The Healing Benefits of a No-Overt Fat Diet

Tuesday Aug 29 | BY |
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Anemia

Ever since my first book “The Raw Secrets,” I have often revisited the “fat controversy.” The central issue of the debate is whether or not we should eat a low-fat diet, or can liberally use high-fat foods with benefits.

This heated but complicated controversy has led to many misconceptions, that I would like to clear out first, before moving on to the more useful concept of a “No Overt-Fat Diet” and its potential benefits.

I received recently a comment that well illustrates how emotional this topic can get. In one delirious bout of anger, a reader wrote me the following.

HAAAAAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA….OMG… You are not going to live any longer than a regular human being or look younger with those diet suggestions… (…) As for Mediterranean diet in the mentioned study, it was LAUGHABLE, you know why? Margarine is poison, for a fact. And it was suggested to use MARGARINE instead of butter….Uhahahah…..What kind of an idiot could suggest to even consume margarine in a first place? And who called it a study to prove which claim????

My reader colorfully expressed their doubt about the science I used to back up my point that Mediterranean diets are not necessarily the best example to follow.

Many scientific studies have been done to try to examine the role of fat in the human diet, and not one study can claim to have all the answers. Every author will try to use specific studies to back up their theories, but what matters is the bulk of the research into what direction it points.

All the studies that replaced butter with some vegetable oil showed that this slowed down the progress of heart disease or their critical health markers (like cholesterol levels). We should not interpret this finding as, “vegetable oils are healthy,” but rather that butter is so bad for health, that replacing it with oils does make a positive difference.

I have given just one example among many, in which people misinterpret the nutritional questions surrounding fat in the human diet.

But what I’d like to talk about today is much more interesting and will be useful to many of you. However, my introduction can serve as a disclaimer and warning to all those people who, inevitably, will misinterpret what I’m trying to say.

  1. I do not claim that this diet is the ideal diet for all humans living on earth, and that in no circumstances can high-fat foods be beneficial.
  2. A diet without overt fats will contain around 4-5% essential fatty acids, which are found naturally in all fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains. This level of fat is very low, indeed, but for many people, the benefits will outweigh any potential “fatty acid deficiencies” that one might fear. Some individuals may still require more fat in their diet for optimal health.
  3. This diet should not be confused with the “low-fat diet” that Americans supposedly (but not actually) embraced in the 80s. We should not replace fat with sugar or refined products.
  4. I do not claim that I abstain from fatty foods year-round. However, I have found tremendous benefits in this way of eating some of the time.

Let’s move on!

The No Overt-Fat Diet

The No Overt-Fat Diet is a plant-based diet composed of whole foods (such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans) without any high-fat foods, such as oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds.

So no coconut oil, no olive oil, no almonds, no macadamia nuts, and nothing that contains a drop of oil.

This “diet” is not an absolute and can be followed in part, mostly, completely, to the best of one’s ability, a few days a week, a few weeks or months at a time, or whatever fits your objectives.

Dr. Douglas Graham probably coined the term “overt fat,” to emphasize the fact that all whole plant foods naturally contain a small percentage of fatty acids.

For any doubters, here is the amount of fat found in certain items, without any added oil.

  • Spinach, 100 grams, 0,4 grams of fat, Omega 3: 138 mg. Omega 6: 26 mg.
  • Oats, 100 grams, 6.5 grams of fat, Omega 3: 100 mg. Omega 6: 2200 mg.
  • Banana, 100 grams, 0.3 grams of fat, 27 mg. Omega 3. Omega 6: 46 mg.
  • Black beans, 1 cup boiled, 0.9 grams of fat, Omega 3: 181 mg. Omega 6: 217 mg.

A hypothetical diet of 2000 calories, composed of:

300 grams of spinach (69 calories), 2 cups of brown rice (432 calories), 1 cup of black beans (227 calories), 2 large baked potatoes (556 calories) and about 800 grams of banana (715 calories) would yield:

  • 8.24 grams of fat
  • Omega 3: 920 mg.
  • Omega 6: 2088mg.

