The Skinny On Fat
By Mitch Shooks
It shouldn't surprise me any more how many misconceptions people have about nutrition. One of the most common is the idea that fat is bad for you. To most clients' surprise, I often prescribe a diet HIGH in fat (as well as high in protein and low in carbs).
We use fat for forming connections between cells in our bodies, which is very important for keeping this running smoothly. We use fatty acids like butyric acid, found in butter, to absorb many nutrients from our vegetables. We make our sex hormones from many of the fats we eat. Fat is a primary source of energy, especially for anyone on a low carb diet, which is why when you start eating paleo and try a low fat approach, weight loss often stalls. Fat is good for you, despite what we've been told by the makers of all things low-fat.
It's difficult to overcome the years of the low-fat dogma that has been preached. Initially we think fat will make us fat or give us a heart attack. However, almost every client I work with increases their fat intake and loses weight. But here is the catch, like almost every food, the quality of that fat is what matters.
If you have access to free-range, grass-fed, or wild meat, your first choice for fat is the fatty cuts of meat. Another great fat source is butter, but you should use organic or butter from grass-fed cows. Coconut oil is another fantastic fat you can use for both cooking and baking. These sources of fat are high in omega 3 fats and lower in omega 6 fats. The ratio of this omega 3 to 6 in our diets is a great way to improve health. The typical American eats a ratio of around 1:22 when the ratio for optimal health should be closer to 1:3 or even 1:1.
If the balance between fats in the diet is optimal, you will naturally lower many inflammation markers. By lowering inflammation you decrease risk for many diseases and also make fat loss easier. The easiest way to balance fat in your body is to avoid taking in fats rich in omega 6 and emphasize foods rich in omega 3. Some of the top paleo diet researchers suggest a diet of 3-5% omega 6, which again is very low compared to the standard American diet.
If you pick out the major oils most people use (corn and soybean), you can see they are very high in omega 6 and relatively low in omega 3. To balance out your diet to hit optimal ratios, you should choose wild or grass-fed meats which have good ratios of fats. When cooking your foods, some of my preferred oils are coconut oil, olive oil, and red palm oil. For cooking fats, I like grass-fed butter, ghee, palm shortening, or lard.
If you have already made the switch to eating paleo but haven't paid much attention to your fat sources, a few simple choices will get you on track to better health.
You can use the table below to get an idea of which oils to choose.