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. There probably isn’t a 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’s up? What is really to blame for muffin tops and heart attacks?
I had the good fortune in 2001 to study the art of French cooking in Lyon, France. Surrounded as I was by fabulous food, I discovered that French cooking is first and foremost about great ingredients, unprocessed, un messed with food in it’s real form, and yes, cheese, eggs, and butter, lots of glorious butter! I got to experience the French paradox first hand as I ate meals, in moderation, with wonderful cheeses, sauces loaded with butter…and didn’t gain weight!
After this stint in France I returned to chef on a mega yacht, sailing the blue waters and catering to an elite high end clientele, sadly my French way was usurped by the latest diet and health craze requested; macrobiotic, vegan, spa cuisine, fat free, the saturated fats where always the villain! And so my cooking school notes gathered dust as I appeased my clients and convinced myself this was the way to go.
Later I entered the health and wellness business, facing serious health challenges myself and never feeling like I was quite finding the answer. It was not until I enrolled to continue my education in nutrition with the Nutritional Therapy Association, a school grounded in traditional foundations and discovered to my relief the French way is indeed quite correct!
For years we have been fooled into thinking fat is the villain when the issue really lies in a collective problem of damaged and bad fats, compounded by a sugar epidemic. When fat is removed from a food it is usually replaced by some sort of carbohydrate; the typical diet low in fats and high in carbohydrates has a detrimental effect on blood sugar, placing burden on vital organs and the leading cause for inflammation in the body.
It may be hard to believe that with the world wide obesity epidemic, that fatty acid deficiency is epidemic, leading to musculoskeletal , endocrine, cardiovascular, immune issues, allergies, depression…. Most diets are not deficient in fats, just loaded with all the damaged fats and deficient in healthy fats, required for optimum health.
So let’s have a quick look at a few of the valuable roles of fats in the body:
- Provide a source of slow burning energy for the muscles (including the heart!)
- Vital to the make up 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!
Does this give us license to slather everything in butter? Not at all, the key here is moderation and the correct macro nutrient ratio, (taught to us as 40% carbohydrates, including produce; 30% proteins and 30% good, healthy fats). 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!
With the exception of canola, soy and cottonseed oils which should all be avoided; the difference between a good fat and a 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 can not 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, more detail will be posted on my blog let’s have a quick round up :
- Saturated fats found in sources like animal fats from grass fed beef, and tropical oils like coconut oil, which is wonderful to cook with especially for high heat as it is highly stable.
- Monounsaturated fats found in olive oil and oils from almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts and avocados.
- Polyunsaturated fats, these are very unstable and go rancid easily, never use heated; found in sources such as flax, pumpkin and hemp.
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. I came across this photo online which pretty much sums it up; to right margarine, left reduced fat margarine, bottom right, butter!!
If even the flies won’t eat margarine, why should you; you can’t fool mother nature!
In Health and Wellness,
- Know Your Fats: Dr Mary G. Enig, Ph.D
- Eat Fat, Lose Fat: Dr Mary G. Enig, Ph.D & Sally Fallon Morrell
- Put Your Heart in Your Mouth; Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride MD M MedSci(neurology), M MedSci(nutrition)
- Weston A. Price Foundation www.westonaprice.org