The Big Fat Lie: Are you fooled by what’s healthy?
Anyone old enough to remember the 80’s will remember this is the era that brought us big shoulder pads, leg warmers with shiny leotards, and the craze of low fat and fat-free diets. The era also brought a huge increase in the production of ‘Frankenfoods’, manufactured foods that had no resemblance to the real thing, but the selling point, ‘it’s Fat-Free!”
There probably isn’t a low-fat diet out there I haven’t personally tried or cooked for a client, yet after each one, I (or they) inevitably ended up in worse shape than before, as indeed the nation emerged from this decade, well, larger. So, what is really to blame for muffin tops and heart attacks?
- 1921- First recorded myocardial infarction
- 1930 – 3 000 deaths
- 1960 – 5 000,000 deaths
Some interesting facts from Dr Natasha Campbell McBride and her book – Put Your Heart in Your Mouth
- Decline in the past 100 years in consumption of saturated fats, increase consumption of vegetable oil products.
- In Britain, fat consumption has been stable since 1910 while heart attacks have increased 10 times between 1930 and 1970. So, in Britain, having heart disease has nothing to do with fat consumption.
- Since World War II the Japanese have been eating more and more animal fat, while fewer and fewer of them diet from heart attacks. On top of that, mortality from most diseases decreased in Japan as they ate more animal fat.
- In Switzerland, after WWII intake of animal fat increased by 20%, yet the death rate from heart disease steadily decreased. So, one can say that in Switzerland eating more fat helps against heart disease.
- In the USA, between 1930 and 1960, mortality from heart disease increased 10 times, while the consumption of animal fat decreased. Just from this data, one can create a hypothesis that reducing animal fat in your food causes heart disease.
The Solution: Good Fats!
Good fats play a valuable role in the body:
- Provide a source of slow-burning energy for the muscles (including the heart!)
- Vital to the makeup of cell membranes.
- Necessary for healthy liver function: building healthy cholesterol and bile.
- Imperative to managing the inflammation process.
- Required for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, K
- Maintain healthy cholesterol levels (inflammation is the main culprit in heart disease)
- Healthy hormone balance
- Make food taste fabulous!
Fats: Key to Nutrient Absorption
In a study at the Ohio State University 11 test subjects, consumed salad without avocado, fat content 2% vs salad with avocado, fat content 42%
They absorbed 7 times more lutein, 18 times more beta carotene in salads with fats.
Steven Clinton, program leader for molecular carcinogenesis and chemoprevention and the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus
Fats: Key to MINERAL ABSORPTION
Humans do not produce minerals; therefore, we must obtain them through our food. Minerals are what remain as ash when plant or animal tissues are burned, the role of minerals in the body is as enzyme ‘sparks’ for all metabolic processes.
Fats are KEY to the absorption of minerals, especially calcium. Deficiency in calcium is well documented, the truth is most eating enough calcium in food, it is simply not well assimilated.
Calcium is a game of cofactors, meaning for our bodies to absorb calcium depends on these factors:
- Fatty Acids
- Systemic pH
- Hormonal Function
- Hydration: Water & Electrolytes
- Other Minerals
Almost everyone gets enough calcium. They are missing the cofactors that allow the body to absorb/use it.
Healthy Fatty Acid deficiency is epidemic:
It may be hard to believe that with the worldwide obesity epidemic, that fatty acid deficiency is epidemic, leading to musculoskeletal, endocrine, cardiovascular, immune issues, allergies, depression, skin problems…. Most diets are not deficient in fats, just loaded with all the damaged fats and deficient in healthy fats, required for optimum health.
To control inflammatory function, the body needs the ability to both inflame and anti-inflame. The body inflames to heal before it anti-inflames.
There are three groups of prostaglandins that control this process:
- Anti-inflammatory: PG1 and PG3
- Pro-inflammatory: PG2
Damaged fats and incorrect ratio of Omega 6’s exacerbate the pro-inflammatory pathways, and good fats help to run the anti-inflammatory pathways, therefore reducing healing time.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
There are two polyunsaturated fats essential to the body:
- Linoleic Acid (LA)- Omega 6
- Alpha- Linoleic Acid (ALA)- Omega 3
These fats are essential to health as the human body cannot manufacture these types of fatty acids on its own, we must obtain them through diet.
Only small amounts are needed daily (around one teaspoonful), however, Omega 6’s are over consumed in The Standard American Diet (SAD) which contains too many omega-6s and too little omega-3s, resulting in a grossly distorted omega fat ratio of nearly 19:1.
The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is 1:1.
An easy way to incorporate the proper amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids into your diet is to add them in small amounts to other healthy oils. For example, prepare a balanced fatty acid salad dressing using 4 to 6 tablespoons of olive oil with no more than 1 teaspoon each of omega-6 (pumpkin or hemp oil) and omega-3 (flax oil) fatty acids, sea salt, and organic raw apple cider vinegar.
The easiest way to stay within the optimal 1:1 ratio of omega-6’s to omega-3 is to avoid ALL processed foods, which are highest in rancid, denatured omega-3, and omega-6 PUFA’s.
There are four other fats that are conditionally essential as the body can produce these:
- Gamma-linolenic Acid (GLA)
- Arachidonic Acid (AA)
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA
Does this give us a license to slather everything in butter? Not at all, the key here is moderation and the correct macronutrient ratio. Look carefully at the quality and source of the fats, and beware of the real imposters, highly processed vegetable fats, hydrogenated fats, and partially hydrogenated fats which will be in obvious places like fried foods but will also show up in many packaged foods such as cookies and crackers, read food labels!
