Why You Need to Eat Fat With Every Meal with Dr Delia McCabe

Listen to the podcast episode with Dr Delia McCabe here. 

Check out Delia's website for more insights. 

Transcript below.

Gordon: Welcome Delia. Welcome back to the Finding Clarity podcast. 

Delia: Thanks for the invite.

Gordon: You're going to talk to us about why fats are so important and why we should include that in every meal.

Delia: I am looking forward to diving into this because we can maybe set a few myths aside and help people feel more comfortable about fats and oils.

Gordon: Excellent.

Amy: The first thing we wanted to start off by asking you, why do you think most people think healthy food is boring?

Delia: That's a great question. When people think about healthy food, they probably think about carrot sticks, cucumber sticks and broccoli. They don't think about anything else besides vegetables. I'm not entirely sure why that became the case, but I think it may have to do with people who originally started investigating nutrition didn't really understand the importance of flavour and why people actually made food and used fat in the production of food and recipes. They wanted to cut out all fat because I suspect that the low-fat diet craze coincided with the “let's eat healthier” phase. That's why researchers started looking at fats and oils to see what the effect was on our health. Then deciding that all fat was bad, lumping it all together made people think, if that's what healthy food is, it's just plain boring. There's no fat. Perception is really strong and when people get a perception about something it's really hard to change their minds. The fat-free brigade unfortunately left decades of damage in people's mind. One of the reasons we've discussed in a previous podcast is the use of the word ‘fat’. If they'd used the biochemical word for fat, which is lipids, no one would have associated fat with body fat. That was a major problem. You want people to have the perception that you can only eat vegetables to be healthy. That's really not very inspiring as it makes people think of deprivation.

We are primed to enjoy our food. When we enjoy our food, we will basically eat it and we'll eat a little bit more. The way we evolved was to always have a little bit of padding if we possibly could to stand us in good stead for when there wasn't a lot of food. Eating foods should really be an experience that is an enjoyable experience. If it isn't, it leads to all sorts of challenges, which we see with eating disorders. The other problem with fats or lipids is that, because people got onto the calorie bandwagon, which is another huge disaster. A calorie isn't equal to a calorie, isn't equal to a calorie, different calories have different nutrient content. Fats are high in calories, higher than carbohydrates, they thought you can't eat fats because they'll make you fat, because they've got more calories, but it was very much not understood at that point in time that fats actually help you feel more satiated. When you eat fat with your food, you feel satisfied more quickly, even though they do have more calories. The second thing which very few people really are aware of is that flavor molecules disperse in fat, much more efficiently than they disperse in water. If you eat a salad with no dressing and no oil, it may be crispy, tasty and crunchy but the flavor molecules in those beautiful tomatoes, cucumber, artichokes and the pieces of broccoli, you'll never get the proper flavor profile in your tongue and taste buds because there's not fat there to allow those flavor molecules to disperse. It's never going to taste great if you can't get the flavor molecules across your tongue.

Amy: Just adding some simple ingredients to your salad and dispersing it, getting more out of your mouthful.

Delia: Absolutely. I'll give you a perfect example. I love raspberries and lots of people love raspberries. What I decided to do was to make a salad dressing with raspberries.

I can promise you if you loved raspberries before, when you have them in a salad dressing, it just elevates them to sublime. You're also getting the good fats with it, which is allowing the flavour molecules to disperse across your taste buds. You're getting the benefits of the grape berries and you're enjoying what the berries are on as well. You have that recipe on your Instagram or website. I've got the recipe on my Instagram and I also have it in my book because I just thought I needed to share that with people it's such a simple way to enjoy raspberries, truly get the flavour of raspberries. You know, that's a really good question about food being boring differently. It doesn't have to be boring. Any people include food, I mean, sorry, fat in every single one of their meals, their food will take on a completely new level of enjoyment.

Gordon: So basically, fatty food is healthy food.

Delia: Well, if it's the right kind of fats. We did the first podcast you know, that's a long, complicated story, but if they are good fats and they’re cold pressed, and even better, if they’re organic, then they are fantastic for our health. If you think about the fact that if you take all our cell membranes and you lay them down flat, if you had to open them all up and you open them out flat, they would cover 10 football fields. Fat in our body and in our brain is extremely important. That's why when we add them to our diet, we actually get a very much more balanced diet than in excluding fat. That's why they had to add so many flavour enhancers and so much sugar to the low-fat foods because there was no flavour in them. That was a huge problem. They didn't understand how critically important fat was for human health.

