Many people find it hard to make changes, but when you get connected to what you are making changes for and why those changes are going to help you, it’s actually not so hard. Keep that in mind when I tell you why I want you to experiment with eating fat first, and carbs last.
But first, let me share a little about how my parents fed me as a young girl. Thankfully, I grew up with fat as the most abundant food in every meal I ate. My parents fed me the full – fat version of everything – yogurt, milk, meat… They were ahead of their time in understanding that fat’s not the enemy but our friend. In fact, not only did they believe in the virtues of fat but they also saw through the low-fat era for what it was – over-processed junk food disguised as health food. They raised me to trust in nature’s design – that if a food contained fat, there was likely an important reason. So we ate fat, a lot of it! My parents didn’t necessarily need me to have all the facts about why fat was important, they just wanted me to acknowledge it had value.
As I got older, my dad’s scientific mind rubbed off on me as I developed an intense curiosity about the connection between food, health, and beauty. I sought answers about why fat is necessary. I had noticed the positive role it played in some of my health issues and the way it made my skin feel and look as I entered my 40’s.
And even though for years dietary fat was positioned in our society as the biggest enemy to our health, I knew in my gut that the science would be astounding and prove otherwise. For starters, I learned that the fat in your food is not the same fat on your hips – it will not make you fat. Nor will it clog your arteries, and for that matter, it won’t raise your cholesterol either. It’s quite the opposite actually. The truth is, healthy fat in the right amount for your individual needs is absolutely essential to your health.
Fat is your body’s preferred fuel.
It’s satiating, making it protective against cravings for unhealthy foods. It helps your body utilize critical vitamins and nutrients that make your body run. And most excitingly, fat is the least likely macronutrient to suppress the life-extending, age-inhibiting, longevity-promoting process of autophagy. Without your body’s access to autophagy, you will age quickly, and earlier than you want. Autophagy is what brilliant beauty from the inside out depends on.
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as tea seed oil and MCT oil from coconuts promote autophagy. These natural and unprocessed fats are found in seeds, nuts, butter, olives, avocado, salmon, and coconut products.
In a relevant article discussing another principle called IFPC which also activates autophagy, I discuss the importance of regulating two key hormones: insulin and glucagon. Essentially, the idea is that you want to eat and live to maintain normal insulin levels and create opportunities for glucagon to flourish since autophagy is dependent upon it. Eating protein or carbs triggers insulin to be released — fat does not. It is the only “neutral” macronutrient we eat that does not promote the release of insulin. Fat and glucagon promote autophagy to provide your best health, from the inside, out.
So how do you incorporate more good fat into your life and take advantage of its unique ability to activate autophagy for a youthful glow?
When You Eat
It’s really fun to think about releasing old mentalities about fat and start dreaming up all of the fun foods you can start eating as part of a healthy diet. (Yes! Dark chocolate is completely allowed and No! You don’t have to put butter in your coffee to increase your fat). But it’s not enough to just add more fat; you want to think about the timing of when you eat it.
Research shows that swapping out carbohydrates for healthy fats in the morning results in improved metabolic profiles – regulated blood sugar levels, lowered body fat, improved cardiac health, increased energy, improved sleep, and fewer cravings. Fat intake at the time of waking seems to turn on fat metabolism efficiently so you’re satiated throughout the day. It also sends an important message to your master hormones which trigger a domino effect of normal hormonal interaction and signaling throughout the day. What this feels like to you is calm and focus – no frazzled chaotic energy – and an empowerment to do YOU the best you can.
This is why I start every day with AutophaTea (adding fat to my morning tea provides satiety without adding more protein or carbs and it tastes great every day!). Along with my tea, I like to eat some avocado and some days I like to have a couple eggs with my avocado and tea. I use tea seed oil for an added healthy polyphenol, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids to layer in the fats that activate autophagy.
To get enough fat throughout your day, you can add it to your meals by adding salad dressing (with healthy oils) or your tea or coffee (like coconut oil), or by cooking your meals with them (tea seed oil). Perhaps one of the most interesting and helpful reasons to have fat first is that it carries the flavor in the food. The more fat you eat, the less sugar and salt your taste receptors require to be satisfied. We’re biologically wired to feel pleasure from food, and fat is the macronutrient that most satisfies this need for pleasure.
