Diet

Fat Facts that Blew My Mind

This week, while I was down with that nasty cold that’s making its rounds, I caught up on studying for my Nutrition Certification with Precision Nutrition. While I have been doing nutrition coaching for a long time already, I didn’t enroll in a professional certification program before, mostly for financial reasons-these courses can top $1,000+, but also because I was skeptical of the value of such programs given the conflicting information out there, the lack of a national standard or international standard in nutrition education (outside the RD track which involves a 4 year degree, an internship and a national exam) and the wide availability of nutritional data in the public sphere which I had already incorporated into my coaching sessions (much of it from Precision Nutrition, among others). Investing in myself however and choosing one of the most reputable and longstanding certifications is proving not only to raise my confidence in the level of service I can be to my clients with the information I already have, but given me the support and resources and education to enhance the level of support I can give to my clients. It also re-energizes and re-ignites my passion as I learn new things -especially ones that bust myths such as the one about saturated fat I learned about recently that I want to share with you today.

Fat is high in calories- about 9 calories per gram.. Which doesn’t sound like a lot, but compared to alcohol at 7 grams and protein and carbs at 4 grams each respectively, fat is the definitive winner on bang for the buck. Its part of why eating just a few nuts can provide us with the same or greater amount of energy as a whole plate full of another kind of food. However it does make us feel full longer (it satiates us) and that’s a good thing. You would think the more fat you eat, the more fat you store in the body and jiggle around with- but the body isn’t that simple. As we know from the 1990s Fat-Free food trend, snackwell cakes and other highly palatable but fat-free foods (containing salt, sugar, awesome textures and colors) only increased what we call the obesity epidemic. 

Saturated fat particularly got a bad rap. Saturated fat is in beef, lamb, eggs, butter, cheese, coconut and cacao (chocolate). I was disabused of the notion that they were linked to heart disease quite a while ago because they are high in cholesterol. The thinking (remember, back in the eggs bad era..) was that if we eat cholesterol we raise our cholesterol levels. Raised cholesterol levels lead to deposits in the arteries which for plaque which leads to heart disease and cardiovascular disease- the #1 killer. However, the body is more complicated and we actually make most of our own cholesterol just fine on our own in the liver, and we need cholesterol to do many important jobs in the body like make our sex hormones testosterone, progesterone and estrogen as well as make vitamin D, help the liver digest fats, and insulate our nerve cells. We also know foods like cacao have stearic acid which can be good for us. Yay chocolate. So, we can’t predict a food’s disease risk by how much saturated fat it has.

Here’s where my mind was blown though: A meta-analysis (a study that looks at a bunch of other studies and pulls all the findings together) found there’s no significant evidence for concluding dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.”  For instance, a 2013 article in the British Medical Journal points out that, ⅔  of people admitted to the hospital for a heart attack “really have metabolic syndrome-but 75% of these patients have completely normal total cholesterol concentrations.”  “The biggest culprit in many chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease is excess body fat, which leads to systemic inflammation and metabolic disruption from things like insulin resistance.

In a nutshell, overall excess energy intake (especially highly palatable processed foods which disrupt our feelings of fullness and cause us to eat more and thus store more as adipose tissue/body fat, upsets the metabolism and increases insulin resistance which leads to inflammation and disease. So, THAT is why we should move more- since movement combats insulin resistance and we should eat more whole, natural, less- processed and maybe more boring foods. It’s empowering though- because now all we have to do is find ways to make getting protein, fats and carbs and movement more exciting- which is about behavior change/forming new habits. This is something completely in my domain as a Personal Trainer, and yours, as a human being who wants to show your body love.

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