One of the most misunderstood nutrients today is fat. If you have not read Part 1 The Low Fat Diet Fail, basically it covers in depth how a low fat diet is not only an unhealthy diet, but how it may have stemmed the obesity epidemic we now face today. In Part 2, we are going to explore the different fats you should and shouldn’t have in your diet.
Lets start with the basics. Other than being unsightly when we store too much fat, what does our body really use fat for? Surprisingly few people know that each cell of their body is surrounded in a membrane of fat. Basically, we are all just compilations of fatty balloons we call cells. Our brain (kind of an important organ) is almost entirely made of fat! In addition to being building blocks that hold us all together, our body uses fats for many other things. The majority of our hormones are made from fats. Cholesterol is a fat that is considered evil in the media and by allopathic medicine, when in fact, cholesterol is the base molecule for hormones like estrogen and testosterone. The truth about cholesterol is that it’s not really a health risk, but that other health conditions increase cholesterol. Cholesterol has many healthy responsibilities. When it is elevated, it’s a symptom, not a cause of disease, but that’s a can of worms to be opened another day.
The bottom line is fats:
- Give our body structure
- Are responsible for IQ and proper brain function
- Allow our body to communicate biochemically through hormones
- Protect our cells from the environment
- Help maintain a healthy digestive tract
- Improve skin and hair health
- Can reduce inflammation
- Can help balance insulin and cortisol when used properly in diet
Saturated fats were demonized in the 1980’s. Then thought as the cause for the increase in heart disease, the FDA started cracking down on saturated fats in foods and tried to eliminate them from our diet. Obviously reducing saturated fat content in our food has not improved our health in the last 30 years. The food and drug industries have desperately tried to mask the epic failure with fancy commercials hosting benefits of low fat cereals and yogurts, when in reality, the research behind these claims is run by the very companies selling the products. Here is one study that shows how saturated fats actually have no effect on cardiovascular risk. As you can see, the reality is in fact quite the opposite of what we are told through media marketing. Saturated fats are actually great for making your body more anabolic (building muscle). Seeing the pattern here? Fats are an essential part of our health.
A fast growing supplement for weight loss, CLA is known to help decrease central obesity, reduce insulin resistance, and work as an anti-cortisol compound. CLA just happens to be a saturated fat found in grass fed meat, dairy, and eggs. One of the biggest concerns for people eating low fat products and grain fed meats is an increased risk for colon cancer. Guess what nutrient is shown to help prevent colon cancer??? CLA! By removing these fats from our food, we have actually made them carcinogens! As with most cases, mother nature is best left alone.
Omega-3s are one of the fats that have actually gotten a lot of good press. In this case, it’s still not enough. Omega-3 fats are composed of 2 types. EPA and DHA. EPA is what is responsible for the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3’s while DHA supports the brain and nerve tissues. The most popular dietary from of omega-3s has become fish oil capsules. Grass fed meat, mentioned earlier, is also a good source of omega-3’s. One thing you must be careful of is the many labels that include ALA alpha linoeic acid as omega-3’s. The truth is that only about 4% of the ALA actually gets converted to omega-3. This means sources like flaxseed oil and powder actually offer very little dietary omega-3’s. Flaxseed oil is also commonly rancid.
Rancidity is one of the things you must be aware of when incorporating fats in your diet. Even healthy fats can become rancid over time, or when heated. Rancid fats become much more inflammatory, lose their health properties and have a negative impact on our health. Processed foods and cooking oils are often filled with rancid fats. Getting your fats from fresh sources is always advisable, or in a stable form like a high quality fish oil capsule, and quality cooking oils. How to keep your fats fresh will be discussed in Part 3.
Omega-6’s are the most abundant fat in the SAD (Standard American Diet). While these fats are also essential to the diet, the quantity is high and quality is low in our current diet. Omega-6 fats are pro-inflammatory in nature, which is why the ideal diet should have at least an equal amount of omega-3’s or even up to 4 times as much omega-3’s as omega-6’s. A typical North American diet may contain 11 to 30 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, contributing to the rising rate of inflammatory disorders in the United States. Most of the omega-6’s, found in processed and preserved foods are damaged and/or rancid, so what health benefits omega-6’s do provide are lost and you are left with just pro-inflammatory calories.
Omega-9’s are not an essential fat because the body can make it’s own. This does not mean that having this mono-saturated fat in your diet is without benefit though. Omega-9’s have been shown to decrease cardiovascular risk, increase HDL and decrease LDL cholesterol. An example of a good source of omega-9’s would be a small handful of almonds.
So let’s head to the nutrition facts. A healthy fat profile would have a greater amount of saturated and mono-saturated fats compared to unsaturated fats.
Good healthy sources of saturated fats are
- Organic Butter
- Coconut Oil
- Grass fed meat
Good healthy sources of Omega 3’s are
- Certified free of heavy metal and solvent Fish Oil capsules
- Grass fed meat
- * The reason I don’t suggest fish is because pollution has made eating most fish undesirable. That being said, the small fish tend to be more rich in omega 3’s.
- Olive oil