Chalk One Up for Healthy Fats

Hip-Hip-Hooray!

I love the following post from Dr. Andrew Weil.  If you’re unfamiliar with him, he’s the Harvard educated MD who has built his career on integrating healthy lifestyles and alternative medical options  with current accepted western allopathic medical practices.

For WAY too long, we have demonized eating fat, particularly saturated fat,  and have promoted  unnatural “low- fat” and “non-fat” foods. As Dr. Weil points out below, most of the low- fat foods have substituted sugar for the fat.

There’s plenty of evidence that it’s  this practice that has led to damaged health and metabolisms. There’s also plenty of evidence that fat is not the culprit when it comes to heart disease…. unnatural fats, such as anything hydrogenated and also weird vegetable oils… and also too much sugar in the diet and zero exercise…. are the bigger culprits that everyone should be paying attention to and pointing their fingers at. 

I still see so many people just freaked out about using fat of any kind, particularly saturated fats. The thing to remember, or know, is that we MUST have fat. Here’s a list of some of the many uses for fat in the human body:

  • required for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, K,
  • required for the adequate use of proteins,
  • serves as a protective lining for the organs of the body,
  • necessary for manufacturing prostaglandins that occur in nearly all body tissues and fluids, 
  • regulates our cells’ communication for “nutrients in” and “waste out”, 
  • provide the fine tuning needed for maintaining homeostasis within the body, 
  • controls the inflammatory process, 
  • maintains some common steroid hormones including testosterone, cortisol, estradiol and progesterone.
  • is part of the myelin sheath which is an insulating layer that forms around nerves, including those in the brain and spinal cord, without which, nerve impulses wouldn’t be able to transmit quickly and efficiently along the nerve cells, causing diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
  • And….
  • Low-fat diets cause hormonal swings that can disrupt the balance of serotonin in the brain. Studies have shown that improper serotonin production can lead to depression. Low levels of serotonin are also connected to other mood problems like aggression and suicidal behavior. Without enough dietary fat, the body lacks the resources it needs to produce adequate serotonin.

In addition, it’s our muscles’ preferred source of energy or fuel. Need to keep going for a long time? Fat is far superior at fueling our muscles and maintaining our energy levels than carbohydrates.

Speaking of muscles, what is one of the most important muscles in our body? I hope you said your heart…. yes, fat is the preferred energy source for the old pumper. Having said that, it’s important to acknowledge that whereas our ancestors consumed lots of fat in meat, fish, full fat milk, real butter, etc…, the source of that fat was more natural than what we find in our markets now.

In other words, the meat and butter they ate and the milk they drank would have been from animals that only ate what they were meant to eat (like grass fed cows) and the animals would not have been confined to feed lots. The quality of the meat would’ve been healthier and leaner and the nutrients in the milk and butter would’ve had more beneficial qualities. And humans were more active out of sheer necessity… it had to have been flat out hard work to be a caveman or to toil away on the old homestead. 

As for quality meat these days? It’s hard to find 100% grass fed meat.. you can… but it hasn’t become readily available and it’s more expensive. Even some of the healthier options easily available to us are from animals that were grazed on grass until the last 3 months of their lives, whereupon they are switched over to grain in order to fatten them up. ( This is another topic, but are we paying attention? Did you catch the part about being switched over to grain to fatten them up?)  So while as a culture and a nation we were getting fatter and fatter while eating less and less fat, what were we being told to eat? Pasta, whole grain breads, bagels, cereal, blah blah blah. In a word? Grains. Starchy carbs. Sugar. (I know that’s actually 3 words… but really, as for the impact on the body, they pretty much are the same… they raise blood sugar and insulin levels).

I also still see people who prefer margarine and fake butter-like substances over real butter, the best of which are made from the cream from grass fed cows(like Kerrygold). In case anyone out there has missed this and is still repeating to themselves the old mantra to eat low-fat margarine, take a look at what margarine really is (from Mark at Primal Blueprint):

Margarine was originally developed as a cheap substitute for butter, and has evolved from some fairly unappealing animal-based ingredients into a vegetable-oil based spread with added chemicals that make it more flavorful and easier to spread. To achieve that solid, spreadable consistency, margarine manufacturers hydrogenate vegetable oil, creating unhealthy compounds that may contribute to heart disease and stroke. In addition, the heat and chemicals used to harden vegetable oils produce trans-fatty acids (TFAs), which can contribute to heart disease, increase cancer risks, promote inflammation and accelerate tissue degeneration.

OK…. now for Dr. Andrew Weil’s welcome comments:

Low-Fat Foods – Are They Better?

Published: 7/18/2012

A search for the term “fat-free” in the grocery section on Amazon.com brings up 3,386 products; “low-fat” yields 3,597. That’s a vast array of food products in which no- or low-fat content is touted as a virtue. Many of them compensate for the fat’s absence with extra sugar, corn syrup or other added sweeteners.

But the fact is, there appears to be very little hard evidence that saturated fat – long reviled as the worst of the fats for heart health – really does raise heart disease risk. A review of studies supported by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada concluded that there was “insufficient evidence of association” between saturated fat intake and risk of heart disease. Instead, it singled out foods with a high glycemic load – that is, sugar- and processed-carbohydrate-laden foods – in raising cardiovascular disease risk.

Government and industry have used shaky science to demonize natural fats and promote fat-free dairy products, processed grains and sweeteners. The fact is that natural fats and fat sources such as extra-virgin olive oil, butter, oily cold-water fish and even an occasional grass-fed, grass-finished steak are all good for you if eaten moderately as part of a low-glycemic-load diet. They supply essential fatty acids and a feeling of fullness, while helping to keep blood sugar levels, insulin and whole-body inflammation levels low and steady. No one’s health is improved by swapping out natural saturated or monounsaturated fats for skim milk, sugars or processed grains.

As I said…. Hip-Hip-Hooray!! So let’s try to stop eating so much bread, cereal, crackers, pasta, and meat, fish or fowl from animals fed unnatural diets and raised in confined animal feeding operations. (Check out Food, Inc. if you haven’t already).

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