What does your daily diet consist of? Do you limit yourself of fats, if not avoid them all together? For many years, fats were demonized and misunderstood but people are now realizing that was a big, fat mistake.
A low-carb/high-fat diet is surprisingly more beneficial for your overall health than a low-fat diet. The Lancet study, which included more than 135,000 adults from 18 countries, spanning five continents, is shocking most people who thought that they knew the accurate relationship between fat intake and risk for heart disease and mortality. The study discovered associations between eating a low-fat diet and having a significantly higher risk for mortality, just the opposite of what most people would expect.
In order to better understand the comparison, let’s first dig deeper into each diet:
Low-fat diet – eat a variety of lower fat foods to get “all” the nutrients you need. Most of the diet consist of plant based foods and a restricted amount of lean and low fat, animal based food (meat and dairy products). Ultimately, the person is depending on carbohydrates more so than fats, of any kind, to fuel their body. Unfortunately, people doing this diet tend to eat far too much bread, pasta, and rice while missing vital nutrients. Participants eating high levels of carbohydrates face a 18% higher risk of early death.
Low-carb/high-fat diet – restricts carbohydrates, such as those found in sugary foods, pasta and bread. It is high in protein, fat, and healthy vegetables. A high-fat diet is defined on the ratio of your macro-nutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein) and so, high fat is considered above 40-45% of your daily caloric intake. Anything between 20% to 40% is considered moderate, and if your daily fat intake is below 20%, then you’re sitting in the low-fat zone. Consuming high levels of all fats cut death by up to 23%.
Experts believe that a major contributing factor is that low-fat diets are often higher in added sugar and refined grains, including products made with flour. When someone eats less fat they are likely to replace those calories with carbohydrates, which are often found in convenient, cheap and highly processed foods as well as refined sugars found in fizzy drinks. Common sense tells us that a low-carb/high-fat diet is in fact, much more beneficial.
The type of fat matters. Despite their differences, there’s one thing that the low-fat and high-fat diets seem to be in agreement on and that’s their frowning upon seed and vegetable oils (polyunsaturated fats or PUFAs) like canola, safflower, soy, corn, etc. which are proven to be harmful to the body. But that’s where the similarities end! The high-fat diet is still in favor of including dietary (healthy) fats from natural sources like; olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts and animal fats such such as butter, ghee, cream, etc. The high-fat diet praises the power of fat (especially animal fat) to restore good digestion and elimination, as well as a great way to burn excess weight, and maintain a healthy amount of cholesterol in the body for cellular health.
When comparing low carb/high-fat vs. low-fat, we come up with this:
- Total fat and types of fat were not associated with cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction or cardiovascular disease mortality.
- Saturated fat intake had an inverse association with the risk for suffering from a stroke which means the more saturated fat included in someone’s diet, the more protection against having a stroke they seemed to have.
- High carbohydrate intake was associated with higher risk of total mortality, whereas total fat and individual types of fat were related to lower total mortality.
As mentioned earlier, a low-carb/high-fat diet is overflowing with benefits. Just to name a few:
- Fat may fight disease and boost longevity
- Helps with sustainable weight loss
- Helpful for cognitive/neurological health (boost the brain)
- Important for hormonal balance and reproduction
- Needed for proper absorption of vitamins
So how do you know if you’re consuming enough healthy fats? You want to aim for about 35% of your calorie intake to be from sources of healthy fats; ie: if you’re eating a 2,000 calorie diet, this means you need 700 calories from fat daily or about 77 grams. There are several symptoms to watch for if you’re questioning whether or not you’re consuming the right amount of fats.
The most common symptoms are:
- Weight gain
- Low energy levels
- Muscle weakness
- Gut-related issues
- Depression and anxiety
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Insulin resistance and diabetes
- Neurological problems
A way to safely increase your fat intake and lower your consumption of carbs would be to try a moderate approach to the Ketogenic diet. The Ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet that has successfully helped regain balance with metabolic disease health markers, prevent obesity and disorders such as epilepsy since the 1920’s. An important thing to remember is to shift your focus on removing empty calories from sources like added sugars, processed foods, and refined carbs.
In the end, fat is one of three very important macro-nutrients that we all need to create a well-balanced, functional, energized human being. Exclude any of them for too long and you may run into trouble. The key, as always, is listening to: your heart, your gut, your hunger and your body. It’s about being open to evolving nutritionally.
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