We love fat. Our society is slowly overcoming fat-phobia, and it’s wonderful. Fat builds every cell in your body, maintains your brain, gives you energy, helps you think clearly, deal with stress, and makes sex hormones. Fat is creamy, delicious, and loaded with nutritional potential. Fat keeps you fuller longer and makes it easier to eat less carbohydrate-filled processed foods that cause inflammation and weight gain.
But what happens if we eat too much fat- and too little of everything else?
Like all things health-related, it’s time to get out our common sense goggles and explore a balanced approach. The term “a balanced diet” refers to getting nutrition from several different sources in order to achieve macro and micronutrient sufficiency. In other words, diversity is the best way to achieve a balanced diet.
All specialized diets can get a little too specialized and cause micronutrient deficiencies. A high fat, low carbohydrate diet is no exception. In our book The Micronutrient Miracle, we summarized the nutritional pitfalls of several specialized diets, including high fat diets:
- A low carbohydrate diet (there are several types) can be deficient in vitamins B2 and B6, folate, magnesium, potassium, and iron.
In addition to potentially causing micronutrient deficiencies, if not done correctly a high fat, low carbohydrate diet can cause digestive problems, increase inflammation, increase your toxic exposure and even cause weight gain. However, this does not mean we aren’t huge proponents of these high fat, low carb diets.
The good news is that you can make quick fixes right now to get more gain and less pain from a high fat diet. So don’t worry! Specialized diets can be successful when you have the right information to balance them.
Finding Fixes for High-Fat Diet Challenges
- Fats are hard to digest.
Your typical long-chain fat goes on a long digestive journey- broken down by lipases in the stomach and small intestine, emulsified by bile, packaged and circulated into carriers, sent through lymph vessels, then brought to the liver to be utilized. What a ride! Two key parts of that journey involve stomach acid and bile, both of which must be functioning well to support a higher fat diet.
- Stomach acid starts protein digestion in your stomach. Without robust stomach acid, you may not chemically cut up protein that healthy fats are contained in (like grass-fed meat or wild-caught salmon). When this happens, food sits in the stomach undigested longer, causing heartburn and a feeling of persistent fullness. Stomach acid also helps you digest and absorb B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and iron– all nutrients listed above as deficiency risks. In healthy rats, a high fat diet actually boosts stomach acid production, indicating that you need more- not less- on a high fat diet. To boost your stomach acid production, relax (with a capital R) and focus on your food. Smell it, taste it, look at it, and talk to your friends about it. Chew until you can swallow your food without drinking a liquid. Very importantly, eat your protein first to boost acid production throughout your meal. Fermented beverages and salty foods also help increase stomach acid production. Supplemental stomach acid support (Betaine HCl) may be necessary for some to really bust up their proteins.
- Bile is critical for all fat digestion and absorption. You make bile in your liver and store extra in your gallbladder for high fat meals and to help you bind toxins to release in your stool. When you don’t have a gallbladder or you don’t make enough bile, fats don’t get fully absorbed and fat-soluble vitamins, like A, D, E, and K, are hard to absorb. On the other end, your body uses bile to excrete toxins (more on that later). If you are constantly challenging your bile to flow due to eating a high fat diet, you may need to support your bile production nutritionally or use a fat like our SKINNYFat kitchen oils, which do not require a lot of bile for digestion.
- Some people drink water with lemon in the morning to boost bile flow; other foods that promote bile flow are called cholagogues and include omega-3 fatty acids (both from animal and plant sources), all bitter foods, beets, cabbage, celery, garlic, horseradish, watercress, daikon radish, organic green apples, dill weed, caraway seed, ginger, artichoke, turmeric, dandelion root, and yarrow.
- We considered the importance of bile when we made our proprietary SKINNYFat kitchen oils, which are a blend of medium chain triglycerides that bypass the normal fat digestion process (do not require bile) and just enough long-chain triglycerides to stimulate your bile flow. We wanted to be sure you are absorbing critical nutrients like your fat-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble antioxidants like beta-carotene and lycopene.
- Fats can put the fire out, but only when in balance.
Your fat intake can cause inflammation or reduce it…your choice. There are two ways that fat intake can cause inflammation: by not being in good fatty acid balance, and by acting as a delivery vehicle for toxins that cause free radical damage and subsequently inflammation (more on that later). Being in good fatty acid balance means having a lot of cleanly sourced saturated and monounsaturated fats keeping a 1:1 ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats to reduce inflammation, and eliminating trans fats. Check out our lengthy post here showing how much omega-3 you would have to supplement or eat as fatty fish to balance out the high omega-6 content of most so called “healthy” high fat foods like nuts and seeds! Not only is inflammation linked to many chronic diseases such as many autoimmune conditions, osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, but the process of inflammation sucks up a lot of nutrients. As we discuss in Micronutrient Miracle, inflammatory conditions are associated with major micronutrient loss, including: vitamins (riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), B5, B6, biotin (B7), C, D, and E), minerals (magnesium, manganese, zinc), and antioxidants (omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-lipoic acid). Drive down inflammation by using our low omega-6 SKINNYFat oils, and boost your omega-3’s with Origin Omega
- Meet your Micronutrient Needs
Not only can your fats get out of balance, which can cause inflammation and rob you of micronutrients, having your macronutrients out of balance may rob you of opportunities to get enough micronutrients in the first place.
