One of the biggest concerns many have about the Paleo diet is that it contains a lot of fats – specifically saturated fats and cholesterol in meat. A common misconception is that saturated and other fats are unhealthy or cause weight gain. Let’s banish this lie from your head right now!
Lenin said, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”
Low-fat diets have been touted by our government and the American Medical Association for decades. No doubt about it – a low-fat diet is deadly. Many have been dutifully eating a low-fat diet for decades and taking cholesterol-lowering medication, yet still end up dropping dead of heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Half of men, ages to 65 to 74, and 39% of women, ages 75 and older are on statins. (1) Our health as a nation is in the gutter because we’re not eating enough healthy fats.
Clearly the advice to eat a low-fat diet has not worked and not made us healthier. It was based upon faulty and weak research, encouraged by the pharmaceutical companies that make billions of dollars on cholesterol-lowering medication. The body of evidence that suggests the opposite of the current dietary recommendations by most physicians and medical websites is overwhelming. According to Chris Kresser, fifty years of good research show that:
- High cholesterol is not the primary cause of heart disease.
- Diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol don’t cause heart disease.
- Consumption of so-called “heart healthy” vegetable oils is linked to heart disease, cancer and many other conditions.
- Statin drugs don’t reduce the risk of death for most people, and have dangerous side effects and complications.
This is where the Modern Paleo diet is IN and most other diets are OUT! Our bodies cannot function properly without an adequate and complete fat profile, including cholesterol, which is provided by The Modern Paleo Diet.
Likewise, our bodies cannot function long-term on vegan diets or vegetarian diets unless they include full-fat dairy and pastured eggs. In the absence of all animal products, the body will get by – with the body cannibalizing its stores of fats and cholesterol – but this cannot go on indefinitely. The consequences of these diets reveal themselves eventually in fatigue, depression, anxiety, mood swings, osteoporosis (you must eat saturated fat to absorb minerals), hormonal imbalances, brain fog and many other health issues related to inadequate intake of fats and cholesterol.
Every cell in our body contains cholesterol and fat. A human brain is 60% fat, with over 25% of that being cholesterol. Our hormones and neurotransmitters are made of cholesterol – only found in animal fats. You need fats to be healthy. Eating a mostly fat-free diet or one that is devoid of animal fats is insane. Without question, The Modern Paleo Diet provides exactly what the human body seeks – the healthiest fats specifically tailored to our nutritional needs and genetics.
I interviewed the esteemed Jimmy Moore, author of Cholesterol Clarity for the Live to 110 Podcast. Here’s what he had to say about fats, something he thinks is one of the most pressing health issues in our country today:
I think the fear of fat has totally ruined our health as a society. As long as people continue to fear dietary fat – and when I say fat, I mean the right kinds of fat – all the animal fats and saturated fat sources from real foods. I think that’s the missing element – why so many people are diseased today. The sooner people realize that it’s not the fat that’s the enemy, it’s the sugar, and it’s the grains. Eat more fat and I’ll be damned if our health crisis would turn around.
Fats Do Not Make You Fat
It seems logical that fats would be bad for our waistline. But the simplistic idea that eating fat makes you fat is dead wrong. The obesity rates for Americans have doubled in the last 20 years, coinciding with the low-fat revolution. Do not ever buy another fat-free product again! The real enemy in weight gain is overeating carbs and sugar.
While you can technically overeat enough fat calories to accumulate adipose tissue, it’s rather hard to do. Fat is incredibly satiating and prevents hunger – it’s a dieter’s friend! I promise that fat won’t make you fat! I eat butter, olive oil, avocados, meats, cheese and nuts all day long and I don’t gain weight. Nonfat dairy is for sissies.
The amount of fat you need depends upon your individual make up. Some people eat 70-80% of their diet from fat! You’ll have to play around with it to find the amount that’s right for you. People with a faster metabolism can eat more fat because they burn fat more efficiently for fuel. People with a slow metabolism don’t utilize fats so well for fuel so they should eat less, but still include plenty of fats in the diet. (6)
In fact, the latest research suggests that eating healthy fats can help with weight loss. Fats help slow down food absorption. You will feel fuller and more satisfied than when eating a low-fat or no-fat diet. If you overeat carbs, your body burns this for fuel instead of fat. So reduce your carbs, eat more healthy fats and get your body in fat-burning mode.
