How to Eat Fat & Lose Weight

Coconut How to Eat Fat & Lose Weight

It’s no secret that fats have a bad reputation lately, and are generally discouraged by most in the medical community and nutritional fields. Most foods that are considered “healthy” by the majority of Americans carry a “low-fat” label. I just had a friend tell me she was going on the slim-fast and Special-K diet (cringe) because it was “low-fat.”

I could understand the fat-phobia if perhaps fat had been linked to weight gain or incidence of disease.. or maybe if America’s obesity epidemic had lessened since the low-fat craze… or maybe if eating a low fat diet actually caused long-term weight loss (anyone tried it?). The sad fact is that most people accept the hypothesis that fat is bad without understanding the biology behind the body’s need for fat.

Chemically, all fats are made up of varying numbers of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon arranged in different orders. Each carbon atom is bonded to two other carbon atoms, and the more carbon atoms there are in a given fatty acid, the longer it will be. Fatty acids with longer chains typically have a higher melting point and yield more energy per molecule when metabolized.

If a fat has each carbon atom bonded to two hydrogen atoms, it is considered a saturated fat, because each carbon molecule is “saturated” with hydrogen. These fats tend to be solid or near solid at room temperature. A monounsaturated fat has carbon bonded to only one hydrogen and double bonded to another carbon. A polyunsaturated fatty acid has more than one of these double bonds. A trans fat (transaturated fatty acid) is an artificially manipulated version of an unsaturated fat and is one type of fat that actually has been linked to disease. Thanks to wikipedia:

There are two ways the double bond may be arranged: the isomer with both parts of the chain on the same side of the double bond (the cis-isomer), or the isomer with the parts of the chain on opposite sides of the double bond (the trans-isomer). Most trans-isomer fats (commonly called trans fats) are commercially produced rather than naturally occurring. The cis-isomer introduces a kink into the molecule that prevents the fats from stacking efficiently as in the case of fats with saturated chains. This decreases intermolecular forces between the fat molecules, making it more difficult for unsaturated cis-fats to freeze; they are typically liquid at room temperature. Trans fats may still stack like saturated fats, and are not as susceptible to metabolization as other fats.

Now that we got the biology out of the way, what does this mean in the dietary world? While fats have been demonized lately, they are sources of essential fatty acids and are necessary in absorption of vitamins A,D,E, and K, maintenance of skin and hair and in proper cell function. Fats provide 9 calories per gram and are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol (a source of energy) once in the body. When a chemical or toxin enters the body and reaches an un-safe level, the body dilutes it or attempts to equalize it by storing it in adipose (fat) tissue. The problem here is that if you are consuming high levels of chemicals or toxins (not fats) you can store these in your body and they can reach high enough levels to cause disease.

The fat-hating in society today is not based on its ability to keep toxins in the body, but rather on it supposed ability to cause weight gain. While fat has been blamed for weight gain, nothing happens in a vacuum. To understand why excess fat can, in some cases, lead to weight gain, we have to understand what those cases are. The body is capable of breaking fat down into glucose and using it for energy, though this process takes more energy than just using any fructose or glucose already circulating in the blood. When we eat grains, processed carbs or even high levels of really sweet fruits, these are easier sources for the body to use for energy. Eventually, the body starts to prefer these easier sources of energy and through insulin and leptin resistance, doesn’t metabolize fat as effectively. Additionally, any excess carbohydrates that the body doesn’t immediately use for energy is converted to fat to be stored for future energy. If you are constantly feeding your body quick energy in the form of carbs, it never taps into this stored energy (fat) and fat accumulates. Any extra fats consumed at that point are also stored as fat since the body is burning its quick and easy form of fuel from carbohydrates. In this way, it is much more logical to understand that excess carbohydrates, not excess fats, cause weight gain.

So what fats are we supposed to eat and what to avoid?

Saturated Fats

Found in foods like meats, coconut and avocado, these guys are absolutely vital to proper body functions. They also get most of the heat from the “low-fat” crowd. Saturated fats are necessary for absorption of certain vitamins, calcium uptake, immune function, and cell membrane structure.

I recommend daily intake of saturated fats from meats, butter, coconut oil, coconut products, avocado, etc as the main source of fat for all my clients. Conventional wisdom would say they should all gain weight. In combination with a low grain diet, they all actually lose weight (except for the occasional person trying to gain weight) and notice some common benefits: increased tolerance to the sun (tan better), skin issues like acne or eczema clear up, drastically increased energy, absence of food cravings, and peaceful sleep. Enough to convince me!