- Quality Control. As we note in Micronutrient Miracle, the USDA National Nutrient Database notes that pasture-raised eggs have double the omega-3 fatty acids and 4-6 times more vitamin D, ⅔ more vitamin A, 3 times more vitamin E, and 7 times more beta-carotene than traditional eggs. Other studies show higher levels of folate and B12 in pasture-raised eggs. Breathe deeply, then read this: wild-caught salmon can have up to 380 percent more omega-3 than factory-farmed fish! In the same way, grass-fed meat and milk has better omega-3:6 balance than its commercial counterpart. Moreover, cows are ruminants, and their good gut bacteria are B vitamin factories: feed them the right fiber and enjoy more nutritionally dense meat. Thus, improving the quality of your protein/fat sources can improve your micronutrient status.
- Quantity Control. While fat is great because it keeps us fuller longer and curbs appetite, not eating enough and cutting out almost all carbohydrates can sabotage your micronutrient intake. Any diet that cuts out a major macronutrient group, whether carbohydrates, fats, or proteins can cause deficiencies. For instance, a study of the Atkins diet (high fat, low carb) by researchers at the Children’s Nutrition Research Centre of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Australia found it to be significantly deficient in riboflavin (vitamin B2), folate (vitamin B9), calcium, magnesium, and iron. On the other hand, a diet with less grains, beans, nuts, and seeds has less anti-nutrients (such as lectins, phytates, and oxalates). So you can definitely be healthy on a high fat diet if you give it some consideration. For example, when researchers reviewed high fat diets they found that when the high fat diet was sufficient in vitamin D3, phosphorus, and calcium the diet was shown to boost bone strength, whereas when the same high fat diet was deficient in these micronutrients it was shown to cause bone loss! So keep your high fat diet,but make sure you use smart supplementation like our patented multivitamin nutreince to fill in the suspected micronutrient gaps.
- Fat Can Store Obesogens and Other Toxins.
We live in a chemical soup that compromises our health, and many healthcare professionals are doing their best to sound the appropriate alarm. For instance, the diabetes, obesity, and autism challenges we face are often blamed on environmental toxin use due to the incredible correlation with their rise in use and the rise in these conditions. Fat is a storage depot for fat-soluble toxins, which most environmental toxins are, such as: pesticides, plastics (BPA, phthalates), fragrances, parabens, PCBs, other persistent organic pollutants, and more. This is why it is so important to eat quality organic foods and get rid of toxic products at home. Additionally, many of these toxins, like BPA, are called obesogens: compounds that can make actually you fat. These compounds need a lot of work to process and eliminate; current theory is that when we cannot safely eliminate them, we instead store them in our own fatty tissue. As we explain in Micronutrient Miracle, we cannot safely eliminate these toxins when we don’t have enough micronutrient support for the liver and kidneys to do so! In fact, your liver’s detoxification processes requires antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids, meaning that micronutrient insufficiency can keep toxins stored in your fat. For many, toxin-laden fat is that fat that refuses to budge no matter what you do. If this sounds like you, your next step is (as mentioned above) to choose high quality fats (like our SKINNYFat kitchen oils and Origin Omega options) and proteins (like wild-caught fish or tested-for-purity IN.POWER protein powder) while choosing micronutrient-rich, organic proteins and vegetables and supplementing around potential gaps.
- Friendly Flora Can Help Your High Fat Diet
You may have heard a lot about how your friendly flora – your good gut bacteria- can make or break your weight management efforts. There are so many benefits to probiotics that we have taken the time to write about them elsewhere– so let’s focus for a moment on weight management. There are two major concerns here: malabsorption of fat and fat-soluble nutrients in the small intestine and poor production of micronutrients in the large intestine (such as short chain fatty acids like butyrate or B-vitamins). A recent rodent study in Cell, for instance, showed that the small intestine bacteria help regulate fat digestion and absorption by their host. Fed a higher fat diet, bacteria strains in the small intestine shifted around to strains that more readily supported absorption of fats on a high fat diet. Poor absorption of fat may lead to malnutrition and stagnant weight loss. On the other hand, a lack of fat-soluble nutrients may hinder detoxification, leave a person deficient in vitamin D, and subsequently promote weight gain. Making sure you have enough of your friendly flora will improve both your absorption of fat-soluble micronutrients, and your body’s ability to produce essential vitamins. You have many options in the wide world of probiotics, but consider food first so you bring in all those amazing micronutrients found in fermented foods!
Fear Not Fat
In closing, here are a few healthy food options that boost your micronutrient intake, encourage you to eat micronutrient-rich foods that fit with a high-fat diet, and keep you firmly in the realm of deliciousness.
- Snack: Creamy Organic Cucumber Coins
- Slice ½ organic cucumber into ½ inch rounds.
- Divide 1 oz. of organic grass-fed goat cheese between the rounds.
- Top each round with an organic black olive.
- If desired, sprinkle with organic black pepper or paprika.
- Meal: Salmon and Romaine/Beet “Boats”
- Roast (or steam) 2 large organic beets. Let cool the same day or refrigerate and make later.
- Bake wild-caught salmon steaks in the oven while you finish preparing the vegetables:
- Grate the beets and fill 6-8 organic romaine leaves
- Top the grated beets with a drizzle of SKINNYFat Olive and sprinkle with herbes de provence.
- Dessert: Micronutrient Packed Triple Threat Cheesecake
- This one is so good it has its own webpage!
- The recipe makes 4 micronutrient packed cheesecakes that you can use as meal replacements or, that double as delicious desserts! Indulge in a micronutrient boost that you won’t believe tastes this good!
The secret to success with any diet plan is to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. To make the most of your high fat diet, focus on high quality, cleanly sourced, micronutrient-rich foods, non-toxic personal care items, and smart supplementation. This will allow you to breathe easier knowing that you are getting what you need for a happy, healthy, long life!