A few years ago, I was at a raw food conference, and the topic of fat came up. Many of the participants came to me, after a lecture, and told me that they enjoyed the information, but they didn’t think that they ate that much fat.
In the lectures, I talked about the major health problems that raw foodists run into when they eat a high-fat diet. One of the main issues seemed to be low energy and poor insulin response. After months or years on this diet, these people could no longer enjoy fruit without seeing their blood sugar spike and crash.
When we checked their fat consumption, it was often close to 60% of total calories. To put this in perspective, the Standard American Diet (often called the “SAD Diet” for a good reason!) is around 35-40% fat.
I had people come to me, thinking they were eating a low-fat diet, but when we analyzed their intake, it was closer to 30 or 40%.
(By the way, although I have known about the problems with fat consumption for years, since my book “The Raw Secrets” came out in 2002, it was not until I worked with Dr. Doug Graham that it finally made complete sense. I recommend his book “The 80-10-10 Diet” to understand how a low-fat raw vegan diet works).
Now, you can spend all day entering numbers into a nutrition database, but I’ve got a simple system for you to track your fat consumption.
This system applies to raw or cooked vegan diets where the only calories come from whole foods. This system will not work if you consume any of the following foods:
– Restaurant foods where oil was used
– Processed foods containing oil or fat
– Animal foods
Raw foodists eating only fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds can use this system. Vegans consuming only grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds can also use this system.
It’s pretty simple.
First, let’s clarify what a low-fat diet is. Sometimes you hear in the media that “low-fat diets don’t work.” But, when we look closely at those “low-fat diets,” we find that they are around 25 to 30% fat — which is not low at all.
A low-fat diet is a diet where no more than 15% of your daily calories come from fat. There’s room to wiggle here. Some people keep their fat intake below 10%, and others like it around 15%. It’s really up to you.
First, if you eat only whole foods, you already get 5 to 7% of your calories from fat. That’s without adding any nuts, seeds, avocados, or fatty foods. Any combination of fruits, vegetables, grains and beans will contain this bare minimum of fat, from the natural fatty acids contained in those foods. By the way, that seems to be the minimum amount the body needs — so Nature didn’t make a mistake here.
The Fat Tracking System
It’s pretty simple. Most people need around 2000-2200 calories a day. More active people will need close to 3000 calories. So, just look at the numbers below, and you’ll see how much fat you can eat to stay in the target range.
2000-2200 calories diet
5-7% fat: no overt fats
10% fat: 1/2 avocado OR 1 ounce nuts (or 1 T nut butter)
15% fat: 1/2 avocado + 1 ounce nuts (or 1 T nut butter)
3000 calories diet
5-7% fat: no overt fat
11% fat: 1 avocado OR 2 ounces nuts
15% fat: 1/2 avocado + 2 ounces nuts
If you eat no added fats at all (“overt fats”), you already get 5 to 7% fat. To stay around 10% fat, you should eat no more than half an avocado (medium size, max) a day OR one serving of nuts (one ounce or one tablespoon of nut butter). If you eat both the avocado and the nuts, you’re at around 15% fat. On a higher calorie diet, the maximums are a bit higher.
Personally, I keep it very simple. I eat one tablespoon of ground flax every day, which contributes a tiny amount of fat. Some days I don’t eat any overt fats at all. Other days I’ll usually have either half an avocado or one tablespoon of tahini in a salad. And finally, some days my fat consumption is higher, maybe up to 25%. If you average everything, I’m at around 12% fat.
To get menu plans with the optimal fat intake already calculated for you, check this out: