It’s been a while since we have done a Wellness Wednesday feature but I’ve had a little incident that has inspired this one…. For illustration purposes, I did a quick Google search of “are fats good or bad for you?” Here’s a few summaries of headlines I got:
- Saturated Fats – good for you
- Saturated Fats – bad for you
- Good fats vs. Bad Fats
- Trans fats….
- 5 foods you must not eat …. (this one said in general, fats are bad)
I quit looking after this because the information I was reading was contradicting, confusing and sometimes just silly. To be honest, I didn’t learn a lot about fats and their dietary impact while I was obtaining my MBA in Accounting… obviously. However, after traditional medicine failed me, I found my final hopes in the hands of a ‘non-traditional’ MD at KU Medical Center. She was FANTASTIC. She was informative, helpful and caring…. which are rare traits found in the medical field these days. She also inspired me to learn more… not only about my own body but about nutrition and overall well-being for anyone.
So the incident that inspired me to share a little info on the topic of fats happened at the farmer’s market I sell at every weekend. I had a potential customer come to my table and was very curious about my protein bites. However, she saw the nutrition facts and walked away completely befuddled exclaiming “can you believe how many calories and fat are in ONE bite?!” She didn’t even care to read the ingredients or ask about the process that goes into making them. Since she didn’t and you might be curious, here’s what I would have told her:
My protein bites feature all-natural, raw, unprocessed ingredients without any added sugars, sweeteners, preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, gluten, soy, dairy, etc. They are gluten-free, vegan, raw, Whole30 friendly, Paleo. Now to some, all those labels might be just as confusing on whether or not fats are good or bad for you. Basically, the ingredients are pure and simple. The base for each bite are dates, coconut oil and nuts plus some spices to get those delicious flavors. So let’s break that down…
- Dates – a natural fruit that is sweet all by itself.. meaning there is no sugar needed.
- Coconut oil – considered a ‘healthy’ fat. It’s also naturally derived, minimally processed and full of health benefits. Yes, it is high in calories – just like any other fat. It contains high levels of lauric acid and MCTs (medium chain triglycerides). MCTs are processed differently than other longer chain fats (like liquid oils, etc) and have been shown to ‘burn those fat calories’ rather than store them. In addition to coconut oil, coconut butter and coconut flour are also good sources of fiber and antioxidants.
- Nuts – another source of fat but a good source of unsaturated fats that have heart health benefits.
(my Carrot Cake & Brownie Protein Bites)
Just like with any product, you have to weigh the benefit that fits YOUR needs. Does your doctor have you on a calorie or saturated fat restricted diet? Then maybe the bites aren’t for you. However, as someone who has tried those low-calorie, low-fat to lose weight or get fit… the misconception of fats is astounding. The push for low-fat/low-calorie/low-carb diets is large and some of these claims that go with certain diet programs are very misleading… if not completely false advertising.
What I’ve learned over the last few years of research and studying nutrition topics, is that you must be in tune with your body and you must pay attention to what you are feeding it. Something high in calories and fat (like my protein bites or my trail mixes) might scare some away, but that low-calorie “healthy” frozen dinner contains so many processed ingredients that it hardly resembles food…. which can’t be good for us.
People can’t believe how we eat. They think it’s crazy or impossible or ridiculous. We get so many comments like “You eat that many vegetables every day?” “The kids must hate eating all that healthy food.” “It’s too expensive to eat that way.” These comments honestly baffle me. Our culture has gotten so far off track with nutrition that it is ‘strange’ to eat fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts/seeds, etc. It is customary to eat frozen dinners, fast food and candy bars.
Anyone who knows my story… or follows this blog… or has heard me go on and on about my lifestyle… knows that I follow a very strict Paleo lifestyle. Notice I didn’t call it a “Paleo Diet”. It’s not a diet… it’s my life because it GAVE me my life back. The Paleo lifestyle isn’t some weird, Neanderthal way of living. It’s a simple, clean-eating lifestyle that features all of those items above (fruits, veggies, lean meats, nuts, seeds… nutrient dense foods). It eliminates processed foods and foods that do not have a large nutrient value. I initially started it because my KU doctor & nutritionist recommended it for healing. Yes… healing my severely damaged body from all of the things that were causing inflammation, leaky gut, etc. It took time,but it worked. No harsh medications…. just real, nutritious foods. Was it hard? YES. It was hard because just prior to this change, I was living off of quick-service foods, Taco Bell and Little Debbie snack cakes (just for a small treat…..ha…). I was extremely skeptical but that’s when I started digging into nutrition research. It made sense to me. I stick with it because I have witnessed first hand what a clean-eating lifestyle can do for me and my family. My testimony could be viewed as skewed because I was in very poor health… and still am not quite where I need or want to be. However, that’s the ONLY thing that has helped me… well my change in habits and the grace of God.
However, I’ve seen positive changes in my own family. My husband especially. Now, while it would have been great to share progress photos of him over the last couple of years… he would have killed me for posting any so we won’t go there. He has always been a fit guy – played sports in school, has always exercised hard. However, we ate the same – college was rough on us both (darn you pizza and tacos). He stayed pretty physically fit and never complained about feeling bad, etc.
When I first got sick and had to change my eating habits, he stuck with whatever he was eating and I made the changes. However, in support of me and to help with the hard time I was having making multiple foods at each meal, being exhausted, etc.; he decided he was ‘all-in’ and was going to eating whatever I ate. He quickly started seeing the results of a gluten-free/grain-free/clean-eating diet – not so sluggish, more energy, less GI disturbances, seasonal allergy relief, etc. Plus, he is now in the best shape of his life…. seriously. This year we even decided to limit our ‘treat’ intakes a little more. Having a bakery means there are constantly sweets and treats around. While we do have an occasional indulgence, we wanted to make sure we were making more good choices than bad. Now, we don’t even have those late-night sweet tooth cravings very often. Don’t be confused – we do not feel as though we have no food choices, or we are too restrictive. We have just opened our eyes… and palates to much more – like kale, spaghetti squash, kombucha and some other things we’d never even heard of before!
(my Sunrise Superfood Trail Mix)
The point of this long rant is that to achieve overall wellness, we can’t just skim nutrition facts or read all the articles we find online as truth. Sometimes, we even have to get multiple opinions from docs to try and figure out what will be best for us. We must care enough about ourselves to dive deeper into our own well-being and health. We must figure out what works for us as individuals – not as a catch all group. Each of us have different dietary needs. For example, I eat more fat and calories (in healthy forms) than I EVER have. Yet, I am finally at a ‘normalish’ weight and on a great path to healing. I’ll chalk it up to that weird Paleo diet and all those calories and fats from my coconut oil 😉
Now, this is not in any way a plug for my protein bites, trail mixes or whatever (although we think they are VERY good). Nor is it a promo to encourage you to follow a Paleo diet. I just want to get you thinking about what your body needs, what your goals are, what your nutrition plan should include. After all, we have to be the change for ourselves… we have to be control of our own bodies.
So here’s a few resources that I trust and find very useful for you to check out related to the misconception of fat intake 🙂
- Dr. Mark Hyman – How to Determine the Healthiest Fats to Cook With (Dr. Hyman is the Medical Director at the Cleveland Clinic for Functional Medicine)
- Mark Sisson (the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple and The Primal Blueprint) – How Should You Balance Your Fat Intake?
- KU Integrative Medicine Blog – these are resources directly from my doctor/nutrition team at KU. They are always sharing great resources!