There are no set minimum requirements for Omega 3 fats, but suggestions are a minimum intake of between 200 and 500 mg. per day.

While the hypothetic diet I designed contains only 3.7% of fat by total calories, most people would likely get a total of closer to 4-5% if they incorporate a variety of plant foods from different sources. The total will be around 8-10% if you include a few overt fats.

Benefits

Like I said at the beginning, this is not necessarily the right diet for everyone. But what I’d like to emphasize today are the healing advantages of a No-Overt Fat Diet.

If you’ve tried everything and you have failed to improve your health, this may be something that can help you.

I recently received a message on Facebook that prompted me to write this article.

?????? ??????? Hi, I came across your article: http://www.fredericpatenaude.com/articles/candida.html About 5 days ago, I was just going through a desperate day of not making any progress health-wise and I was thinking about how I’ll have to be on a medium-high fat, low carb diet for the rest of my life. Like 99% of the candida diets propose.
However, I have Crohn’s disease and I know that Crohn’s disease is also caused by candida, even if it’s not officially recognized as the cause. I KNOW IT. So 5 years ago when I had my first flare before my remission (I was 14 years old) I remember just leaving the hospital without any meds, and ate only white bread, white rice, chicken, steamed vegetables and the occasional banana. My inflammation was literally gone within a week or two, just like what is happening now!
So..I was on no fat, but certainly took in a huge amount of carbohydrates daily. This reminded me to type in “candida fat connection” in google, instead of “candida carbohydrate connection”, and I came across your article. I can’t thank you enough for the explanation and for the missing piece to the puzzle I’ve been building over the years. Before my current flare (this is my second flare during the 5 years I’ve had “crohn’s disease”, which is basically a by-product of candida in overgrowth) I had been gaining weight. Bulking, on purpose. So I maintained a high level of fat for 2 months and a half. Possibly 220-230g of fat daily, half olive oil, half peanut butter. Lol. I had been in pain for 2 months before having a trip to the ER due to concerns of intestinal obstruction, 5 days later I’m on a 3000 calorie bulking meal plan consisting of rice, chicken breast, broccoli, trout, and the occasional banana. I’ll be adding all of my foods back in my diet (along with some kind of nut paste, maybe hazelnut since peanut is pro-inflammatory) and will hold on to this knowledge forever!
 I absolutely thank you for the spontaneous knowledge and value I’ve attained from you! If any of your friends or clients have Crohn’s, tell them to stay away from fats, as it’s basically Candida. I forgot to say, I am feeling absolutely fine! It’s amazing how quickly you can turn it around.

Acne

Completely avoiding overt fats can dramatically improve some cases of acne.

Nina and Randa Nelson are the daughters of Jeff Nelson, owner and founder of Veg Source. They also happen to be two vegan “teen celebrities” on YouTube, who have followed a vegan diet from birth. Terrible acne led them to experiment with a No-Overt Fat Diet, following the advice of Dr. McDougall. The results were astounding and are reported in this video:

Heart Disease

Nothing works faster for improving symptoms of heart disease than following Dr. Esselystn’s advice, which is essentially a No-Overt Fat vegan diet (whole foods only). For more information, please see his outstanding book “How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.”

Inflammation

There is research to point to the idea that saturated fats increase inflammation in the body. The same goes for Omega 6 fats. But most fatty foods rich in Omega 3, the so-called “healthy fats,” also contain a fair amount of Omega 6 and 3. This may be a reason why this diet works so well for lowering symptoms of inflammation in the body.  (see this and this)

Type 2 Diabetes

Following the release of the movie “What the Health,” on Netflix, many misinformed vegan doubters have criticized the film and misunderstood the part about the relationship between type 2 Diabetes and fat.

If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recall the part where Dr. Neal Barnard claims that “fat is the cause of type 2 diabetes, not sugar.”