Monounsaturated Fats

Of all the fats, these get the most acceptance in medical and nutrition communities today. Monounsaturated fats are found in varying levels in oils like olive, sunflower, sesame, flax, peanut, safflower, etc. These oils are not entirely made of monounsaturated fats but also have some levels of saturated and polyunsaturated fats.  I recommend monounsaturated fats to clients in moderate amounts, but never heated to high temperatures as this can cause breakdown and free radicals. Speaking of free radicals….

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

These are found in grains, soybeans, corn, peanuts etc. They are liquid even at cold temperatures, go rancid easily and break down into free radicals when heated. These are also the oils we most often heat to really high temperatures when we fry things like potatoes and grains. To re-cap we use these oils that are from unhealthy sources at temperatures that make them even more dangerous and then drop in even more of the same unhealthy substances (grains, corn, etc) to round it out. These are also the oils used in non-foods like margarine and Smart Balance (a stupid idea!).

To add insult to injury, most of these oils go through a hydrogenation process that makes them last longer on the shelf, but makes them basically unusable to the body since we can’t metabolize them. Not only are they creating free-radical damage, but they don’t even provide any relevant source of nutrition or fat the body can metabolize.

You will see polyunsaturated fats under names like corn, cottonseed, canola, vegetable, soybean, peanut, etc and most of them often carry the title “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated.” My general advice to everyone is to completely avoid these types of fats, especially if they have been heated.

The Omegas

You’ve probably heard of the Omega-3s and Omega-6s as they are finally starting to be understood by the medical community. Both are necessary to our bodies, but most people these days get them in a balance that is very unhealthy. In a perfect world, we would get a ratio of 1:1 of omega-6s and omega-3s, though I usually tell my clients they are doing well if they can get a 3:1 ratio. If kept within this balance, both are healthy and necessary for optimal body function. Seems reasonable, right? Most people in America today consume a normal ratio of up to 35:1 (omega-6 to omega-3), while some people consumer even higher ratios.

Omega-3s are found in things like fish, nuts and types of algae. Omega-6s are found in grains, corn, and animals fed grains and corn. Unlike things like Vitamin D, which our bodies are capable or making, the omegas must be gotten from diet (thus the name, essential). The reason you often hear of people benefiting from supplementing Omega-3s is that with the distorted ratios we consume of these fats, taking additional Omega-3s helps balance the body’s need for both in a 1:1 ratio. For those of us not able to consume that perfect 1:1 ratio, supplementing omega-3s can help with brain function, inflammation, chemical balance in the brain, and energy levels. Omega-3s also contain the much-touted ALA, DHA and EPA fats that are now added to many foods. I get my omega-3s from dietary sources as much as possible and also supplement with Krill Oil to keep the ratio in balance.

Trans Fats

These are the one type of fat that completely deserves the heat it has been getting lately. That hydrogenation process that we mentioned earlier turns unsaturated fats into these much more dangerous trans fats by changing the placement of the hydrogen atoms in the molecule. These fats are able to be absorbed by individual cells and mess up the function of the cell. Studies connect these guys to heart disease, obesity, abdominal fat, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Trans fats are one of my arguments against the “everything in moderation” idea, as they are not safe in any amount.

As Trans Fats have gotten such a bad rap lately, scientists have cooked up an even more unsavory fat made by replacing part of the fat molecule with stearic acid. These “interesterified fats” are what allow snack makers to place that lovely “no-trans fat” label on their packaging. Don’t be fooled! Interesterified fats are just as dangerous, if not more so. The few studies they have actually performed on these guys show that they can alter metabolism (i.e. slow it down!).

As a recap: saturated fats from healthy meats, coconut, avocado and nuts are good. Monounsaturated fats are good as long as they are not heated. Omega-3s are vital to our body, especially because we eat them in improper ratios. Polyunsaturated fats, hydrogenated fats, trans fats and interesterified fats are actually dangerous and should be avoided.

Your turn. What kind of fats are you eating?

