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We live in a fat-phobic society that fears eating dietary fat will automatically lead to weight gain. But fat is essential—the body needs fat for energy and to make hormones, repair cells, act as a source of necessary nutrients, and more.
How Much Fat Should You Eat?
While it’s natural to worry about getting too much fat, there are actually bigger health risks if you don’t get enough. That’s right, too little of the right kinds of fat can have negative health consequences, including:
- Changes to reproductive health, hormones, and fertility
- Poor cognitive health and brain function
- Higher inflammation levels (which can influence heart health, immune health, and more)
- Weight gain
- Hunger and overeating due to consumption of foods that are not as filling
- Insulin resistance and blood sugar imbalances
While the answer to how much fat should be eaten every day varies per person, a healthy ancestral diet will include significantly more fat than US dietary guidelines suggest. They recommend low-fat dairy products and avoidance of saturated fat. An ancestral diet, though, will on average provide a much higher percentage of the day’s energy from healthy fat sources.
Ultimately it’s not about how much fat you need to specifically eat, but rather, choosing high-quality fat sources.
Benefits of High-Fat Diets
Higher fat diets have several benefits for health. They can support normal hormone production and balance, whether you’re an athlete aiming for top performance or a woman wanting to have a healthy pregnancy. The right kinds of fats are also protective of cells.
While it might seem counterintuitive, higher fat diets can also promote a healthy body weight and a leaner physique. If you’re trying to work toward optimal health, including a healthy weight, adding more ancestral fats to your diet will support, not sabotage, your goal.
Good fats also support healthy cholesterol balance in the body. While cholesterol in and of itself doesn’t cause heart disease, oxidized LDL cholesterol can contribute to plaque in the arteries. Rancid and processed fats that come from vegetable oils can worsen oxidized LDL cholesterol levels. Eating good quality fat from pastured sources can help to provide a better omega-3 to omega-6 ratio in the body, leading to lower inflammation levels. (See related post: What Healthy Fats Should You Eat?)
Fat contains more calories than carbohydrates or protein, so it can fill you up faster. While you shouldn’t be counting calories on an ancestral diet, you will help your body to equalize its appetite by regularly providing it with nourishing foods that fill it up. When you eat a low-fat, high-carb meal, you’re often hungry again in a short period of time because it does not provide optimal energy for the body. A higher fat intake gives the body a more consistent and sustainable source of energy.
Today’s Simple Step
Tracking your fat intake isn’t about restricting—it’s about understanding how much you take in on an average day. From there, you can determine whether you would like to eat more or less. It’s easier to make changes to your diet if you know the place where you’re starting. Using a food journal or food tracking app (like Cronometer) can help you visualize or track your general nutrition.
This Smoked Salmon Chowder provides 45 grams of healthy fat. It’s the perfect way to increase your fat intake, but you can also make simple swaps, like cooking with tallow, lard, chicken fat, or duck fat instead of other “light” cooking oils. Bonus: these fats will take the flavor level of any dish to the next level.