This part needs explanation.

Dr. Barnard states that “Diabetes is not caused by eating a high carbohydrate diet, and it’s not caused by eating sugar. The cause of diabetes is a diet that builds up the amount of fat in the blood. I’m talking about a typical meat-based, animal-based diet. You can look into the muscle cells of the human body, and you find that they’re building tiny particles of fat that are causing insulin resistance. What that means is that the sugar that is naturally from the foods that you’re eating can’t get into the cells where it belongs. It builds up in the blood, and that’s diabetes.”

What he’s referring to is:

– The fact that high-fat diets lower insulin sensitivity and that low-fat diets do the opposite
– The fact that intracellular fat is the real cause of insulin resistance (being overweight as the most visible manifestation), not a high-sugar diet.

All of this is well documented in his book. See also “Fat is the Caused of Type 2 Diabetes.”

It naturally follows that a No-Overt Fat Diet can improve or even reverse Type-2 diabetes.

Weight Loss

The advantage of eliminating overt fats, for weight loss, comes from the low caloric density of foods consumed. Contrary to the lies promoted by the Paleo and low-carb movement, medical ward studies showed that low-fat diets have a metabolic advantage when it comes to weight loss.

Fat is the most concentrated source of calories, and its over-consumption can naturally lead to more weight gain, especially when much of the fat in the diet is hidden.

Who Uses a No-Overt Fat Diet?

Several dietary programs use a variant of the No-Overt Fat Diet.

Dr. Esselstyn’s diet for preventing and reversing heart disease does not includes and nuts, seeds, avocado, oil or coconut products. He allows ground flax and some walnuts for patients without heart disease, but those with advanced heart disease are advised to go without all overt fats.

– Dr. McDougall allows some overt fats in his diet, but a variant of his program is the McDougall Diet for Optimal Weight Loss. In this version, no overt fats are allowed. Otherwise, he endorses this approach.

Dr. Doug Graham, who to my knowledge coined the term “overt fat,” does not specifically recommend avoiding fatty year round, but has spoken about the benefits of following such a program from time to time.

Populations Who Live Close to This Ideal

The Okinawans have topped the list of certified longevity records, such as the informal survey reported in the book The Blue Zones, by Dan Buettner, who worked for National Geographic. It’s interesting to note that their diet was composed of mostly sweet potatoes (the blue-flesh kind), and contained less than 6% fat, which makes it essentially a No-Overt Fat Diet. (see this)

As an added bit of evidence that low-fat diet can be perfectly healthy, here are some more traditional cultures who have lived on something close to a No-Overt Fat Diet.

– The diet of the Bantus in Africa was reported to contain only 10% fat. Their incidence of heart disease was close to zero.

– Many natives of New Guinea, also without coronary heart disease and hypertension, ate traditional food with no more than 10% fat. (see this).

– The Hawaiian diet, before explorer James Cook brought these islands in contact with the rest of the world in 1776, was composed of under 15% fat A study recently put a group of obese Hawaiians back on their traditional diets, and participants saw notable health benefits.

– An Amazonian population in Bolivia, with the “healthiest arteries” ever found, ate a diet composed of 14% fat.

Walter Kempner

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One therapeutic example of a diet as low in fat as one can imagine is the Rice Diet, designed by German refugee Walter Kempner in the 1940’s, as a radical treatment for malignant hypertension, before the advent of drugs.

Not only did the Rice Diet cure most cases of severe hypertension, but it also worked to relieve headaches, fatigue, and heart disease. It also cured several cases of Type 2 diabetes.

The typical composition of the rice diet contained 565 grams of carbohydrates, from fruit, white rice, and white sugar. It contained only 25 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat. So the Rice Diet contained less than 2% of calories from fat!

The presence of sugar can baffle modern dieters, but it was added to increase the calories without adding any vegetables or other foods which might contain sodium. On average, patients consumed 400 calories a day from white sugar. They added a few vitamin supplements. The sodium content was only 150 mg/day.