Reader Comments

  1. Lisa Morgan says

    Krill oil consumption could be very beneficial for an individual besides of being beneficial for the brain function, helps in strengthening the immune system, helps to improve mood of fight depression krill oil is also considered to be a powerful anti oxidant supplement because it contains a substance called Astaxanthin which is proven to be a good substance that can help fight or prevent those nasty aging signs this substance could also help in protecting the human skin from the harmful UV rays coming from the sun. It’s a sure thing that krill oil is beneficial supplement if you want to explore more of its benefits you could read this article http://krilloil.com/krill-oil-benefits.html

    • says

      What are the benefits of taking krill oil vs. skate liver oil vs. cod liver oil? I currently take fermented cod liver oil.  What source do you get your krill oil from?

      • says

        Fermented Cod Liver oil is great, and has Vitamin D too… The good
        brands are pricey, so I’ve been using Krill oil, which is easier to
        find good sources of, but if you are taking FCLO… that’s awesome!

    • Lil says

      Alright after typing this comment I’ll go get myself some krill! LOL! Seriously though, that’s quite a lot of benefits you mentioned there. Also read first about krill oil here: http://krilloil.mercola.com/krill-oil.html What brands would you guys recommend?

    • stan says

      One of the best things about krill oil is its resistance to rancidity. Many cheap fish oils, especially those that come in clear bottles, are actually rancid when you buy them. Krill is more stable, partly due to the astaxanthin content. You can put a drop of astaxanthin in your other oils to extend their shelf life as well.

      However, krill oil doesn’t have enough astaxanthin for you to get all the benefits this incredible antioxidant provides. You need at least 4-8 mg/day for that.

  2. Dotty says

    Thanks for giving us the scoop on fats.  I’m enjoying using more animals fats lately and feeling better as a result.  I have some tallow from making beef broth and am not afraid to use it!  
    And I appreciate what you said about trans fats or hydrogenated oils…harmful in any amount.
    Coconut oil is our favorite for stir frying and raw butter is great on top.  

  3. lois says

    Hello, I was wondering if there was a good way to explain to family and people who challenge grains, carbohydrates, and saturated fats because of misinformation. When they watch what I eat they probably think I am putting my family in danger and I want to explain it to them. I pretty much have to explain to them that the FDA standards for fat/carbs is incorrect based on the lipid hypothesis. But I don’t know how to tell them where the correct standards come from (in other words: fda standards from lipid hypothesis, True standards from…?)

    • says

      For a shamless plug, I wrote an article that loosely covered this a
      while back http://wellnessmama.com/2139/answering-questions-and-
      objections/ . There is actually a lot of good science backing this
      healthier way of eating, and it is becoming more mainstream. the sad
      thing is, it used to be that “true standards come from common sense”
      but the last couple of decades have come in the way of logical
      thinking when it comes to nutrition. I’d refer them to doctors like
      Dr. Eades and have them watch Fat Head to help get the basics, and
      then send on some science from there if they want more.

  4. Toni roberts says

    At first, I get my omega 3 through eating fish, but I’ve recently discovered that eating fish may not be the best way to get omega 3 because of the metals that contaminate the fish. Right now, I take krill oil and I think it really helped me with my workout since it’s said to support the joints and maintain a healthy heart. 
    check out this video about krill oil and the other sources of omega 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj-ZnG3NoZY
    As for cooking, i’ve read that coconut oil is the best choice out there right now.

  5. Anna says

    Great post! Just one thing: Aren’t the omega-3 and -6s polyunsaturated fatty acids? You’re saying they should be avoided. As those two types are still essential, how much should we consume of them?

  6. S5mursy says

    Hello, I was wondering your opinion about extra virgin olive oil. I love eating scrambled eggs (from my own free range hens), and I always thought olive oil was healthier to cook them with. I have read mixed opinions about the effects of heating olive oil. Some say it doesn’t change the fat at all, others say it turns it all to trans fat, and even more people claim that as long as you do not exceed its heating point, it will be fine. Are there any good alternatives, or should I stick with olive oil? I also wanted to add that I do not use non-stick pans do to them releasing toxic chemicals.

    Thanks ahead of time, and I love your website by the way! : )

  7. Melissa says

    I guess my question is more about the consumption of fat in general. I see so many people saying they’ve lost a lot of weight following a paleo or primal diet, and that means eating a significant amount of fat, right? Many sites seem as if following a paleo/primal diet means you can eat as much meat, good fats and veggies as you want and you’ll not only NOT gain weight, you’ll lose fat. So I guess I’m confused (if my question hasn’t already made that abundantly clear, LOL) – when eating paleo/primal, do calories still count in terms of weight loss or not? I would think they do, but up until recently I also thought whole grains were pretty darn healthy. ;o) Thanks for any guidance you can give, because I really feel completely lost on this issue.

