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Paleo 101: The beginner’s guide to fats (Part 1)

I have posted two articles about Paleo lifestyle so far introducing you to the main concept, to primal eating as a way to boost your health, energy and sexiness. I also showed you how to throw together a tasty balanced meal so that you could hop on the Paleo train right away. As we are curious creatures questioning everything possible (and particularly things that work), I understand that two articles are far from enough to convince you about the amazing benefits of Paleo food philosophy. Not to mention that guidance is always helpful, particularly at the beginning. And so in the next few posts of the EAT section, I will guide through individual food groups and explain a bit more about, why they are or aren’t good for you, and how to incorporate them correctly in your meals. You will learn about protein, fat and carbs, and I will also dig a bit more into the grey area of dairy produce and peculiar world of beloved nuts, seeds, dried fruit, dark chocolate and other healthy vices. Let’s get started!

Losing fat by eating fat? Healthy fat? Seriously, Petra?! “There is nothing like healthy fat!” You probably want to scream. Hold your horses, my friends. If you are really jumping up and down while reading the title of this post, I caught you – the victims of conventional wisdom. Your world is probably rocked by low-fat products, steamed vegetables and fat-free dry pieces of meat. Delicious juicy steaks, crispy chicken skin, creamy Greek yoghurt and fatty nuts are forbidden. Not in my world! 

Explaining why certain fats are not only healthy but necessary for our functioning is probably the hardest part for a Paleo person to explain and for a Paleo-candidate to accept and apply. No wonder. It was hard even for myself to switch from low-fat, lean meat, high carb diet to eating a fatty rib-eye and not feeling like I am committing a serious crime, being scared that my butt would double till the next morning. Let me explain, why you should eat healthy fats.

  • It is the main and most natural source of energy
  • It is way more efficient and healthier source of energy than carbs
  • It makes you full faster and keeps you sated longer (we are talking of no need for snacking)
  • It is crucial carrier for fat soluble vitamins and nutrients.
  • It doesn’t give you headaches, mood swings, cravings and grumpiness when hungry.
  • It is delicious!
1. Become a fat burning beast

I love this line. If you decide to undergo the transformation from a regular hight carb diet to Paleo diet, you will end up eating way less carbs than you were used to. Your body will have to deal with the sudden drop in carb and sugar intake. After a short withdrawal period, your system will stop requiring sugar as a main source of energy, and will switch to the most natural source of energy – fat and your body’s fat reserves (aka muffin tops and co.).
Fat provides us with way more stable energy than sugar. It doesn’t spike your insulin levels, makes you feel full sooner and will keep you going for several hours without the need to snack. Fat and protein is what makes sure that your energy is stable throughout the day, what ensures that you do not experience mood swings and sleepiness after meals. It is excess carbs that spike your insulin level and lead to the above mentioned hell.
Think about it. In what form would your body store for times of starvation the extra energy received from the second piece of b-day cake? Is there any form of sugar stored in your body? No! It is fat! Yes, that bit around your waistline, thighs, booty (or breasts for the lucky women out there :). Feed your body with healthy fat as the main source of energy rather than carbs. It’s more efficient and your body will not need to save it for later.

Also, remember that fat is crucial for absorbing certain vitamins and nutrients. You can eat as many supplements as you want, if you don’t provide your body with an efficient “match”, they will never make their way to your system.
I remember when I used to eat oat porridge with banana and skimmed milk for breakfast. A huge bowl. I loved it. It was warm and comforting. After one hour I would be hungry as hell and craving something like “healthy” whole cereal cookies or fitness müsli bar. This never happens with my beloved breakfast of scrambled eggs, slice of non-cured bacon and fresh veggies flavored with a dollop of full-fat sheep milk yogurt mixed with fresh herbs. Aaah. It’s a perfect mix of protein, healthy fats of different kind and veggies.

2. The Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio

The omega 2 to omega 6 ratio together with trans fats are the two major issues in today’s society. Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are crucial for our bodies. We do not have the capability to create them themselves. Both are present in each fatty item, but in different ratios. Grains and grain-fed livestock are rich in Omega 6 fatty acids. Whereas omega 3 fatty acids can be reached through fish, flax seed, algae, nuts and pastured eggs. Grass-fed meet has much lower amount of Omega 6 and high amount of Omega 3s, whereas conventional steak would have very low Omega 6 amount.
The trick here is to reach a healthy ratio of omega 6 and omega 3. In a regular modern diet, the ratio is ten to thirty to one. 10-30 of Omega 6 vs. 1 Omega 3! What is the ideal? Try 1:1, although 4:1 will keep you more than healthy, particularly if going from a regular mainstream grain based diet.

3. Will saturated fat kill you?

Saturated fat has been the target of bombastic newspaper headlines and gained bad reputation in scientific studies and at dietitians’ offices. What exactly is it? Simply speaking, it’s animal fat. It’s my eggs and bacon for breakfast, your steak for lunch and the tasty looking Greek yoghurt waiting in the fridge for tomorrow.
Saturated fat can increase LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), but only if your insulin levels are unstable (It means that you spike it up several times a day with something sweet) and your carbohydrate intake is high (We are talking about over 150 g of carbs per day, unless you are professional athlete.). As a modern caveman or cavegirl, your insulin is stable throughout the day and you are fairly low in carbs, then saturated fat is no threat for you.
I am a living proof here. I went to have my blood tests done after 1 year of clean Paleo diet, and my physician was trying to convince me that had to turn into vegetarian. My not too bad cholesterol level improved significantly – I experienced drop in LDL cholesterol and my HDL went to the optimal level. I told my doc to hold on to something and started explaining my daily menu…

4. Trans fats – the Frankensteins among fats

Trans fats are the killers among fat! Their production is fairly new, they are not found naturally and our bodies have no idea what to do with them. They are created by exposing polysaturated fats from corn, soybean and similar oils to heat, hydrogen gas and a catalyst. The outcome has characteristic similar to saturated fats (solid or semisolid in room temperature) but they cause quite a havoc in our body. If you wish to ruin your livers, mess up your blood lipids and destroy your insulin sensitivity, eat plenty of hydrogenated vegetable oil, margarines and high fructose corn syrup (which is found in most processed foods).
Not to overwhelm you with too much fatty information, I will stop here and leave the rest for next post. You can look forward to reading more about how to incorporate more fats in your meals, what are the best sources of healthy fats and how to figure out the right amount for your body.

Thank you for reading. Feel free to ask questions and leave comments in the comment section!

Enjoy the springy day and live loud!

Yours,

Petra

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