Gordon: What about sugar? I mean, is that addictive or should we be worried about sugar?

Delia: That's a good question. When we think about addiction, we generally think about hard drugs. We think about cocaine, heroin and those kinds of illicit drugs. I think that when people think about sugar and you mentioned the word addiction, they get a little uptight, because they don't want to think that it could be the same thing, but it uses the same neural pathways. When you use illicit drugs, there's a huge burst of dopamine, which is a pleasure neurotransmitter across your brain. In specific areas, the reward centres, when you consume sugar, there's a little bit less of a hit if I couldn't put it that way, but you still get a dopamine rush. The reason for that is because dopamine is the neurotransmitter. It's basically the survival neurotransmitter. Just to take a step back, the first mouth feel that we ever have after we born is a sweet mouthfeel. That's from the food that we either get from our mother's breast or from a bottle; it does have a sweet taste. It is sweet is to entice us to consume more of it. So that is very important for people to understand that we are primed to want sweet foods because sweet foods released this dopamine hit, carbohydrates get converted into glucose. Glucose is the body's preferred form of fuel, including the preferred form for brain fuel. We are basically primed because of that. Dopamine released to one sweet food. The problem is that we become attuned to it, or you just become habituated to it. That's a better word. What happens is that you have something really sweet and then you want something just as sweet and you want something sweet again. You have this ongoing dopamine release, with highly refined and processed food that have got a lot of sugar in them. You also get an opioid release, so it also gives you a little bit of a feeling of calm and relaxed. That also had to happen with breastfeeding because we needed to be calm while we were sucking, and we still do. There's a number of factors that interplay with this whole sugar addiction thing, because sugar is so plentiful today. Food manufacturers use it, the way they do it is very easy for people to not enjoy anything, unless it's really sweet. That's where the addictive quality comes in, simply because of the dopamine hit that people get when they use a lot of sugar. People will say to me, “but honey is, is healthy” and I go, “yeah, it is” but if you have a diet with a lot of honey in it, you’re still climatizing your taste buds to one things to be very, very sweet. None of us are in a situation where we are deprived of food in the Western world. We don't need to keep on filling ourselves with sweet food to make sure that we've got a huge buffer against when we are starving. But food manufacturers haven't taken that into account because our brains say, “hey, we want sweetness”. It's basically a matter of people having to train themselves to have less of a sweet tooth. Interestingly, you wouldn't think that fats and oils have anything to do with sugar addiction, but they have done some studies on in animal studies that when rats are deficient in good fats, they actually crave sugar. When they have enough good fats in their diet, their craving for sugar reduces. So somehow there's an interaction between those two.

Amy: I've heard from a lot of people that after they've changed their diet, they've stopped craving unhealthy, in an uninvited comment, foods like takeaway and highly processed things. Is that a scientific sort of a reason? 

Delia: Well, one of the reasons that they would do that is because firstly, they’re balancing their blood glucose because they're eating food, that's got a lot more fiber in it. Glucose breaks down more slowly and they don't get those huge sugars and blood glucose spikes and dips. Then your cravings naturally reduce because you don't feel that overwhelming desire to eat because your blood glucose is so low. If they’re really changing their diet and they're doing the right thing, they are naturally including good fats in their diet. So yes, that will be one of the reasons that one of the other reasons that they don't feel such a craving for sugar. There are many benefits from shifting your diet and one of them is changing your taste buds. I think it's difficult when people have a mindset of deprivation. When you eat food, that's flavorless and just boring, bland, just steamed with nothing delicious on it and no fats, you definitely will feel deprived. That's one of the things I set out with my book, recipes and when I brought my children up as well, I didn't ever want them to feel deprived. I made sure that the food served at home, their friends would also love. And that's exactly what happened because I took a few principles. I kept that in mind when I created recipes and I made food, there was no deprivation at all.

Amy: What sort of things would you include, would that be sort of swap outs for certain things or limiting some things, but more of the other good stuff?

Delia: I definitely did swap outs. For example, I used coconut cream, nuts, nut butters like macadamia butter, almond butter, peanut butter and peanuts on Greeley nuts. They legume, but I use them as well. I made sure that I use really good olive oil in my salad dressings, good cold pressed oil, nut and seed oils, with salad dressings as well. There was always fat in my food and the flavour molecules dispersed, people felt satiated. They never felt like they needed something more. Once you get the knack of doing that, then it really isn't that hard to toss things together. One of the reasons I created the raspberry salad dressing. I just adored rice and I thought I have to enhance the flavor. Then I thought, why not do that with a good olive oil. There were a lot of swapping out and as far as refined sugar goes, I never ever used refined sugar. Occasionally, I'll use some coconut sugar now which has got a better glycemic index, maple syrup and honey. I use some coconut nectar and date. I made a chocolate mousse this morning and I used dates and some dark 70% chocolate. I used some cashier nuts and I mixed it all together with coconut cream. I've got a stunning, silky, smooth chocolate mousse sitting in the fridge for lunch tomorrow. It’s a perfect amount of sweetness and it's even got fiber in it. The swapping art, Amy, is a very important thing and I think once you get into the habit of doing that, it's really simple.