Every health problem can be linked to abnormalities in fat consumption: lots of bad unnatural fats and deficiencies in good natural fats. The bulk of good fats consumed should be fresh meats, fats rendered from meats, egg yolks, and dairy fats (butter, cream, and ghee/clarified butter). You should consume oils in their natural state. A second best source of fats are toasted nut butters. Raw nuts are incredibly difficult to digest. Toasting and grinding them into nut butter is a much healthier way to eat them because you absorb more of the nutrients.
Let’s explore the good fats you should be eating: Omega-3, omega-6, healthy plant oils, and saturated fats. Yes, I said saturated fats should be consumed!
Omega-3 Vs. Omega-6
When you eat too many omega-6 fats, found in vegetable oils and conventionally raised meat, you block the absorption of omega-3. They compete for the same conversion enzymes – there are only so many to go around. Too much of one will crowd out the other. This is the case even if you supplement with fish oil. This is why it cannot be stressed enough why you must ditch the vegetable oils and conventional meat if you plan to get healthy and stay disease free.
Paleolithic man enjoyed a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. Of course, he only ate grass fed meats! In the 80’s that ratio is closer to 10:1. (5) Today, estimates of this ratio ranges from 10:1 to 20:1, with a ratio as high as 25:1 in some individuals. This change is due to the increased use of vegetable oils in processed and fast food and to the feeding of cheap grains to factory-farmed animals. When cows and other ruminants don’t eat their natural food – grass – their meat is no longer healthy and contains a fatty acid profile that contains far too many omega-6’s to be healthy for human consumption.
The same problem plagues eggs as well. Let’s take a moment to compare organic, pasture-raised eggs to commercially-raised eggs. Commercially-raised eggs are up to 19 times higher in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids than chicken eggs that were pastured and allowed to eat their natural diet of bugs and worms. Unfortunately, almost all eggs sold in supermarkets, even the organic eggs sold at chains such as Whole Foods are not truly pasture-raised. Free range or cage free eggs are NOT pastured. To find real eggs, check your local farmer’s market, raise your own chickens or visit the Eat Wild or Weston A Price websites to locate a source in your area.
Here’s the deal. A diet with too much omega-6 and not much omega-3 will increase inflammation. A diet of more omega-3 and less omega-6 will reduce inflammation. Inflammation causes disease, metabolic syndrome (think diabetes) and obesity. This is clearly reflected in the fact that two-thirds of our nation are obese, 1 out of 4 have diabetes, and 4 out of 10 people die of heart disease. Inflammation. If you eat The Modern Paleo Diet you don’t have to worry about your ratios.
Healthy Plant Oils
Plants oils that are healthy include olive oil, coconut oil, walnut, pumpkin seed, and hemp oil. All other oils are inflammatory or slightly toxic. Only eat virgin cold-pressed oils. Do not ever buy refined, heated, oils in clear bottles – they go rancid when exposed to light or heat. ‘Light’ oils have been heavily heated and refined and extracted with chemical solvents – they are the worst for you.
With its extremely high omega-3 content (57%), flax seed oil seems to provide a remedy for the omega-6/omega-3 imbalance so prevalent in America today. One problem with flax is that the conversion of the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the fat found in plant foods like flax and walnut, to DHA is extremely poor in most people. It has to go through many steps for the body to process it into usable DHA. But it’s not harmful so go right ahead and eat it. The same thing goes for chia seeds. Don’t eat them with the false sense of security thinking you’re meeting all your omega-3 needs.
Many people eat nuts to try and obtain omega-3. Nutmuncher beware. Almost all nuts have too much omega-6 to omega-3. The nut with the healthiest omega-3 to omega-6 profile are macadamia nuts. Aloha omega-3! After that, I’d eat walnuts. Keep it cool with the other nuts and eat them less often to maintain a healthy omega-3 ratio.
