Have you been following a low-fat diet in a bid to shift the lbs? The notion that less fat in your food equates to less fat on your body has been pedalled by nutritionists since the 1980s, and is about to be turned on its head.
In his new book Eat Fat, Get Thin, Dr Mark Hyman, an American physician, New York Times best-selling author and medical advisor to Bill and Hillary Clinton, says that consuming MORE fat is the key to losing excess weight and reversing illness.
With fat at 9kcals a gram and carbohydrates and protein at only 4kcals, you may have been led to believe that a diet high in carbohydrates and low in fat will keep you trim. However, Hyman writes, weight loss isn’t simply a case of calories in and calories out, as calories from fat burn differently to calories from sugar in our bodies.
Have you been feeling foggy, fatigued and stressed? Try increasing the healthy fats in your diet – your brain is 60% fat, Hyman says, and by following a low-fat diet, you’re effectively starving it. Contrary to popular belief, dietary fat speeds up metabolism, reduces hunger and reduces calorie intake, and many of his patients report being slimmer and feeling better than they have in years after increasing their fat intake and reducing their carbs.
But wait, surely not ALL fats can be good for you? If the misleading information on the problems with fat have left you confused, you’re in luck: Hyman’s book dispells the myths around the different types of fat, from ‘bad’ saturated fats to ‘healthy’ margarines that actually contain harmful hydrogenated oils.
Hydrogenated oils, AKA trans fats, are the fats you need to watch out for. They increase bad LDL cholesterol and reduce good HDL cholesterol, leading to inflammation and heart disease. Although trans fats aren’t present in most UK chain supermarkets, there is no official ban, so look out for ‘partially hydrogenated oil’ on labels.
Fats people have typically thought of as ‘bad’ (e.g saturated fat) only become problematic when eaten with refined carbohydrates.
Refined carbohydrates and sugar, Hyman writes, are the real culprit behind increasing obesity levels, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and even dementia. Not only are they addictive, but they spike insulin levels and cause the liver to produce the saturated fats found in the blood. Even if you’re slim, you could be at risk with a diet high in refined carbohydrates.
Hyman’s 21-day eating plan will help you lose weight, reduce your blood pressure and knock out sugar cravings. The best part about the programme? There’s no need to count calories or points; “if you eat real food, you don’t need to track calories,” Hyman says.
Other good news? Butter is back on the menu, though opt for grass-fed for optimal nutrients (Kerrygold is a good brand). Other sources of essentials fats include (extra virgin) olive oil, avocado, almonds (sources of monounsaturated fats), walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and oily fish (sources of polyunsaturated fats).
His programme begins with restriction on sugar and carbohydrate sources, but don’t panic! These can steadily be reintroduced once you’ve banished your need for sweet foods.
However, you CAN eat unlimited non-starchy vegetables, a moderate serving of nuts, seeds and low-glycemic fruit (berries, kiwis), fish and organic red meat, poultry and eggs. If you can tolerate them, include small amounts of gluten-free grains and beans, and reduce dairy consumption to grass-fed butter and ghee (clarified butter). Alcohol, tea and coffee are still permitted but in moderation.
Most importantly, rid your kitchen of anything labelled ‘fat free’, ‘low fat’ or ‘diet’, as well as refined vegetable oils.
Don’t be dettered by the science talk and medical terminology in Hyman’s book; he dissects some of the most important studies in nutrition and gives you the skinny on fat. Eat Fat, Get Thin provides great insight into the science behind our nutritional beliefs, as well as tasty recipes to kickstart your journey.