Amy: Yeah. I think going on your own journey and sort of seeing what things you like, what things you don't like and what's easy. I think a lot of people want convenience and sort of quick, quick prep time. So figuring out what you love to eat and reach for when you go shopping.

Delia: I agree with you. I think everyone wants to do things that are really simple. And one of the things that I figured out to do was to actually take a chunk of chocolate and put it into the oven at 50 degrees. And after about 15 minutes, it's perfect. It's melted and you don't have to be putting it over boiling water and all of that stuff, which is ideal because that's really long and complicated. Then I just do nuts into that and some berries and so on. And it's just perfect. So, you know, those are the little tricks that you learn how to do. I speak about it in my recipe book and I put it onto my Instagram as well. I tell people, Hey, you know, this is really easy to do. Doesn't take a lot of time and effort and you make your own treats, oyster coconut butter, into that almond butter, macadamia, nut butter, and they're stunning.

Gordon: I mean, do we have to avoid all the treats and things that we love so much in time?

Delia: That's a good question. And I suppose you want me to say, no, no, you don't have to.

Gordon: I do want you to say that.

Delia: What I'd encourage people to do is probably just to relook at those treats, anything that's highly flavored and that's got a lot of colors in it. And a lot of additives is definitely not enhancing your health either, physically or mentally. So, to find replacements for that is definitely the first option. If people can't give up on those things have them occasionally, you know, have it dark when it's your birthday or when it's Christmas time. What happens to people though, is they slowly let go of those kinds of foods and find replacements that are healthier simply because their taste buds change. As Amy said earlier, and that's the aim that we want. We want people to have an evolutionary change, not a revolutionary change because the minute you tell people, “oh, you can't have these things anymore”, then they feel the deprived. So, I would just say to people have them occasionally and work on replacing them with other foods. I really am very surprised, and t's never ever happened, that I give somebody one of my chocolate treats and they go, “oh, no, I prefer the cheap junky one from the store”. They just don't. They go, “Oh, wow, this is great”. I think just to making the effort to find good replacements and just being committed to that means it slowly but surely all your desire and your craving for the bad foods disappear. I think, you know, I make chocolate sauce and chocolate ice cream and chocolate treats, and I make a gorgeous coffee, ice cream. And I know it's not the season not to be speaking about ice cream, being winter, but you definitely can replace most of the bad things with much, much more healthy options. And you don't end up feeling deprived as long as there's good fat in them. That's the secret.

Gordon: I've been guilty of this emotional eating. I mean, is there a trick to stopping that? Cause I know it's bad, but...

Delia: Gordon that's such an important question. And you know, we are living in a time in history where there's so much uncertainty and people do go to food to find emotional satisfaction and some kind of comfort because, you know, that's the first thing that we ever had that gave us comfort, when we cycled. So, it's a completely natural response for people to have. And I think I really would encourage people not to beat themselves up about that. If they can have healthier alternatives when they, you know, reach where their treat in the fridge, I think that is the first step. But the second thing is to always strive to keep blood glucose stable. And one of the ways to do that is to have a really very nutrient dense breakfast with lots of really good fiber in it. Good fats, good clean protein, and really healthy, colorful carbohydrates, because that sets you up for the day. And there's a lot of research to show that when people have a good breakfast, they actually consume less calories. Not that we really want to discuss calories, but you know, that's what the terminology is that most people think of. They just consume less food over a day when their blood glucose is stable after they've eaten a good breakfast. So, I think that's kind of like part of the secret to stopping the emotional eating, but we really are living through an unprecedented time. I think it's hard. It's very challenging. One of the things to do is also to make a lot of food at home in your own kitchen. I made a little infographic about reducing emotional eating with 10 points and I'm happy to make that available to your listeners as well because one of the things on their list was to really check in with yourself when you feel that you need to go and eat something, you know, are you thirsty? A lot of thirst actually masks as hunger. So, the first thing to do is to have a glass of water. And if you really want to be sneaky, you can put a teaspoon of psyllium husks into that and stir it up really well and drink it up. And that gives you a whole lot of fibre as well. But yeah, and that's just a really simple trick, but I think checking in with yourself is the first thing. And just making sure that you have a really solidly good breakfast.