What about the deadly saturated fats? Don’t they cause heart disease and high cholesterol? NO! Despite claims by the media and medical establishment to the contrary, Steve Guyenet does a fine job of showing that there’s no evidence demonstrating that saturated fat found in red meat raises cholesterol levels to worrisome levels. (3) A 2010 meta-analysis found “that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.” (15)
What many studies mistakenly conclude, especially when they are short-term (weeks or a few months), is that saturated fat increases cholesterol. This is true, but only in the short term, say, after a meal. Saturated fat consumption does not increase cholesterol over the long term. Eating grains and refined sugars are the dietary causes of high cholesterol.
Propaganda vilifying saturated fat is a result of the relentless efforts by the pharmaceutical companies to sell you cholesterol-lowering medication. We are also bombarded with advertising compliments of the food industry to sell high profit margarine and fight their competition – natural fats like butter (low profit). The much-maligned saturated fats – which Americans are trying to avoid – are not the cause of our modern diseases. In fact, they play many important roles in the body chemistry:
- Saturated fatty acids constitute at least 50% of the cell membranes. They are what give our cells necessary stiffness and integrity.
- For minerals to be absorbed into bones, at least 50% of the dietary fats must be saturated. (7)
- They protect the liver from alcohol and other toxins. (10) Ever wondered why after a night on the booze you feel like a high-fat meal the next day? This is the body’s way of protecting itself, because saturated fats are also great at protecting the liver.
- They enhance the immune system. (11)
- They are needed for the proper utilization of essential fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are better retained when the diet is rich in saturated fats. (12)
- Saturated fats are the preferred foods for the heart, which is why the fat around the heart muscle is highly saturated.(13)
- Short- and medium-chain saturated fatty acids have important antimicrobial properties. They protect us against harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract.
Last but not least saturated fats make you smarter. Our brain is mostly made up of fat and cholesterol, most of which are saturated. By restricting fat intake we are robbing our brain of essential nutrients, and really who doesn’t want to be a smarty-pants?
Bad fats to be avoided are vegetable oils (except olive oil), cooking oils, margarines, butter replacements, spreadable butter, bottled salad dressings, vegetarian fats and shortenings, hydrogenated oils, and shortening. These are all highly processed and highly toxic to the body. They are alien to human physiology and should NEVER be consumed.
Cavemen did not eat vegetable oils or trans fats, from which all of the above edible food products are made. Our bodies are not evolutionarily suited to process them. I hate to be the one to break this to you, but this means that all fried foods are OUT. Cavemen did not cook with fry baskets.
Vegetable oils that should be avoided include corn, soy, sunflower, canola and cottonseed. Vegetable oil (except olive) is one of the principal sources of inflammation and disease in the world. They contain far too many omega 6’s, which are inflammatory and block absorption of omega 3’s that are anti-inflammatory. The basis of most processed fats are these very vegetable oils. Being very unstable, veggie oils are easily damaged by high temperature and pressure. When heated to extreme temperatures (like in frying) they create trans fats that are very harmful to your health. On top of that, chemical solvents are used to extract them. Residues of these toxic solvents are left in the final product. Eating them literally is death by vegetable oil.
Trans fats are the plague of our society. Trans fats are DEADLY. If trans fats were eliminated from the food chain, heart disease would decrease by 50%! This product is used to increase a food’s shelf life and profits for the manufacturer – with no regard to how they affect your health. You find trans fats in almost all processed foods and fast foods.
Trans fats are produced when hydrogen is injected into the vegetable oils in the presence a catalyst like aluminum, nickel, and other toxic heavy metals. Remnants of these toxic metals end up in the final product and your body when you eat them. It creates this white plastic material that creates a buttery feel in the mouth and is solid at room temperature, creating a stable product to preserve foods.
Trans fats act like plastics in your body, invading cells, making them stiff and hard. The cells don’t know any better, so they welcome them into the cell membrane thinking they are omega-3. Trans fats occupy the place of natural fats in the body and the cells, which then render the cells unable to do their jobs – essentially disabling them. Insidiously, trans fats clog proper cell metabolism, causing inflammation and disease. All organs and tissues in the body are affected, especially your brain, given that it’s 60% fat. The body has no way to metabolize or break these deadly fats, or rather plastics, down.
These nasty fats are no joke. Trans fats have powerful immune-suppressing ability, and have been implicated in causing diabetes, atherosclerosis, cancer, and neurological and psychiatric conditions. They interfere with pregnancy, normal production of hormones, ability of insulin to enter the cells, and damage the liver and kidneys. They are one of the primary reasons the US is so much sicker than other industrialized nations.
