This past weekend I had the joy and pleasure to spend an evening at a marriage of two of my good friends, Doug and Katie. Through the course of the meal one of my friends asked me if I was going to blog about the food there. Going into the wedding I didn’t have any intent to blog about it, but since he asked I figured it would be a good segway to talk about a point that I’ve wanted to blog about anyways. He also reminded me of my famous instruction on how to properly butter your bread.
Whenever I am around a catered meal such as a work-luncheon, parties, or weddings I’ve started to really focus on where the fat in the meal is coming from. Lets take for example a lunch that was catered by a local restaurant at my work. They provided salad, steamed vegetables, chicken, rice, mashed potatoes, and bread rolls. So it starts out seemingly well rounded, we have some greens and veggies, a meat based protein, but then there are 3 types of carbohydrates! And there is seemingly no fats other than some maybe used in the cooking process, butter condiments for rice and rolls, and gravy. So this is basically the ratio of food you expect to see in the Standard American Diet. It has been concerning to me that fat has been reduced to a mere condiment – some butter for your bread, olive oil on a salad, cream cheese on a bagel, or mayo on a sandwich. And even more concerning is that these are often replaced with “low fat”, vegetable fat, or other fake fat alternative.
“So what, Andrew? Fat IS at the top of the Food Pyramid for a reason and should only be a small condiment! Have you finally lost your mind?” Maybe, but given that I have been eating about 1 tablespoon of butter nearly every day, copious amounts of olives and avocados, and even bacon while losing 50 lbs would raise the question as to why this is possible. There is in fact quite a bit of research showing both the physical and the lifestyle benefits of eating more healthy fats. I am not claiming to be an expert, but if you are interested in learning more, here are a short list of the benefits of a higher fat diet and references:
1. Fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar does.
2. Fat helps maintain the good microbes in your body. – David Perlmutter of the books Grain Brain and Brain Maker
3. Fat keeps you satiated longer to reduce hunger cravings. https://www.bulletproofexec.com/engineering-the-ultimate-morning/
4. Fat is essential for healthy brain function. http://www.drperlmutter.com/dietary-fat-brain/
My second point I feel I need to make is that we need to redefine our definition of healthy fats to transition away from Polyunsaturated Fats (canola, soybean, vegetable oils) back to the Saturated (animal, butter, cheese, and coconut) and Monounstaturated fats (nuts, avocados, olives). If you watch the short video in #4 you will see David’s recommendation for more saturated fats. In general saturated fats are more stable, less prone to oxidation especially when heated, which will lead to less free radicals in your body. But if you keep digging on the websites I have linked above you will certainly find more evidence for saturated fats in your diet. Or look here.
It wasn’t a hard transition for me to start putting butter in my coffee in the morning or eat whole avocados for lunch. I know my mother fed me delicious full-fat food for my whole life. We would cook our eggs in bacon grease, and all of our starches we used as a vessel to carry extra butter or cheese down our gullet. We never settled for any low fat or vegetable alternatives to butter or milk products. My mother even uses the age-old method of leaving a stick of butter out on a covered dish on the counter to keep it soft and spreadable, rather than purchase “spreadable” alternatives with additives. And you may think that it may go bad on the counter, but due to its fat density and lack of water content it is relatively inhospitable to microorganisms growing in it, so keeping it covered is all it needs. In fact, if you look at its clarified relative called Ghee, it is quite solid and stable at room temperature. You can even pack it for a hike and not worry about it melting on you. Recently I did get stopped at TSA with a jar of coconut oil. The guy took it out of my bag and said it was over the limit for a liquid. I said no its a solid at room temperature, and he argued it was a gel.
I’ll always remember getting ready to go to high school one morning when my brother Brenton told my mom “Mom can I have an egg for breakfast every day? Whenever I have cereal I get hungry again before lunch” I thought that was super cool, first of all, that Brenton was so aware of his body that he noticed the connection between what he ate in the morning and how he is feeling through the day. I’m usually too dull to think about what I ate for breakfast when I am searching for a mid-morning snack. The second connection is what I am talking about here, that the egg was keeping him satiated and focused through the morning. So not only do the fats have the health benefits I have mentioned above, they give you more freedom to move through your day without constantly looking for that next blood sugar spike for energy. You may even find your mood is more stable without the hunger pains always knocking.
Literally in-between writing this post I visited my tailor to get alterations done to my suits to make them fit me again now that I have lost all this weight. She is a pleasant Italian woman and she asked me if I did anything special to lose the weight.
I said “Yeah, a lot of stuff including eating more raw vegetables and cutting out most carbs.”
She asked “You mean carbs like pasta?”
I said “Yeah I still eat some carbs like white rice, sweet potatoes, and very little bread or pasta.”
She goes “Well its not the pasta that is bad, its the stuff you put on it.”
I ask “What do you mean?”
She says “You know… like Alfredo sauce.”
And there it connected with me the perception and the paradigm that has really taken a hold of most people in America. Now I know this woman makes her own homemade Alfredo sauce which is rich with butter, heavy cream, and Parmesan cheese. That is an amazing food! If I could somehow convince her to substitute out the pasta and drizzle that amazing Alfredo over some steamed broccoli it would be the best improvement she could ever make to her diet. But, me not being clever enough to come up with all that at the time, I simply said:
“Yeah but Alfredo sauce is so good!”
So while I may have failed that opportunity to convert her over to being a fat eater, I am hopeful that small nudges will keep people moving in the right direction. I would never want to condemn a food from a person, but my strategy is to clutter up my fridge with so much good food there isn’t any room left for other indulgences. When it is time for a celebration is the time I like to loosen up on my diet.
Thanks for reading! What butter-based food are you excited to start eating again?