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Ever since Americans were led to believe that “fat”, particularly saturated fat, was the enemy to be feared in their diets, our nation has gotten fatter, and overall health has declined. Getting your fat facts right is critical to getting your health right!
This is the seventh article in our highly requested and popular “Spotlight on Body Ecology” series, where we have been getting to know The Body Ecology Principles more intimately. To read previous articles, click here.
In the last few years, there has been an awakening of sorts. The public is finally beginning to realize the dangers of trans fats and the absolute necessity of eating essential fatty acids (EFA’s) for good health.
But it’s still “buyer beware”. Watch out for commercial food manufacturers. They always find ways to “pull the wool over the eyes” of those who are less educated in the facts.
A recent U.S. News Health article quoted an “expert” advising that a spreadable margarine containing some omega-3 essential fatty acids is healthier than natural butter. Butter is “made from animal fat, so it has cholesterol and very high levels of saturated fat”.1
This expert goes on to say that there is even a debate about the relative merits of olive oil versus canola oil because the saturated fat content of olive oil may be slightly higher than canola oil.
It’s shocking that these kinds of reports are still circulating. And perhaps even more discouraging is the fact that many Americans will actually believe what they read.
Yes, omegas are good, but in the interest of boosting sales, more and more unhealthy products, like “spreads”, are making the “omega-3” claim on the label.
Provided you know what to look for, and you are eating wholesome foods, saturated fats CAN BE good for you! Your body needs a balance of unsaturated as well as saturated fats.
Furthermore, natural or made by Mother Nature is the only way to go. This means that in the above example, butter is always the better choice over any vegetable based “spread”, even if the spread says “no trans fat”.
If you have been choosing vegetable-based spreads because you are trying to avoid dairy, try these healthy saturated fats: organic ghee (clarified butter without the milk solids), unrefined virgin coconut oil, or palm oil, which are all delicious and healthy alternatives to any spread. Keep reading, and you’ll understand why!
Understanding your fats is essential to making the right choices. They are a critical part of a healthy diet, and the misinformation and conflicting claims out there do not always have your best interest in mind.
What we call fats are actually chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms bonded together to form fatty acids.
Fatty acids can come in many different arrangements, and that determines if a particular fat falls into one of three major categories:
Your body is able to manufacture monounsaturated fats from any saturated fats you consume and use them in a variety of important functions.
Many people don’t know that an oil or fat is not 100% of anything. No oil is 100% saturated, 100% monounsaturated, or 100% polyunsaturated. In fact, all oils and fats, whether from vegetable or animal, are a blend of fatty acids – with one type of fatty acid outweighing the others.
For example, olive oil is 75% monounsaturated, 13% saturated, and 12% polyunsaturated. The fat in beef, which most people think would only be saturated fat, is actually 50-55% saturated, 40% monounsaturated, and about 3% polyunsaturated.
The above are classifications based on the amount of saturation that fats have. Within these different saturation levels, fats also differ in length, so there are short, medium, and long chain fats. Short chain fats are always saturated. (The friendly microflora happen to love short chain and medium chain fatty acids.)
Short and medium chain fats are less likely to cause weight gain because they can be quickly absorbed for energy. Butterfat and tropical fats are examples of short and medium chain saturated fats. (Microflora like it when you eat butter and coconut oil.)
Now let’s take a more detailed look at the most controversial of these fats - the “demonized” saturated fats.
What about cholesterol? Here too the public has been misinformed. The majority of cholesterol in your body is manufactured in your liver.
When your blood vessels become structurally weakened from too many free radicals or viruses, cholesterol steps in to repair the damage and protect your vessels from further harm. Think of cholesterol as your body’s “putty”, which it makes to repair your blood vessels the same way you would use putty to repair holes and scrapes on a wall. The more fix-ups you need, the more cholesterol your body will produce!
So you see, elevated cholesterol levels can be a symptom of too much wear and tear in your arteries caused by a variety of factors – independent of cholesterol consumption.
