“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic.” – Dave Barry

If “early to bed, early to rise” is the most important advice you can follow when it comes to success in life, staying lean is the most important thing you can do in terms of your health and vitality. (Actually, reducing stress is probably No.1, but I don’t want to talk about that today.)

When I say “lean,” I don’t mean “skinny.” I mean well-muscled with a relatively low percentage of body fat.

Here’s an interesting thing to consider: Much of what mainstream medicine has been telling you about fat is wrong.

If you want to stay healthy and lean, you’ve got to understand the following:

* You must eat fat to stay healthy (i.e, fat is good for you).

* Carbs, not fats, are the primary culprits when it comes to getting fat.

* Some kinds of fats are better than others.

Let’s tackle that last point today.

The doctors I trust when it comes to nutrition tell me that polyunsaturated fats — those that include almost all vegetable oils — are not good for you. This contradicts what I was told when I was growing up.

When cooked (and they are almost always cooked), polyunsaturated fats produce free radicals that break down your immune system and make it easy for you to get old and sickly. The short version is this: Polyunsaturated fats set you up for disease.

Here’s something else you should know: Cake and candy contain not only tons of sugar but a lot of these bad oils too.

If you are as confused about saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats as I frequently am, Health Sciences Institute (http://www.hsibaltimore.com) provides the following good advice:

* All animal fat, including the fat from eggs, pork, fish, and grasshoppers, is healthy fat and vital to your diet.

* Many vegetable fats are rendered dangerous by their processing. Healthy plant fats that you should eat are avocados, real nuts, coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil, and flax oil.

A few final thoughts on this subject come from my personal doctor and health guru Dr. Al Sears (who, by the way, is the only important natural-health doctor I know who has 12% body fat):

“When it comes to dietary fat, the advice we have been given over the last 30 years has been wrong in two fundamental regards. These two errors have caused an epidemic of obesity and associated diseases never before seen in world history.

“First, eating fat doesn’t make you fat. Eating starches does. My grandmother knew this. Yours probably did too.

“Second, switching from naturally occurring animal fat to processed vegetable oils doesn’t make you healthier or leaner, but leads to a host of medical problems instead. In other words, if a fat occurs naturally and you can eat it without its having been processed first, it’s probably good for you. This is an easy test to put your food through. Think about where it comes from. If you can picture it growing on a tree, running, or swimming in the wild, it passes the test. If you picture machinery, chemicals, and packaging, it fails.”

I don’t know where to buy coconut oil, palm oil, or flax oil, but I love olive oil. The best kind comes from Italy. And the best Italian olive oil you just can’t get, since it’s hoarded by those who produce it. But you can get good enough olive oil from quality stores. It’s worth the extra price. Use it instead of butter. Spread it on veggies and eat them cold. Yum. Yum.