Classifications: Degree of Saturation
Fats are made up of different three major classes of fatty acids. The saturated fats class can be divided into three subclasses, short, medium and long chain. There is a fourth class the ‘trans’ fats class, which is not a naturally occurring class.
In fats and oils terminology, these classes are separated by ‘double bonds’ in ‘unsaturated’ and ‘no double bonds’ in ‘saturated’, this is the molecular structure of the fat, which will determine how it behaves.
The Best Fats for Health
Except for canola, soy, and cottonseed oils which should all be avoided; the difference between good fat and bad fat is the way they are processed and stored, not in the inherent nature of their source. Living fats and oils are very sensitive to light, heat, and oxygen and become rancid very easily.
Unsaturated fats are very unstable, very necessary to good health in terms of EFA’s (essential fatty acids), but many cannot be heated and should not be exposed to light, therefore a great deal of the oils on the supermarket shelf in clear plastic bottles under bright light are already damaged!
For optimal health a balance of good fats is required:
Saturated Fatty Acids (SFA’s) – highly stable in nature; do not turn rancid easily – even at higher temperatures. Saturated fat molecules are straight and stack together tightly to form a solid or semi-solid fat at room temperature.
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA’s) – relatively stable; do not turn rancid easily. Liquid at room temperature, but semi-solid upon refrigeration. Monounsaturated fat molecules are shaped differently than saturated fat molecules. They have a slight bend, which allows them to stack closely, yet not as tightly as SFA’s. This is why MUFA’s are liquid at room temperature.
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA’s) – unstable at even room temperature; easily damaged by heat, light, moisture, and oxygen exposure; refrigeration required; turn rancid quickly and easily. Polyunsaturated fat molecules have two bends, which will not allow them to stack together well at all. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids fall in this category
Keep in mind that all fats are a combination of fatty acids. Their classification is determined by the highest percentage of saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated fatty acids. For example, hemp oil has a fatty acid profile of 1g of saturated fat, 11g of polyunsaturated fat, and 2g of monounsaturated fat. It is classified as a PUFA because the polyunsaturated type of fatty acid is most abundant in hemp oil.
So, which fats and oils should you choose for cooking?
Below is a guide to help you determine which fats and oils are safest to include in your favorite recipes.
SAFEST FOR COOKING (frying, baking, broiling, grilling, and roasting)
- Beef and Lamb Tallow
- Chicken, Duck, and Goose Fat
- Coconut Oil – organic and virgin
Tropical vegetable fats in this category should be organic and unrefined in nature.
The animal fats should be from organically raised, grass-fed pastured animals.
SAFER FOR COOKING (quick stir-frying, light sautéing, and slow/low simmering)
- Olive Oil (Unfiltered is best; should be golden yellow/green in color and cloudy.)
- Peanut Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Macadamia Nut Oil
- Sesame Oil
These oils should ALWAYS be extracted via expeller-pressing! Read the label first!
UNSAFE FOR ANY KIND OF HEAT EXPOSURE! DO NOT USE FOR COOKING!
- Vegetable/Soybean Oil
- Corn Oil
- Flax Oil
- Hemp Oil
- Pine nut Oil
- Pumpkin Oil (safely roasted or raw versions)
- Safflower Oil (80% omega-6!)
- Sunflower Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
These PUFA oils are comprised of nearly half omega-6 fatty acids and should NEVER be used for cooking! If you do wish to consume these oils, do so in moderation, buy them from healthy sources, and be sure that they are never refined or processed; although finding truly unprocessed versions of these oils is a difficult task! Corn and soybean oils are best avoided due to their genetically modified status and heavy pesticide levels.
The BAD FATS: Damaged and Adulterated Fats
These fats are best not consumed at all!
- Hydrogenated fats*
- Partially hydrogenated fats*
- Highly processed vegetable oils
- Fried Fats
*Trans Fats are a by-product of the hydrogenation process (toxic).
These fats are toxic and interfere with the essential roles fatty acids play within a healthy body.
‘Con’-ola (Canola) Oil…
Produced from the genetically engineered Rape Seed plant Canola Oil is an inexpensive high refined oil. It is produced by caustic bleaching, refining and degumming, and some of the chemicals remain in the finished product.
Naturally high unstable Omega 3’s (11%) and Omega 6’s (21%) these become easily rancid, must be bleached and deodorized, result a highly inflammatory oil. Best avoided at all times!
Cotton is one of the most genetically modified, pesticide-laden crops in America, the extraction and hydrogenation processes quarantine pesticides in the oil, therefore the high pesticide levels found in cotton are reason enough not to consume.
Cottonseed oil is the main ingredient in Crisco and is usually found as a hydrogenated oil, further reason not to consume.
The further list of oils that are often GMO, contain high levels of pesticides and are heated and extracted with toxic chemicals.
- Corn Oil
- Soybean/Vegetable Oil
- Vegetable Shortening
- Partially /Hydrogenated Oils (all)
The Bottom Line
So, the bottom line is the way your grandparents ate on the farm was the ideal way really; avoid all highly processed fats, acquaint yourself with traditional oils from trusted sources.
Refer to your individual lifestyle plan to determine your ideal fat intake.
Which is your favorite healthy fat? Let me know in the comments!
- Know Your Fats: Dr Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.
- Eat Fat, Lose Fat: Dr Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. & Sally Fallon Morrell
- The Oiling of America: Sally Fallon Morrell
- Put Your Heart in Your Mouth; Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride MD.
M BMedSci(neurology), M BMedSci(nutrition)
- Weston A. Price Foundation www.westonaprice.org