Activating your autophagy with healthy fats first not only gives you sustained energy, regulates your metabolism, and fights the signs of aging, but it can also hydrate your body. And get this – one byproduct of metabolizing food is water. More water is released when we consume fat that is released when we eat carbohydrates or protein — which means fat can help you get rid of the bloat and puffiness which means you get your glowing-on!
The importance of when you eat also accounts for carbohydrates. I encourage you to eat carbohydrates last. This means both at the end of your meals but also save your carbs for later in the day. The reason for this is due to a metabolic process called Ketosis. It’s a physiological state in which your body uses fat as fuel in the absence of carbohydrate. And as you likely figured, is one of the best ways to boost autophagy.
Some people follow a ketogenic diet because they want to reap the benefits of fasting without completely avoiding food. Because you get a lot of the same metabolic benefits of fasting without actually fasting, this ancient-year-old diet has gained popularity thru science in the past 100 years. However, I’m a woman who loves to eat from all macronutrient groups so my scientific inquiries led me to discover that I could have my cake and eat it too – quite literally! In speaking with the top researchers in autophagy and fasting, I found out that in order to maximize the benefits of autophagy occurring when you first wake up from being in an overnight fasting state of ketosis you need to refrain from eating any foods that trigger insulin, and thus turn the dial on autophagy to “off” mode.
Saving carbs for later in the day allows you to prolong your fasted state. So, focus on a fat-centered breakfast to optimize your energy levels and performance, maintain healthy blood sugar levels, prevent energy crashes or brain fog and even bloating and of course cravings and an unruly appetite.
I’m not suggesting that you eliminate all carbohydrates – your female body depends on them for balanced hormones and sleep. Just be intentional about when you eat them and what kinds you eat. Refined and processed carbs like bagels and cookies aren’t really productive for your health and beauty at any time of day. So save those for once in a long while. Instead choose fiber – dense plant-based carbohydrates such as:
Non – Starchy Carbohydrates: arugula, romaine, butter lettuce, chicory, radicchio, spinach, mixed greens, chard, kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, mustard greens, Bok choy, asparagus, collards, celery, carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms (especially shiitake and maitake), artichoke, snap peas, fennel, radish, or any non-starchy veggie you like.
Starchy Carbohydrates: sweet potatoes, yams, butternut squash, delicate squash, acorn squash, kabocha squash, pumpkin, beets, parsnips, burdock root, yucca, plantain, cassava, celeriac root or sunchoke. Also included in this category would be beans and lentils if tolerated, preferably soaked and sprouted.
Non – Inflammatory whole grains (if tolerated): quinoa, teff, buckwheat, oats, millet, or amaranth.
Like I said earlier, I know change is hard. And I am grateful every day my parents started me off on a high-fat diet because what I didn’t know back then I now understand to be key to my health. If you are hooked on your morning latte and muffin or find the concept of eating a lot of fat first thing in the morning off-putting, don’t let it stop you from getting what you really want.
Ask yourself, what do I really want my diet to do for me?
While a baked good is comforting, that feeling is fleeting. The aftermath of a lackluster low – fat breakfast, however, has a lasting effect on your health with consequences. Your health is impressionable and will respond to what you provide. You have to nurture your health like you would a young child. So be easy on yourself and give yourself the time to reflect on what you really want. Clear, shining skin? Vibrant energy? Good health? Disease prevention? The ability to watch your kids or grandkids grow up? Get clear on that. Write it down and every time you’re presented with an opportunity to choose a way of eating or living to help get you closer to your goal, think about it. Pause and feel into why choosing the healthier path is going to serve your highest goals.
As a mother of four, I’ve made it a point to work hard to go against the grain on popular nutrition advice and instead encourage my four children to start the day the same way I did by eating full-fat breakfasts every day. My eldest child, Megan, has started with fat first since she was in a high chair. I served her avocado. And you guessed it – every morning for breakfast, she likes to add half of an avocado to whatever it may be that she eats, from eggs to fish to berries. Luckily for me, the rest of the children like to follow in their big sister’s footsteps and I know they are all on the path to a life filled with health and wellbeing while maintaining their youthful vitality.
I know you can also achieve this too! Which is why I am sharing all of my dietary tools with you in my New York Times Best Selling Book Glow15. Glow15 shares more info about why fat first works and other striking ways to use your diet to promote autophagy. You can order the book here to get a head start on your glow. To help you begin increasing healthy fat-centric meals right away, I’ve compiled some of my favorite recipes on my blog. Enjoy!