The paradigm on fats in foods has shifted dramatically over the last couple years. The idea that all foods high in fat were bad started in the middle of the last century, and the myth has persisted until recently. This line of thinking demonized many foods high in fat we know now to be health-promoting foods. Foods such as avocado, olive oil, salmon and other fatty fish, walnuts and almonds are all foods that many people may have once avoided because the fat content, but now, you’ll likely find them in included on every list of the healthiest foods you can include in your diet.
Still, like anything else, science tells us that the issue of fat in food is slightly more complicated than “all are good” or “all are bad”. The Phase One Diet encourages good foods high in fat, and foods that are technically high in fat, but this is not a recommendation to eat fats of any kind in any food.
We know certain kinds of fats are best to avoid from a health standpoint. Fats to avoid include fats like trans-fats or hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenated fats are processed in such a way so that they won’t spoil. The process of hydrogenating oils began in the first half of the 20th century, and since they’ve become ubiquitous in our food production. These have proven over and over again to be detrimental to health, and there isn’t any reason to include these foods in your diet. You’ll often find hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats in processed foods. Avoid foods like processed baked goods, margarine, fried foods, shortening and fast foods. If you are on the Phase One Diet, you’ll likely be avoiding most of these kinds of foods to begin with.
Generally, fats high in Omega 3, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered the healthiest fats.
Saturated fat is thought to raise cholesterol levels and contribute to poor heart health, and because of this, it is recommended to be consumed in moderation. Saturated fat usually comes from animal products and dairy, which is why conventional wisdoms recommends lowering the consumption of these foods. On the Phase One Diet, however, animal products are recommended and not necessary in moderation. How can a diet that purports to be healthy recommend something conventional wisdom says should be enjoyed in moderation?
One problem with fat from animal products, the way we see it, isn’t so much the fat itself, but how the animals that rendered those food products were raised. For example: Cows in their natural environment consume grass, and when they do, the fat in their meat is much high in ratio of Omega 3 and other micro nutrients. They are range animals, and would get more exercise than they do in a feed lot. On the other hand, conventionally raised cattle are fed an unnatural diet of grain and locked in spaces where exercise is impossible. Furthermore, conventionally raised animals are routinely given hormones and antibiotics––two things that ultimately affect the products those animals yield. Other conventionally raised animals are raised in similar, unnatural circumstances. One can wonder whether if it is the meat, itself, or what we do to the meat that makes it ultimately unhealthy.
The Mayo Clinic recommends 20-35% of your daily calories come from fat, which is likely a much healthier ratio than recommendations of the past 50 years. On Phase One, we always recommend getting your animal fats from the most pristine sources––grass fed cows, bison, lamb; pastured chickens and turkeys; wild caught fish; etc. The fat from these animals is likely better than fat from the conventionally raised livestock so prevalent in the American diet.