Trans fats are in EVERYTHING disguised under partially hydrogenated oils, shortening, fractionated oil, interesterified fats (worse than trans fats), and di- and monoglycerides. Become a label detective. Labels that read ‘No Trans Fats’ or say ‘Zero Trans Fats’ on the food label can be very misleading and are likely a lie. Manufacturers are legally allowed to say ‘No Trans Fats’ on a label if their product contains less than .5 grams of trans fats per serving. Don’t let them fool you.
Trans fats are in 70% of boxed, processed foods you find in most major grocery stores. Trans fats are in baked goods like bread, cookies, tortillas, crackers, chips, cereals, candy bars, and many other processed foods. Trans fats are also in that bread basket brought to you by most restaurant chains. Trans fats increase shelf life and save the manufacturer and restaurants a lot of money. Don’t let them save money at the expense of your health.
Low-fat and Fat-free
Why is low-fat and fat-free in the bad fats category? Because dairy that is low-fat or fat-free is so, so bad for you, but not just because of the absence of healthy fat. The milk has to go through a refinement process to remove the healthy fats. What is left is an unappetizing watery substance, to which powdered dairy protein, casein, is added to give it body. In this process, the milk is heated to extreme temperatures, which creates oxidized cholesterol and deforms the other fats, rendering them unrecognizable to your body. You couldn’t pay me to eat low-fat or fat-free dairy. They are extremely unhealthy and even toxic to the human body for these reasons.
Oxidized cholesterol, found in low-fat products, is what causes heart disease. Cholesterol itself is not the enemy – oxidized cholesterol be thine enemy. But low-fat and fat-free products are the very things we’ve been told to eat to save our hearts! It’s strange that we should be eating the exact opposite of what the American Heart Association recommends we eat. All I can say is the old cronies running this association are way behind the times and the research.
Balanced Fat Profile
It’s not enough to eat healthy fats; you need a healthy fat profile. Meaning, the correct balance of fats. You need as much omega-3 as omega-6 or your fat profile will be out of balance. You need monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated (omega 3, 6, and 9), different types of saturated fats, GLA (gamma), ALA (alpha), CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), all kinds of fats! Any diet that skews this profile in favor of a few types of fats will skew your health. And not only should you NOT be avoiding foods with cholesterol, you should go out of your way to eat foods that contain cholesterol. Do you think I’m crazy yet? I assure you I’m not.
I’ll tell you my fat profile fable. At one point I was going cuckoo with coconut oil. I was eating three tablespoons a day because I read that it aided weight loss. More accurately, I read that it was fed to cows and they lost weight so I figured that would apply to me, too. Yeah right. I slurped down that coconutty goodness to no avail. About this time I decided to do a medical test for all my nutrient levels, called a NutraEval, to make sure my diet was on track. The doctor couldn’t figure out why my GLA fats were in the very high range. GLA, gamma-linoleic acid, is a very healthy fat, but its high concentration in my body was not healthy. GLA is one of the main fats in coconut oil. Bingo! When you have too much of one fat, it competes and crowds out absorption of other fats. You cannot overeat plant fats or overeat animal fats. You need balance to be optimally healthy.
There is no doubt that the fat quality and quantity in the wild animals our Stone Age ancestors ate was vastly different from the types and quantity of fat found in feedlot produced meats most people eat today. A 100-gram serving of wild roast buffalo contains only 2.4 grams of fat, 0.9 grams of saturated fat, and 215 mg of omega-3. Wow! Conversely a 100-gram serving of conventionally raised grain fed T-bone steak contains 23 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat and a lousy 46 mg of omega-3. Whoa! These are different animals folks. For this reason, I can only recommend that you go Paleo and choose organic, grass fed meats over feedlot meats. Grass fed meats are more healthful because they have nutritional characteristics similar to wild animals. Their relatively low-fat quality packs an omega-3 punch.
Stop denying yourself essential healthy fats and live a little. Your body and brain will thank you. Your taste buds will, too. So, no more processed foods or fast foods. No more nasty grain fed meat. No more fat-free dairy. No more egg white omelettes! I forbid you!