Don’t Fear Fat, Eat It

The concomitant to a low carbohydrate lifestyle is to eat a moderate amount of protein and not shy away from eating animal fat since fat becomes our main energy source when carbs are greatly restricted. Since the late 1950’s most Americans have been taught that fat is something to be avoided. How does a low-carber advocate this type of diet given the historical advice about fat? Answering this becomes especially important since all of us have grown up hearing the dangers of cholesterol and the virtues of eating a high-carb, low fat diet.

Worries about fat also revolved around cholesterol. But over the last few years, the state of scientific research as to the harmfulness of cholesterol has changed, acknowledging that egg yolks can be a part of a healthy diet. However, natural saturated fat is still seen as dangerous and should be limited. This recommendation was based on poorly done and poorly interpreted research. For a thorough discussion of this research see The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, by Nina Teicholz.

During our evolution from tree-based primates (i.e., monkeys) to early humanoids, one of the major factors that occurred is the evolution of man as a ground based, not tree based animal. The evolutionary importance this is that a tree-based primate is dependent upon eating tree leaves, i.e., carbohydrates. The evolutionary problem arose that if a primate was to develop a bigger brain than our monkey ancestors, one had to climb down the from the tree and hunt, kill, and then eat the fat of other animals. Fat was the only thing that could give enough calories to fuel the growth of the brain above the size of the carb-fueled primate brain. If we had remained only carbohydrate eating animals, we’d still be in trees with small brains. Eating fat is what allowed us to fuel the development of our larger brains. Even though we’ve moved away from vilifying fat over the last few years, it’s now time to embrace eating fat, not just be okay about it. Eating fat is what allowed us to become humans, fueling the growth in size of our bigger, smarter brains.

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4 Comments

  1. thank you

    Reply
  2. I think this article’s guidance is fine for weight loss, but once that goal is met, I think it’s important to begin paying more attention to how the animal is raised, whether or not it’s eating it’s natural, traditional diet too.

    As much as possible, I choose from a variety of whole foods that include grass fed beef, organic butter and hard cheeses, organic, free range chicken and eggs, wild fish and seafood, raw nuts, avocado, green olives, organic leafy greens, and a mix of cooked and raw of organic, non-starchy vegetables for fiber and nutrients with every meal. It is more costly, but while I do include protein in two of my three daily meals, I eat it in small amounts, and I’ve eliminated grains, which are problematic for me, from my diet, so it probably evens out.

    It concerns me that the paleo and low carb community concentrates so much attention on nutrient dense animal protein and fat, and plant based healthy oils and fats, with minimal discussion about benefits of fiber and nutrients from non-starchy vegetables to maintain the health of our gut flora.

    My hope is that in time, articles promoting the low carb lifestyle of eating will speak also to the importance of maintaining or improving gut flora health.

    Reply
    • Bruce Rossiter

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for the comments. As you have surmised, at least I hope, is that the low-carb protocol has its highest and best use in putting diabetes, pre-diabetes, and obesity (all three listed as diseases by the AMA) into remission. Thus we tend to keep things simple (while still healthy) so the low-carb protocol doesn’t get lost in a multi-dimensional process. Once one has firmly established their new, healthy lifestyle, there certainly can be refinements, as you suggest. But not too soon or one gets bogged down in addressing other helpful details, important to health, but not paramount at the front end when establishing the basic, new program is being habitualized.

      Best regards, Bruce

      Reply
    • Eric Westman MD MHS

      Thank you for your comment. The scientific principles behind HEALcare have been known for over 100 years: carbohydrate restriction improves diabetes, obesity and a host of other chronic medical conditions. Carbohydrate restriction has been used successfully before there was any interest or knowledge in gut flora, grass-fed beef, etc. etc. HEALcare can be used across a wide range of food accessibility, cultural norms, and socioeconomic levels, and of course includes the attention to food quality that you have mentioned. We are extremely interested in research to show any incremental benefit beyond carbohydrate restriction for these areas.

      Reply

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