And you did kind of like say to psychological setpoint, you said yourself, I started the day off really well. I'd like to continue this way, whereas if you don't start the day off, well, it's easier to set yourself out tomorrow.

Yeah. You write it off. And I think just being responsible at every meal, and then once again, as we've discussed throughout this podcast, make sure your breakfast has got good fats in it because that fat helps the glucose not spike from your carbs, with your breakfast. And so, you just have a much more tapered blood glucose response and release into your bloodstream, which is what you want. And of course, the fibre helps with that as well. So yeah, Gordon, it’s a great question and it's a hard one to answer at the moment with everyone feeling a little bit overwhelmed, a little bit unsure about the future and food is really a comfort. And as I said, you know, the opioid release with really sweet food definitely makes us feel calmer, which is why people do eat emotionally. But you know, those are some of the tricks that people can put into place. And also, really not to beat yourself up because you know, we've never lived through this before. It's really pretty challenging to keep a handle on it continuously, but those pointers should help people significantly as, as you know, as we navigate this, this path forward.

Amy: Yeah, definitely. There are some really good tips. And I think just taking every day as a first stop and not thinking about too much into the unknown future or too much into the past.

Delia: That's very good advice. I think it's one of the problems that we're living with at the moment is that no one knows what the future looks like. And the brain is naturally primed to look for a pattern and to look for a solution. And that's one of the things that the brain tries to do when we're anxious, it tries to see, okay, what could the possible scenario be? That's just a natural neurological response. And because it's very hard to see what it's going to be, that stress level stays high and our things and our anxiety peaks. And that's a problem. But taking one day at a time is really, really good advice. And people go, well, it's such simple advice and you go to yourself well, you know what, when life is really complex, sometimes the simplest advice is all that you can take. You just breathe into this moment because this moment is only thing that you can control. And I know it's hard to live like that. I'm practicing this myself as well. I'm not just saying this because I'm not feeling uncertain and, you know, overwhelmed I am. But we don't actually have a choice. We just have to knuckle down and do what we know is the best thing for ourselves, which is one day at a time, sometimes one breath at a time.

Amy: Yeah, definitely. Why does the brain dislike a probation?

Delia: Well, I think that's a very good question. I can't answer exactly because I don't think that they've ever done any research on this. But if you think about it logically the kind of nutrients that we needed with the kind of nutrients that would keep us healthy and ensure our survival. Because just as an example, when women's fat stores run really, really low, it messes with their hormones and they can't fall pregnant. So yeah, that's a very important point and woman, you know, that get involved in sports and their body fat goes down to such a limited degree. They will find that their periods stop. And that's basically, nature's way of saying of you don't have enough fat to, you know, to support a fetus. So, I think we primed to eat the kinds of foods that will support our survival and our, and our ability to procreate. And those foods just happen to contain the tastes that set off dopamine, which is the good fats that support the mouth feel of the flavor molecules. The other thing that I think is important to keep in mind is that the brain is also primed for diversity with food. Because the more diverse your food is, the greater, the chances are that you're going to be getting enough of the nutrients that you need to supply your body and brain with what it needs. You'll find people eat certain food a couple of times and the first time it's magnificent and they just can't get enough of it. And then the next time it's not as great, but it's still okay. And then the third time it's kind of like getting boring. Yeah. People will experience that.

There’s a really good neurological reason for that. And it's just because your body and brain are saying, hold on a second, you know, you're eating the same old food. How do I know that it's got all the right nutrients in it? I'm not going to let you carry on loving this. So, the dopamine release gets reduced every single time you eat that same food. So, you need to change it up and throw something else in and some new spices and some new herbs and some new veggies. And if you eat in season, it's much easier to not get bored with your food because you kind of have to change what you are eating. So that's exactly what happens. The brain is prompt for diversity and that's why all there’s different cultures, we're so fortunate to have the flavours and to be able to enjoy their flavours.


And your body and brain are getting what it wants and it's not feeling deprived. And everyone wins.

Amy: So, while we're in winter and raspberries, aren't in season, what sort of things could we look at when we go shopping?

