Fats have been made the enemy in our culture. We are still feeling the residual effects of an entire generation bought into a low fat diet. I want to clear some things up about fat and explain why we needn’t be fearful of it!
There are Three Types of Fat:
Saturated-contains most amount of water possible, and is usually hard at room temperature (butter, lard, coconut oil).
Monounsaturated-lack two hydrogen atoms, therefore less stable, and more likely to go rancid under high temperatures (olive oil, nuts, avocado).
Polyunsaturated-two or more pairs of hydrogen atoms, remain liquid even when refrigerated (usually commercial vegetable oils).
We need all three types, but the polyunsaturated fats tend to come from rancid oils in the modern diet, such as canola or vegetable oil. These oils are highly processed and are characterized by free radicals. Good polyunsaturated fats will come in small amounts in things like legumes, nuts, green veggies, fish, olive oil, and animal fats.
Omega-3 vs. Omega-6
Refer to Dan’s article on this. But, the main idea is that we need a balance of each. An imbalance, where there is too much Omega-6, can lead to a tendency to form blood clots, inflammation (precursor to all disease in the body), high blood pressure, irritation of the digestive tract, depressed immune function, sterility, cell proliferation, cancer and weight gain. Foods with a better ratio of Omega 3s will be animal meat that is pasture raised, wild caught cold water fish, and saturated fats such as butter, tallow, and ghee.
Why is Fat Good For You?
Saturated fatty acids comprise 50% of cell membranes, making them firm and allowing them to function properly
Protects the liver from alcohol and other toxins
Supports immune system
Saturated fat is the preferred fat of the heart, it is surrounded by saturated fat and draws from this reserve in times of stress
Antimicrobial properties that protect the digestive tract
Balances and supports reproductive organs and endocrine system. One Harvard study found that women who ate more monounsaturated fat, in the form of avocados, were more than 3 times likely to get pregnant after IVF treatment.
What about Cholesterol?
When it comes to hear disease/cardiovascular disease, “Quality is just as important as quantity. A moderate amount of low-quality fat seems just as problematic as, or even more problematic than, a large amount of high quality fat. By today’s research standards, however, ‘low fat’ isn’t good enough. The fat that remains must be high quality” (Haas, 77). Cholesterol, when high quality, is actually really good for you:
Necessary for cell integrity
Precursor to Vitamin D
Acts as an antioxidant
Supports health of the intestinal wall
Supports sex hormones and prostaglandins
Supports health of brain, nervous system, blood, and skin
Cholesterol goes bad when it’s been damaged or oxidized. Think fried foods, food that has been overcooked in bad oils, processed food such as powdered eggs and milks, and trans fats. And when there is just too much. (Stick with the 40% carb/30% protein/30% fat Zone policy for optimal intake.) This is when it wreaks havoc on your arteries and heart. Speaking of Trans Fats…
STAY AWAY FROM TRANS FATS
Trans fats occur in foods that have been hydrogenated. (Usually margarine, peanut butter, and found in many processed/long shelf life food). Food makers like this process because it turns fats that normally become liquid at room temperature, into solid form. It also increases shelf life by forever.
Take rancid oil and mix with nickel oxide and hydrogen gas.
Add soapy emulsifiers and starch for better consistency
Steam clean it. (Because it now smells bad.)
Add color so it’s not ugly.
This vid explains this topic well, but I would say aftering becoming aware, one really hould simply stay away from trans fats. “With hydrogenation, one hydrogen atom of the pair is moved to the other side so that the molecule straightens. This is called the trans formation, rarely found in nature. Most of these man-made trans fats are toxins to the body, but unfortunately your digestive system does not recognize them as such. Instead of eliminating them, your body incorporates trans fats into the cell membranes as though they were cis fats. Your cells actually become partially hydrogenated!” (Fallon, pg. 15)
I could say so much more about fat! But here are the takeaways:
Eat a healthy ratio of fat (about 40/30/30). If you are trying to get pregnant or pregnant, you might want to increase the fat.
When eating fat from animals, make sure the animals were pasture raised so that you are eating a healthy amount of Omega 3s.
Cook with quality saturated fat such as ghee, grass fed butter, and coconut oil.
Make sure your monos and polys are not rancid. Stick with organic, expeller pressed olive oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil, and pumpkin seed oil.
Never eat trans fats.
Eat the yolks. (That’s a book.)
Eat wild caught cold-water fish.
Yes to avocados.
Avoid low fat or reduced fat foods.
Remember that fat supports nerves, cells, hormones, brain, skin, and cardiovascular health!
Haas, E.M. Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Ten Speed Press: 2006.
Fallon, S. Nourishing Traditions. New Trends Publishing Inc: 2001.