    • Nikiknits says

      You’d think watching calories in/calories out would equal weight loss, right?  Our bodies are actually more complicated than that–how much you eat is relevant, but what you eat is most important.  I follow the principle of eating healthy whole foods (paleo/primal) until I’m satisfied.  If you aren’t emotionally eating, you’ll find there’s only so much fat and protein you can consume so it’s not that easy to overeat.  I know there’s science behind it and also results.  I’ve lost over 40 lbs in three months literally without worrying how much I’m eating, while consuming significant amounts of fat.  Mmmmm tasty tasty fat!

      • Try something new says

        Hi, I read that it is an oil that does not change its chemical properties until it hits a higher temperature and is therefore safer to use specifically for heating. Is there another process other than hydrogenating at work that makes you recommend no heat?

        It would be interesting to see a listing of all the different oils on a graph showing the temperatures where they begin and end hydrogenating. That way people can choose the oil to use based on the intended use.

        Do you think one of the processed food giants would share their research or would that expose them to liability by admission of knowledge?

  8. Andy says

    Excellent article. I also loved your post that gave seven reasons why saturated fat is good for you. One thing I’d like to point out with this one, though, is that when it comes to Omega 6 and Omega 3 essential fatty acids, there are only two — LA and ALA. The DPH and EPA you get from fish/krill oil are just derivatives of ALA, and we don’t really need that much of it (studies show that we derive less than 5% of our ALA intake down into DPH and EPA). For further info, I would recommend reading Brian Peskin’s article on the subject, which can be found here: http://www.brianpeskin.com/BP.com/reports/CAMB-Fish-Oil-Fallacies-Report.pdf

  9. Marymackie93 says

    First of all thank you so much for taking the time to write and post all this life changing information! Much appreciated :) I was wondering how many grams of fat you recommend consuming per day?

    • says

      It varies a lot based on the individual, but the basic goal is to get the bulk of your calories from healthy forms of fat (though the volume of your food still won’t contain as much proportionate fat since it is much more nutrient and calorie dense). I take fermented cod liver oil daily and drink about 1/4 cup coconut oil in coffee or tea. You’ll know when you are getting enough for your body when you aren’t hungry or craving foods before meals…

  10. elenska says

    Hi WEllness mama,
    so I dont understand, what aoubt sunflower oil? is it really bad for you? or ok if cold? you should not fry or cook with it? I am gettin gconfused here…

  11. Naveen says

    Hi ! your blog is helping me a lot loose weight ! .. I am following all the instructions you give. I am using Butter for cooking. I was all happy until i went and saw my DR last week.. I went to get my routines done for this year, and saw that my Cholestrol has gone up (136 to 187).. and also my LDL has gone up (81 to 135) ! My HDL did too but not by too much (40-44) and my Triglyceride went down(76-64). I just want to make sure this is normal? or am i doing something wrong. I have been eating lots if FAT and Protein and very less Carbs.. I am not going to GYM, but i have changed my habits like taking the stairs etc..
    PLEASE HELP ME !

    Thanks in advance !!

    Naveen.

    • Telicia says

      Hey, I can’t really answer your question, but I know something like this issue is addressed in one of the Wheat Belly books.

  12. Robea Patrowicz says

    How much krill oil would you recommend per day? I take a fish oil supplement, should I continue to take that in addition to adding krill oil? Finally, what brands would you recommend as there are so many out there. Thank you!

  13. Courtney says

    Good explanation of what fats are chemically composed of, but I’m afraid you’re somewhat oversimplifying the issue of fats vs carbs vs sugar. You’re correct in the fact that excess energy from carbs is stored as fat, but extra fat from the diet is also obviously stored as fat. The problem is not with consuming fat (as many people, as you have stated, believe) but simply eating either too much fat, too many carbs, or too much sugar. As it turns out, anabolically speaking, any of those three groups can be synthesized into the other. So, all in all, eating some fat (especially essential fats) is GOOD, as you’ve said. Not eating enough fat is very bad for your heart in particular. Eating too much fat, however, does result in fat storage and overall weight gain. When fat levels are too high in the blood, this also does cardiovascular damage. Eating too many carbs results in fat synthesis in the body, creating the same problem. So overall, overeating in general is the problem we should be attacking. The reason low-fat diets are touted by physicians is because most people eat waaay too much fat in general (America as a country is one of the few that has a mostly meat diet), and so telling people to eat low-fat should result in normal amounts of dietary fats. There are very few patients that get sick from actually not eating enough fat, contrary to your impression.

