyed by the time you buy them. I never cook with polyunsaturated fats, and I use them more as a supplement (like cold-pressed chia seed oil or flax oil.) You also get these fats when you eat nuts, seeds, or other plant products. There are even trace amounts in animal fats, although it’s usually destroyed by cooking.
Here are some common polyunsaturated fat sources:

  • Safflower Seed Oil
  • Canola Oil
  • Flax Oil
  • Chia Seed Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Sunflower Seeds

 

 

 

 

Quick Easy Meals: Carbs

The most controversial element of a modern meal: The carbohydrate. In the last decade or so, the dreaded “carb” has become a macronutrient of dispute. (Previously, the most demonized macronutrient was fat.) The Paleo folks love to tell me how our caveman ancestors just ate meat and vegetables, and that carbs and grains are the cause of all modern ailments.

I hate the pull the “credential” card, but I do have a degree in Anthropology. I’ve read books upon books of pollen samples, indigenous garbage heap study, and bone/tissue testing. I’ve also stayed with tribal people, and read countless reports from field anthropologists. And you know what all of these studies have in common? That the food of tribal life was centered around a main carbohydrate source. (The only exception being the Inuits of Alaska/Cananda, since they spent much of the year in winter. But this is such a tiny tiny percentage of all tribal people, they are the exception and not the rule. They also showed signs of aging faster than almost all other tribes.)

Healthy CarbohydratesCarbs are a great energy source; our body uses them more efficiently than protein or fat. (Our body uses fat more efficiently than protein, protein is the least efficient source of energy, and our body has the most difficult time converting it to energy. That does not mean that we shouldn’t eat protein, but that shouldn’t be our prime energy source.)

But I digress, because the point of the video below is not to argue why you should eat carbohydrates, but how you can cook them quickly and easily. When tasks are simple and time-efficient, it’s more likely that you will follow through and eat home-cooked meals more often. If something is too difficult, most people will choose an easier option (like the drive-through or eating out.)

This video will give you some ideas, and I will follow up with quick meal ideas for protein and vegetables.

In summary:

Cook a large amount of a healthy carb on an afternoon off. Choose a designated day and time each week, and block off your schedule for your cooking prep day. I choose a different carb each week, so that I’m eating a variety of food. (Choosing seasonal food has bonus advantages.)
I’ll boil a bag of colored potatoes, a big pot of brown rice, or a large amount of gluten-free pasta. (Remember, for carbs, show-release carbohydrates that contain fiber will be healthier than quick burning white starch. So brown rice is better than white flour.) I refrigerate (or even freeze) the weekly carb, then come up with different dishes I can make with that.
For example: for brown-rice pasta, I can make:
*A oven-roasted vegetable pasta dish
*Eggs/cheese/mushroom pasta scrample
*Asian-style sesame pasta with tempeh and enoki mushrooms.

So the possibilities are endless….you can do the same thing with some organic, colored fingerling potatoes:
*Shepard’s pie
*Breakfast scrample with roasted turnips and cauliflower
*Olive oil, rosemary, and veggie oven roasted potatoes.
And since the potatoes/rice/pasta is already cooked, you just have to heat it up with the veggies! My meals take me an average of 15 minutes, since I have everything prepped ahead of time. A couple hours on a Sunday can save you tons of time and money the rest of the week!