The Truth About Fat: The Good And The Bad Revealed

Are You Still Afraid Of Eating Fat?

Since the 1950’s we’ve been told to eat a diet low in fat…or even fat-free to avoid increased cholesterol levels, heart disease and obesity…because, you know, eating fat must make you fat…right? Wrong! Still to this day in supermarkets all over the world, you will find a plethora of products boldly stating “97% fat free!”.

So where did this myth come from? It came from a dodgy study by a biochemist called Ancel Keys who published a theory in the 1950’s that proclaimed saturated fats raises cholesterol and that cholesterol causes heart disease…this became known as the Lipid Hypothesis. Interestingly, at the same time this theory was released, the vegetable oil industry carefully orchestrated a campaign to demonise it’s competition and promote its polyunsaturates….and what was in animal fats that wasn’t in vegetable oil? Saturated fats and cholesterol. Together with Keys theory the industry zoned in on these two things and the American Heart Foundation plus other consumer organisations started to advocate a low-fat diet. I found this short, entertaining video below on Sarah Wilson’s blog that pretty much sums up this misconception…

 

Do You Know Your Fats?

There are 4 different types of fats:

Saturated Fats – there are long-chain saturated fats (LCSFA) found in animal fats and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) found in coconut oil. Saturated fats are digested and metabolised far better than polyunsaturated fats, but it’s polyunsaturated fats such as corn, soy, safflower and sunflower oils that have found prominence in our foods. Saturated fats, particularly coconut oil, provide our bodies with a slow burning, longer lasting energy and leave us feeling full and satisfied for longer. They are also crucial for absorbing certain vitamins and minerals. In addition to this, coconut oil also contains lauric acid that has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and antioxidant properties.

In their book Eat Fat Lose Fat, Sally Fallon and Mary Enig describe how when we eat saturated fats – particularly coconut oil – we are providing nourishment to every cell in our bodies that  supports optimal function of your nerves, brain, hormones, immune system and metabolism. Fallon and Enig say that eating these healthy fats will…

Trigger a powerful mechanism that is key to success in permanent weight loss: satiation. When you eat coconut oil (and other healthy fats like those found in butter, cream, nuts, meats and eggs), your body produces a hormone in the stomach and small intestine that signals that you’ve eaten enough. When you feel satiated, cravings, and the persistent hunger you experience on most diets, are banished.

Saturated fats are also the most stable of oils due to their composition and are solid at room temperature. This makes them less likely to go rancid and form dangerous free radicals when heated at high temperatures.

There is also no known toxicity with these fats, making them the safest. I do all my cooking with either coconut oil or butter, but you can also cook with lard and ghee.

Monounsaturated Fats (MFA’s) – these are found in olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil and some nut oils such as macadamias and peanuts. These oils are typically liquid at room temperature and solid if chilled. Like saturated fats, they are also relatively stable and do not go rancid easily making them suitable for cooking (but olive oil keep at medium heat). MFA’s form the core structural fats of the body and are also non-toxic. Just be aware that some of these foods that contain MFA’s such as nuts, also contain omega-6 polyunsaturated fats…so don’t go over board (I’ll explain why a bit below).

The bulk of your fat intake should come from saturated and monounsaturated fats and organic where possible – especially meat.

Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFA): these fats are subdivided into omega-6 and omega-3 and are very vulnerable to oxidative damage that causes free radicals in the body which leads to diseases such as heart disease and cancer. These fatty acids remain liquid even when refrigerated.

Omega-6 contains linoleic acid (LA) which is found in large amounts in industrial processed and refined oils such as soy, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed and corn. LA is also found in high amounts in most nuts and a small to moderate amount in grains and animals fed grains. LA is considered an essential fatty acid which means that the body cannot make on it’s own so must be obtained by food. It is required for proper function BUT in very small amounts. Sadly, these fatty acids are consumed in very large amounts and are contributing to obesity and heart disease.

Omega-3 contains short chain (alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA) found in walnuts and flax and long chain (EPA & DHA) found in seafood. ALA is considered essential however it is EPA & DHA omega-3 that are crucial for proper function including cognitive function. Studies have shown that taking omega-3 supplements in the form of fish oil can decrease depression and prevent the cognitive decline that comes from Alzheimer’s disease. In a study done on brain health using omega-3 and omega-6 oils, it was the safflower oil control group (the dreaded omega-6) that had significantly lower mood ratings and verbal scores.

The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 should be 1:1. Unfortunately it is more like 35:1, and this is a problem that you can fix by cutting out as much omega-6 from your diet as possible…that means ditching the processed food!

Omega-3 fish oil supplements also reduce inflammation from training and studies have shown that it can increase lean muscle mass, while decreasing body fat at the same time.

Although ALA is considered essential, only a very small amount of it can be converted in the body to DHA and this small amount doesn’t work well, especially for those with nutrient deficiencies because the conversion of ALA to DHA depends on zinc, iron and pyridoxine.

The point I’m trying to get to here, is to make sure your omega-3 intake is coming more from EPA & DHA (seafood and fish oils supps) rather than ALA (walnuts and flax).

Trans Fatty Acids (TFAs) – these are found in manufactured foods such as popcorn, fast foods, margarine and chips.  They are the result of a process called partial hydrogenation, a process that occurs artificially by bombarding polyunsaturated oils with hydrogen in order to rearrange the fatty acids into TFAs in a bid to create a longer shelf life. Because they can be made so cheaply, the food industry prefers to use trans fats made from cheap soy, canola, cottonseed or corn oil rather than coconut oil and animal fats which are more expensive! What an abomination! These altered fats are the devil and increase cholesterol and the risk of heart disease…stay clear of the stuff!!!

So…feeling different about eating good fats now? :-)

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