    -Med student

  14. Freda says

    Thank you SO much for your wonderful information. I am working on stabilizing my hormones, since weight loss after 40 seems such a mystery! Your posts are extremely helpful and I look forward to finally seeing some changes!

  15. melody j says

    Hi Katie, love the info you give. Is there another oil you can recommend (aside from coconut oil) that is safe to heat and cook with? I love coconut oil and use it often, but I don’t always want my food to take on its flavor. Thanks!

  16. Jen says

    You mentioned peanut oil in both the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Which is it? Is natural peanut butter (no added oil or sugar) a good protein source?

  17. Jason says

    Amen to all of that! :) It’s hard for me, because I’m still overweight, to explain to people why I eat fat, because to them it’s unhealthy. Most people don’t even realize that when things say “low-fat”, what they don’t tell you is they’re higher in sugar. It’s crazy!

    When I put together that my body can burn fat, and would actually love to, when I stop giving it sugars to burn (even the good kids), my mind was blown and a shift happened in my diet. It’s not calorie restriction that helps get rid of fat so easily, it’s sugar restriction!

    Thanks for this post. :)
    -jason

  18. Garfield says

    I don’t know whether it’s just me or if everybody else encountering issues
    with your website. It appears like some of the text on your content
    are running off the screen. Can somebody else please provide feedback and let
    me know if this is happening to them too?
    This could be a problem with my internet browser because I’ve had this happen
    before. Kudos

  19. Richard Tracy says

    I think there is a typo in the 7th paragraph of this page.
    “access carbohydrates”
    I think you intended to write “Excess carbohydrates”

    Oh, and I found that information about “Phytic Acid” correlating with nutrient blockage fascinating.

    I have been pescetarian-vegan since 2010, then soy and grain free since 2012.
    AND I FEEL GREAT!
    I am a Chef at the University of Guelph, and had a debate with a co-worker (who studies nutrition) about the quality of gluten in the diet. With this new information I aspire to debunk their claims, enlightening them positively.

    I sincerely thank you for the wonderful quality information!

  20. Nicole says

    So coconut oil, butter and beef fat etc is good for heating up….because it’s more stable at higher temperatures…but what about beef fat which would soak up the toxins itself, particularly if the cow was in a polluted environment or antibiotics, worming treatments, parasite treatments etc…Thanks :)!

    • Regan says

      We look for organic grass fed tallow. We get ours in bulk from US Wellness meats. Grass fed animals are healthier and if it is organic they do not use antibiotics in the animals. We buy it in 5 gallon buckets and then spoon it into mason jars. Then we freeze it in our deep freeze and pull them out as we need them. 5 gallons lasts us about 6 months and we do the majority of our stove top cooking with it.

  21. Judy says

    Is there any way to get healthy fats in a capsule form? My daughter has an aversion to meat fat, but not butter or a avocado . Not sure how she can get enough fat daily since it is nauseating to her . She is trying to regain health and lose weight. She is mostly grain free.

  22. Debit says

    I think the starting point of eating better is to understand some nutritional basics (i.e., each type of foodstuffs has different nutritional profile), bare-basic biochemistry (i.e. how the body handles proteins, carbs, and lipids), and cooking (e.g., a spoonful of coconut oil on its own is less enjoyable than curry made with meats/poultry cooked with coconut oil or coffee laced with coconut oil). At the practical level, cook your own meals as much as possible and minimize overindulging processed foods.) Cooking one’s own meals allows one to experiment and thus allows one to zero in on which food combinations are more enjoyable.

    My quick list of how to eat more fats:

    1. Coffee: add some coconut oil or coconut milk.

    2. Mackerel: oil the frying pan then cook a piece of mackerel until it is fully cooked. If it is cooked well enough, you can even eat most of its bones as the bones become crunchy.

    3. Salmon: if you like sashimi (sliced raw fish, ubiquitous in Japanese cuisine), then eat it raw.

    4. Eggs: add salsa into a bowl, followed by tossing in cooked or raw eggs. Mix them together. If you want to make it hotter and spicier, generously sprinkle Tabasco sauce or something similar. If you want to make it creamier, toss in some full-fat sour cream or yoghurt.

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