Food Talk And Fabulous Finds - Fats

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11-29-2011, 04:44 AM
I just mentioned, in another thread, that the McDougall plan is what I would follow if I didn't calorie count. It is mainly fruits and veggies, and natural starches and proteins, such as potatoes and beans.

Anyway, the only thing I found contentious about this lifestyle was the "no oil/no fat". I always learned certain vitamins were fat soluble.

I am no scientist - but I do know there are many scientists on this forum. I'm hoping you will pipe in.

So, this is a quote from McDougall:

“For healthy, trim people I have always said unprocessed, high-fat foods, like avocados, nuts, seeds and olives, can be a delicious addition to their diet—and may be important for those with high calories needs, such as athletes and active children.”

“Our requirements for essential fats are very small—no more than 0.5 gram daily. Only plants can synthesize essential fats—so eating plant-foods is the obvious source of these necessary nutrients. Because body fats (adipose tissue) store these essential fats efficiently, even if overweight people were placed on an artificially manufactured fat-free diet, they would have little risk of becoming deficient in essential fats over their entire lifetime. Note: a diet made of unprocessed plant foods, like the McDougall diet, naturally contains about 7% of its calories as fat—and about half the total fat found in plant foods is of the essential variety—the kind we need.”

“People struggling to lose excess body weight will want to avoid all high fat foods and especially oils—the fat you eat is the fat you wear.”

What is your take on FAT?? Is the fat we've already gathered enough? Is the fat we eat the fat we wear??

11-29-2011, 08:08 AM
I understand that different plans work for different people and that's great - but I find it very apprehensive when a plan restricts the very foundation foods that humans were really meant to survive off of (nuts, seeds) and to a lesser extent, coconuts and avocados.

As I understand, McDougall wrote this plan around 25-30 years ago when it was a trend to believe that all 'fats', whether it be dripping from a McAngus burger or squeezed from an almond, would widen your behind.

I would caution anyone to read about McDougall's personal history, his anecdotal belief of why fats (and animal products) are dangerous, and how that may affect his presentation of facts before making their decision :)

Lyle McDonald has some good info about high-fat cultures.

11-29-2011, 08:18 AM
Essential fatty acids are those that the body can't make. The two that are agreed upon as being essential are omega-3 and omega-6. Of these, omega-3 seems to be the more important. Salmon, flax seed, and walnuts are good sources for omega-3.

I can't find much information on whether these essential fatty acids are stored, so I question that statement.

I do think that the amount of fat a "typical American" eats is too high. Many weight-loss programs limit fat as a percentage of calories. Some go as low as 10-15%, while others, like the Zone diet, have fat around 30%.

As for "the fat you eat is the fat you wear," that is true to some extent, but the situation is more complex than that--because the body can turn anything into fat. Excess carbs become fat, for example. But the body can't turn excess carbs into essential fatty acids, so it is possible to have a diet in which one is gaining fat, but still not getting enough essential fatty acids.

People who eat too little fat do show symptoms of essential fatty acid deficiency, so again, I question whether or to what extent essential fatty acids are stored.


11-29-2011, 08:30 AM
I think it's possible to err on both sides of the argument - believing that you need fats and therefore should eat lots of them, or believing that fats are the dietary villains and should be avoided at all costs.

I think the best argument for including small to moderate amounts of fat, is palatability. The Ornish plan, for example was thought to be a very heart healthy plan, but compliance with the diet is extremely low, and the main theory as to why, is that the diet is so low in fat that most people find the diet unpalatable.

From all the books I've read (The End of Overeating being perhaps the most memorable on the topic), it seems that fat alone isn't nearly the villain that is the flavor combination of salt/fat/and sugar (or carbs that quickly break down into sugar).

Combining carbohydrates with fat, especially with fat and salt, is a flavor combination that humans (and even lab rats) have difficulty eating in moderation. Yet a big old slab of fat does not have the same draw. As a result, we tend not to overeat fat when it's alone (or even when it's paired with protein, at least not to the degree we do when it's paired with carbs).

The carb/fat combination was noted decades ago - when researchers found that people ate far more when the provided snack was cheese and crackers, than when cheese OR crackers were presented alone (salt was already in the mix, but wasn't considered in that experiment).

Personally, I think that the average meat-eating person doesn't need extra land animal fat in their diet, but we need a balance of fats in our diet (that he newest accepted theory at any rate).

And the fats that are often neglected in the SAD (standard american diet) are the Omega 3's and some of the plant fats (but that doesn't mean that fat should compose the majority of your calorie budget, either).

I love exchange plan dieting, because fat is included, just not much (most allow for 3 to 4 tsps in addition to the fat naturally present in the other foods). When I eat very lean proteins, I allow an extra fat or two, not because I think I need more fat as much as that fat is a flavor booster, and I feel less deprived when I have a little fat to put in my salad dressing or on a bitter vegetable.

11-29-2011, 02:08 PM
As for the Omega 3s vs Omega 6s, many nutritionists believe that before our modern diet, they were more balanced. However, Omega 6s are extremely abundant now in the typical diet and, in excess, increase inflammation, blood clotting and cell increase and growth whereas Omega 3s decrease these functions.

I don't shy away from fat, personally. Olive oil, coconut oil, butter, whole milk, cream, grass fed beef (way higher Omega 3s than corn fed beef), are all okay with me. I will admit that I use lowfat sour cream because I use so much of it :)

I do think fat has been unfairly villainized for years. This is an interesting article from men's health regarding the aturated fat debate:

11-29-2011, 06:55 PM
^What a great article, Jelma. Thanks for that.

I've been reading a lot about fats and the role they should take in my diet. I've been speaking to a few hardcore Paleo lifestyle people who swear by eating fat (even some saturated), and protein to lose weight.

They believe that before agricultural days, the cavemen lived on fat (animal blubber), and nuts, and seeds. I know a few people who swear by losing fat by eating fat, and grass fed animal fat.

The way I look at it is I eat a handful of nuts a day (almonds/walnuts), plus I've added the odd avocado into my salads. Avocado has other benefits, even though it is high in fat.

11-29-2011, 08:43 PM
As I understand, McDougall wrote this plan around 25-30 years ago when it was a trend to believe that all 'fats', whether it be dripping from a McAngus burger or squeezed from an almond, would widen your behind.

That's what I was thinking when I read the OP, sound right out of the dark ages of the '70s, when people first started to get fat in large numbers.

I love Gary Taubes ( on this subject.

'Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, may be the most visible proponent of testing this heretic hypothesis. Willett is the de facto spokesman of the longest-running, most comprehensive diet and health studies ever performed, which have already cost upward of $100 million and include data on nearly 300,000 individuals. Those data, says Willett, clearly contradict the low-fat-is-good-health message ''and the idea that all fat is bad for you; the exclusive focus on adverse effects of fat may have contributed to the obesity epidemic.'''

11-30-2011, 07:12 AM
Thanks for all the interesting contributions.

And I had no idea he wrote the plan 30 years ago!