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Fat Doesn't Make You Fat

Fat Doesn't Make You Fat

by Laura J Hieb, ND on November 30, 2021

This is something I alluded to in an earlier blog but I think some additional explaining is needed. Especially if you lived through the low-fat craze of the 80's and 9o's, when we were told fat WAS making us fat.

 Ironically, we are fatter as a nation now, since the low fat craze, than we were in the 70's and before.

So how did the low-fat /vilification of fat craze begin?

It started with some simple mathematics. Fat contains 9 calories per gram, while protein and carbs only contain 4 calories per gram. So if you count calories, it would make sense to not eat fat, since you would be getting more than twice the calories per gram than if you ate the equivalent grams of protein and carbs.

This calories in, calories out way of weight loss thinking is still with us today. But look around, does it seem to be working?

So what is a calorie? It is a measure of energy , which seems to imply that all calories are equal.

But are they? Are the calories in a piece of cake the same as those in a cucumber or an apple or a piece of fish?

One way to think about food is to see it as information. When you eat a piece of fish, your body realizes it has received protein, which is necessary to keep our immune system functioning, and is also necessary to make neurotransmitters which help keep our brain function and mood healthy, among other things. It also receives omega-3 essential fatty acids (if the fish is wild), which tells your body it can help keep inflammation in check, etc.

A piece of cake may contain some protein, but mainly it contains starches, sugars and fats--possibly unhealthy fats like margarine or shortening--that can cause inflammation. This information tells your body that it is low in what it needs to keep the body running well, which then tells the body to increase its appetite to try and get more of what it needs.

Which doesn't help when your goal is health and weight loss.

Over many thousands of years, the body has come to know what to expect from certain foods and when it doesn't get what it needs, it seeks more food. For example, when a person consumes low-fat or fat-free dairy, the body thinks it has gotten milk from a sick cow, which then makes it seek those fat calories elsewhere.

So if all calories are not equal, then wouldn't it make more sense to concentrate on eating nutrient-dense foods even if they are high in calories, as opposed to just eating foods that are low in calories AND nutrients ?

And, some nutrient-dense foods are low in calories--non-starchy veg anyone?
Studies have shown that when people eat a lower carb, higher fat diet, they lose more weight--without exercising--than when people eat a higher carb, lower fat diet.
Read that again.
But that's the rub: if you eat a high fat AND a high carb diet, then fat will not help you lose weight.
Think of chips and dip (or just chips), ice cream, fettucine get the picture.
But adding grassfed butter to steamed vegetables is ideal, AND the fat in the butter will help your body absorb more vitamins and neutraceuticals like carotenoids (of which beta-carotene is one) than having the same veg without fat.