Note from Jenné: This post about why you should eat fat was written by my good friend and vegan sister Isabelle Steichen of The Plantiful. She was so kind to share her wisdom with us today, and she’s got a lot of it. Isabelle is a recent graduate of Cornell’s Plant-Based Nutrition Course, and currently enrolled in the Holistic MBA Health Coach program. Make sure you check out her blog, and follow her on Instagram @theplantiful.
A lot of times when I talk to friends or family members that try to lose weight, they tell me how they are cutting out oil and fat. They are often convinced that this is the key to getting skinnier and that fat is generally unhealthy.
Let’s take a step back, and go to the basics. There are the three types of macronutrients that we need in our diet in order to survive: protein, carbohydrates and fat. We need all three of them for a healthy and balanced diet. The key is to find the right proportions. As an advocate of a 100% vegan diet and a graduate from Prof. Collin Campbell’s plant based nutrition class, I strongly believe that we should eat about 80% carbs, 10-12% protein and 8-10% fat in our daily diet.
As you can see, I don’t think we should eat tons of fats but without fat, basic bodily functions will not be able to happen. We need fat for cell functions as well as neurological functions and hormonal functions. We also need fat to absorb certain vitamins (A, D, E and K) that are fat-soluble (meaning absorbed through fat). That means that if we don’t eat any fat, all the healthy veggies and fruits are for nothing as vitamins need the fat to be used in our body.
Fat also protects us against certain diseases such as osteoporosis. Studies have shown that very skinny women are at way higher risk to get osteoporosis than women with a bit of a fat reserve. This is due to different reasons such as higher estrogen levels that protect against bone loss as well as the weight that helps making bones stronger.
Now the key is to distinguish between good and bad fats. First of all, I would cut out all animal based fats. They are all so-called saturated fats, linked to heart diseases and other chronic diseases. As for plant-based fats, mostly unsaturated fats, choose the less processed fats. Coconut oil (is by the way also a saturated fat and there are debates about its health benefits) and olive oil are generally considered as healthy by the common consumer. However, I don’t think they should be considered as “healthy” because they are highly processed and therefore no longer contain beneficial minerals or other nutrients. I tend to choose nuts, seeds and avocados over processed oils and it’s pretty easy to make a salad dressing out of these. They are better for you because they come with all the other great stuff such as minerals, vitamins and fiber.
Finally, fat is also what makes our food tasty. If you totally cut it out, chances are you will develop cravings and try to compensate these with other foods that are high in sugar for example. A little bit of fat goes a long way and adds deliciousness to lots of dishes.
Conclusion: be smart and choose the right fats but don’t ever totally cut out fat if you want to stay healthy!