The Skinny on Fat: How Bad is Fat for Us—Really?

Posted on December 18th, 2012 by in Nutrition

The total fail of the fat-free ’80s and ’90s taught us that fat isn’t perhaps the villain we made it out to be, and that following a low-fat diet not only isn’t the cure to obesity but also may actually make things worse. That’s because fat plays an important role in giving us energy, building healthy cells, and helping us feel full. A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition even absolved saturated fat, an often-maligned type of fat, citing the discovery that there wasn’t enough proof to link saturated fat to either heart disease or stroke.

And yet many—including some of the most outspoken proponents of plant-based, vegan diets—still advocate for very minimal fat intake, even when those fats are “healthy” non-animal fats like those found in avocados, nuts, and seeds. “When I first came out of graduate school in 1996, I thought a low-fat vegan diet was the answer, too,” says John Bagnulo, PhD, MPH, who teaches nutrition in Kripalu’s Healthy Living programs. “And while I think a whole-grain diet centered on beans and rice can still produce very favorable results for many people who are otherwise used to consuming refined foods—things in packages, white bread—most times, when people see results from cutting out fat, it’s because they’re also often eating fewer refined carbs at the same time: No dip, so no chips. No peanut butter, so no bagels. And really, it’s not the lower fat intake that makes the difference, but the lower carb intake.”

In fact, if we’re following a no- or low-grain diet, John says it’s not how much fat we eat but what sort of fat that matters—and it may not be the fat you’re used to. Coconut oil, for example, is one of the most beneficial overall fats, he says, known for improving heart health, boosting metabolism, promoting weight loss, and supporting the immune system. And yet it’s nearly purely saturated fat. “We need to look at the big-picture changes,” he says. “Someone who adheres to a diet rich in coconut oil may have an increase in total cholesterol—and that’s a ‘might’—but when we look at those cholesterol molecules we see that they’re fluffier and less dense. What’s more, the saturated fat in coconut oil doesn’t form free radicals when heated, which makes it superior to all other oils for cooking.” Other “good” fats include extra-virgin olive oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and monounsaturated fats found in avocados, I don’t see it maligned above nuts, and seeds. Fats to avoid include the usual suspects—hydrogenated oils, partially hydrogenated oils, and, of course, trans fats—but also, he says, some highly polyunsaturated oils like corn, safflower, sunflower, and vegetable oil blends which have been linked to cancer, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, thrombosis, arthritis, and immunodeficiencies. The only oils he recommends using are olive and coconut.

When tracking carbohydrate intake, says John, it’s best to stay away from foods that are more than 23 percent carbohydrate by weight; higher than that can impact blood-sugar levels, cause inflammation and bacteria growth, and lead to weight gain. This number means eliminating all grains, flours, sugar, and sweeteners, but leave in fruit, which averages 10 to 15 percent carb by weight. “One of the best breakfasts you can have is fresh fruit with some nut or seed butter,” he says. “People need to know that oatmeal is not the breakfast of champions. And that fat is not necessarily the enemy.”

Read the Kripalu Nutrition and Food Philosophy.


One Response to “The Skinny on Fat: How Bad is Fat for Us—Really?”

  1. elansunstar January 8, 2014 2:33 pm #

    Aloha I have been opening and using fresh coconuts from the locales here in Hawaii. i have opened and use over 75,000 coconuts in the past 50 years i am a 100% raw food vegan and have been making a gallon of fresh coocnut yogurt a day since the late 60’s..that’s tens of thousands of gallons of coconut yogurt…

    The medium chain fatty acids are fantastic for the brain and even more so when fresh i have planted over 20,000 coconut trees ….especially the early bearing dwarf trees that bear at knee high level……The reason that –Tropical Traditions— and –Qualiity First—and –Living Tree– and
    —-Artisana—– brands of coconut oil is best is that it is made with a water seperation ferment process to seperate the fat from the liquids.. It has a fruity taste it is not heated and not pressed so you dont get the rough cooked taste of normal coconut oil.

    you can do a google search on water centrifuged coconut oil to find out how to make this oil from coconuts…

    if you ahve to use older coocnuts then run the meat througha champion juicer 3-4 time swhile holding the end exit area so the cream if forced out the seive for juice exit (bottom) you get a thick thick cream that last for 8 months in the frigge or freezer without any biodegradation… add probiotics and you get a fantastic blend of super culture and lauric and caprylic acid. If you use younger coconut then just blend in the vitamix etc …

    Elan Sun Star
    kailua Hawaii

    website links xx

    part 1 :

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.