As a therapy, not a diet choice, this diet was incredibly successful! (McDougall tells the full story here. Given its success, this documented part of medical history shows that our obsession on nutritional deficiencies (protein, sodium, calcium, and fat) must be misguided.

Conclusions

Most people can benefit from eating some nuts, seeds, and avocado in their diet. But it’s worth mentioning that the “No-Overt Fat” diet can be particularly useful in many cases where nothing else has helped or disappointed in its results.

One word of warning though: I heard from several experts that it takes around 90 days to “neuro adapt” to a low-fat diet. That means that during those transition months, you might not feel as satisfied as usual after a meal and may crave fat or feel that “something is missing.” Those feelings will disappear over time.

Some experts have warned against the possibility of an omega 3 deficiency. It’s worth reiterating that eating whole foods will provide around 5% of fatty acids, and that green vegetables are particularly rich, by calories, in omega 3s. If one follows a No-Overt Fat diet for more than three months, it might be wise to do a blood test at the end to see how your profile looks, and supplement accordingly. You can then decide to add ground flax, walnuts or vegan omega 3 supplements, in this order of testing.

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Carol says:

    Wow… I have been following many different “healthy news” and “healthy habits” sites for many years. All I can say is I will unfollow you. I believe in raw foods, but I also believe in healthy fats! AND I eat a huge amount of them and am told every year at the Dr.s office I am too healthy! No way for them to help me, but they want me on Statin drugs because my cholesterol runs over 200. Well I know the truth about statins, and cholesterol so you can all forget that… CRP is .3. Large subject for sure. But anyone today that even thinks cholesterol in anyway has anything to do with heart disease, is not someone I want to read. The information you are choosing to represent sounds more like big pharma than a “raw foody”. While I do not restrict fat in my diet (except “unhealthy” fats like margarine and shortening, triglycerides, etc.) I do eat fats in whole foods and find it is ideal for me and for my father that has type 2 diabetes. We lowered his A1c to a 5 by following a basic ketogenic diet (which is the perfect diet for everyone, along with proper exercise in my mind) after he received a head injury from a soft fall. Also, he lost weight, regained almost all of abilities back and is now not considered a diabetic, (but he absolutely is, you don’t ever cure a 80 something year old diabetic of 30 years or more, you just learn how to manage it) which baffled his doctors. Keeping away from carbs was essential for this healing to take place, noting that raw, whole foods were essential in my mind for this healing to take place. You forget in your article about all the longevity studies to include physical activity. Most of the groups you use in your “this is what they eat and they live longer than anyone else” comments are very physically active. Some with only their feet to get them places so they walk, run, or work in a very physically demanding way. I am also a supporter of physical activity for health. If you are a couch potato it does not really matter how healthy you eat, you will not live as long as someone that works physically hard enough to maintain a sweat and increased heart rate several times, at least 3 in my mind, a week. So when people push one side of health without ever mentioning the other side, I have a hard time to continue to read. AND if I have to read a whole book to hear your whole theory, I don’t have time for that either. If you cannot put it all in quickly, I won’t read it. I hope this helps you understand why so many just don’t go along with your theories. Wishing you well, and maybe I am just missing too much of your message… sorry, not going to read the book, so put it all out there where I can see the outline before I condemn your theory.

  2. Amy Rorris says:

    I have more energy w a lower fat diet. I see improvements in hair and body looks w a higher fat diet. I eat more greens when I use fat which is my biggest goal. I almost never combine fruit and fat. I agree there is a connection w fat candida and diabetes. I think it’s a balancing act w our own physiology. Our bodies need time to clean and clear. Maybe we need periods of time w out fats. For example maybe several days out of the week. This would depend on the person. Too much fat or protein is rich and our bodies need cleaned often to allow organs renewal. I see benefits of good overt fats but can’t help feeling too heavy and that cleansing w just fruits and micro greens is the answer! Thank you for all you do!

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