Think back to the ’80s and ’90s when buying anything that didn’t don a low-fat label was simply taboo. Back then, butter and egg yolks topped the “do not eat” list, while refined carbs and packaged foods weren’t given a second thought. But times have definitely changed.
These days, experts tout fat as a must-have macro and full-fat products, like whole milk, avocado, ghee and coconut oil, join the ranks of superfoods.
Yet, some people still question what kinds of fat they should eat and exactly how it affects the body. That’s why we called on Mark Hyman, MD, author of the “Eat Fat, Get Thin Cookbook,” to help us wipe clean the greasy mess of info and lay down the facts on fat.
5 Myths About Fat — Debunked
1. Myth: Fat on my plate equals fat on my body.
Reality: Even though this myth is the basis for low-fat diets and food products, it’s far from the truth. Eating fat won’t make you fat. Completely eliminating or limiting fat from your diet can actually make you gain weight, often because it leaves you feeling so deprived. Conversely, some studies have found that fatty foods can aid in weight loss.
“The problem with most diets is that they lack the key ingredient that makes food taste good and cuts your hunger,” says Dr. Hyman. And you guessed it, that’s fat. “Healthy fats are the best source of energy for your body, and they keep your metabolism and fat-burning mechanisms running as they’re meant to,” Dr. Hyman explains.
Research supports this, showing that a low-fat diet could slow down metabolism. So now you have permission to enjoy a spoonful of nut butter with an apple before your next workout or a satiating piece of steak for dinner every once in a while.
2. Myth: Saturated fat should get a big fat “I’ll pass.”
Reality: Not so fast. While saturated fat has long been known as public health enemy number one, recent research proves it’s not so scary. Of course, you shouldn’t always opt for a meal full of red meat and butter, but having them occasionally won’t wreck your health (or your waistline).
In fact, Dr. Hyman whips some butter into his coffee in the morning. Although it’s higher in saturated fat, he says butter is a more wholesome ingredient, particularly the grass-fed variety.
What’s worse than eating high-fat foods: replacing them with loads of sugar. Refined carbs can increase your chances of developing coronary heart disease and diabetes.
3. Myth: All fat causes health problems.
Reality: Eating different sources of fat can actually boost your health. Omega-3 fatty acids (those found in fish and some nuts and seeds) can help strengthen your heart and possibly your mental well-being, too. And the monounsaturated fats in olive oil (as well as nuts and avocados) can also cut your risk of heart disease.
Dr. Hyman has even seen some of his patients reverse type 2 diabetes by eating a high-fat diet.