Delia: Well, I still look for organic raspberries and when I'm lucky to do two packets of them and I stick them in my freezer. Yeah. something else, you know, which is very plentiful for us, fortunately in Australia at this point in time are avocados. Avocados are full of gorgeous nutrients, including really good monounsaturated fat. So, you can easily make a gorgeous salad dressing with avocados, put garlic in there, put some rind from some organic lemons, a little bit of salt, some of the lemon juice was it all up together and pour that over your salad. You can pour that over veggies too. I like it on sweet potatoes, I also love artichokes, chop artichokes up and I put them into my salad and with a good salad dressing. And then of course you have lovely legumes that you can put into a salad at this time of the year, ordinary roasted veggies and steamed broccoli.  Broccoli and broccolini are in season at the moment. I've got a creamy lemon Tahini salad dressing, and pull that over there, the broccolini. And it's just gorgeous. And it's full of magnesium and calcium and got lots of great nutrients in it. And I'm getting the lovely broccoli flavour, which is enhanced with the tahini and the fat in the tahini. And that's also great. So, there's lots of different things that one can do with veggies just to enhance the flavour and all the cruciferous vegetables are available now, which is great.

Amy: Yeah. Well, you've given me an inspiration for my next weekly shop. So, thank you.

Gordon: You spoke just before we finished, you spoke about, you know, the right breakfast. I think the answer to this is going to be no, but bacon, eggs, it's got fiber and fat in it. Is that on the bad list or the okay?

Delia: Hey Gordon, you put me in the spot all the time. Look, as far as that kind of a breakfast goes the paleo brigade in the ketogenic brigade will love that, but there are a few caveats to that kind of a breakfast. The first thing is the bacon. It depends on how it was smoked and I'm not really huge fan of bacon, simply because of the environmental impact, those poor pigs are generally grown in horrendous circumstances. So, if they can be free range, that obviously is better and if it is organic it is even better because pesticides are accumulating fat.

So, you have a process called biomagnification. Then whatever the pig is eating and it's not organic, it then gets concentrated in the pigs’ tissues and cells. And then we consume it in a concentrated form and the dry weight of the brain being 60% fat, we really do not want to be accumulating pesticides in our brain. And that has been linked to cognitive challenges, including things like, like Alzheimer's. So that's something we want to avoid. The kind of bacon that you are consuming is important. If you are going to be frying it, then it's best to be fried in the law that it comes in and not adding other fat to it. As we've discussed before the damaged fat in those plastic bottles, in the golden Isles at the supermarkets are not the kind of fat you want anywhere near you because they just toxic.

The other thing, as far as the eggs go, how you prepare the eggs, it’s probably best to boil the eggs. I know nobody likes to hear that because the fried egg is poaching. Poaching is even better because obviously the protein gets damaged when you’re using the oil to fry again, so that's a problem. I wouldn't suggest you do that at every single meal though, because once again those foods do not have as many nutrients in them as plant-based foods do. There's a lot of research to show that a variety of important in the dietary pattern that you choose. I wouldn't have that every day, but you don't have to rule it out entirely if you're very fussy about using organic products and the way you prepare them. So, it's not an entirely no Gordon, but it's a big conscious about exactly what is in the ingredients and how you prepare them that does that sound you?


It's doing it thoughtfully. I think that's what we need to be considering the way we eat. We need to take it seriously and we need to do it thoughtfully because every mouthful does actually matter. And it's not just for us that it matters, you know, today's world environment day. And the way we treat the environment is the world that we're going to live in ultimately, and that we're leaving for our children. When we consider how the animals are treated and what they eat and the way the chickens and the exit there, like all of that is part of the whole ecosystem that we live in as humans. And that I think is something important to keep in mind,

I mean, you guys live out in the country, you know what it's like, you can see how nature responds when it's raining. You know, nature is happy. Everything is lush when there's no rain, then the ecosystem suffers. So, you’re very much in touch with nature. People forget about that when they live in cities, they don't consider the fact that we are part of this huge ecosystem and the decisions we make in terms of food are big decisions, they all impact you in the long-term.

Amy: And it's tough, but it's pretty stressed the environment. We can sort of say that it's really fighting out there, but yes, I'm not doing it.

Delia: I think it is and in many of the decisions that have been made for decades have impacted the environment and Australia is very robust. But I think we've got huge challenges and the whole planet has challenges in terms of the environment. All the toxins that we've spewed into the rivers end up in the oceans and the fish swim around in those toxins. These are all big, big issues and they're coming home to roost, unfortunately. You know, every one of us has a responsibility, not just for our own health and wellbeing, but for the future we are leaving for our children. I think it's important too, to take our food seriously, from that perspective as well.

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