Like saturated fats, it gives cells structural integrity. In fact, when your diet contains an excess of polyunsaturated fats and not enough saturated fats, your cell walls can become flabby. Because of this, cholesterol from your blood is driven into your tissues to restore the cell walls. This is why blood serum levels of cholesterol can go down when you eliminate saturated fats in favor of polyunsaturated fats in your diet.
Clearly, we cannot live without saturated fat and cholesterol in our diets. Yet even the most health conscious people and so-called experts, like the one quoted in the beginning of this article, are still misinformed so that when they hear “saturated fat”, they turn and run or feel guilty for indulging in something “unhealthy”.
Coconut oil is just one example of a saturated fat that was given a bad name along with other tropical oils when, in fact, it’s a superfood with a key disease fighting substance called lauric acid in it. Lauric acid is found in mother’s milk and helps babies fight off pathogens. It’s even been studied as an ally in weight loss as it’s easily absorbed for energy, helps thyroid function, and increases metabolism. The key is to make sure you are consuming pure unrefined, extra virgin, organic sources of coconut oil.
We have always believed that balance is the key to health, and the same applies with regard to eating fats in your diet. Balance and variety, as well as moderation, are essential.
Approximately 60 years ago, the first of many reports began to appear telling us that fats were the possible cause of atherosclerosis and heart disease. It’s interesting to note that the 50s was also the time when the first of the baby boomers were coming into the world in great numbers. Their parents were big believers in the miracles of modern science, so only a few enlightened scientists questioned these “questionable” reports.
This led to decades of misinformation about fats and the promotion of fake fats, like margarine.
Many baby boomers will remember the TV commercial where an angry Mother Nature, with lightening striking around her, warned us that, ”It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” Boy, was she right. The tragic results? We have seen the rates of diseases, like diabetes and obesity, skyrocket, along with Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
The latest low fat craze a decade ago has also negatively impacted many women of childbearing age. It certainly has played a key role in infertility in this age group. Bottom line: you need good fats to make healthy babies and to feed them after they are born.
It’s the virtual elimination and villianization of unrefined, good fats like butter, ghee, and tropical oils, along with the corresponding increase in the consumption of processed, low-quality vegetable oils and fats that has contributed to the health of our nation plummeting to an all time low.
At Body Ecology, we recommend that you always include a small amount of and a variety of organic, unrefined fats and oils in your diet. And always avoid any refined oils.
Naturally, you’ll want to DIGEST these oils as well. Here is where Body Ecology’s probiotic foods and liquids are key. They help correct digestion so you can obtain the essential fatty acids in these indispensable foods.
The following articles will give you a thorough understanding of the delicious and healthy fats and oils we recommend:
The omega-3 essential fatty acids are more difficult to obtain in your foods, and for this reason, many Americans are deficient in this important nutrient. Find out how to ensure you are getting enough by reading: You Asked, We Answer: Why Is the Omega-3 In Fish Oil Different and Superior to The Omega-3 in Flax?
In the last few articles, we have covered the first major part of The Principle of 80/20, which states that 80% of what you eat at each meal should be from land and ocean vegetables and 20% should be either healthy meats or Body Ecology seed-like grains.
Healthy fats are a complement and an important component to your meals, whether found naturally in your meats or added into your meals through sautéing or drizzling over your vegetables.
It’s important to not combine large amounts of fats with your proteins, however, as this delays digestion of proteins - something we will explain in further detail when we get to The Principle of Food Combining.
Our Spotlight on Body Article series will continue with an explanation of the other half of the 80/20 principle, which gives you a guideline of how much to eat and why overeating can harm your health - beyond just making you “too full” and physically uncomfortable.
“The Skinny On Fats”, Sally Fallon Morell & Mary G. Enig, Ph.D , January 1, 2000
“The Soft Science of Dietary Fat”, Gary Taubes, Science Magazine, March 2001
1. “Butter or Margarine? Experts Reveal What’s in Their Grocery Carts”, Hanna Dubansky, July 9th, 2010, U.S. News and World Report
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