Guess What! Fats are good for you! For a long time everyone was focused on a low fat diet but we just kept getting fatter and our cholesterol levels kept getting higher. In the 1960s, Americans consumed about 45 percent of calories in the form of fats and oils, around 13 percent of adults were obese and less than 1 percent had type 2 diabetes. Although we have reduced our fat intake, getting about 33 percent of calories from fats and oils, 34 percent of adults are obese and 11 percent have diabetes, most with type 2 diabetes. In the 1970’s along with the creation of the food pyramid, the low fat diet craze began. This was based on flawed research implicating saturated fat consumption as the cause of high cholesterol and heart disease. So I thought today I would share a little about avoiding unhealthy fats and getting good fats in your body.
Cholesterol is needed in our bodies to make vitamin D and hormones among other functions. It is the type of protein the cholesterol is carried in that is the problem. The main cause of high LDL the bad cholesterol, is refined carbs and sugars, not fats. High HDL the good cholesterol, is associated with lowered risk of heart disease. We want to avoid unhealthy fats, but how do we increase the healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and saturated fats we really need?
First avoid all trans fats. Trans fats are a chemically altered form of vegetable oil which causes it to be solid at room temperature. They are created by heating oil up to extremely high temperatures and bubbling hydrogen gas through it. They are foreign to your body, act as extremely bad cholesterol molecules, and pile up in your bloodstream clogging your arteries. Read the label on your food purchases. Check for products containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils of any kind. These are frequently found in highly processed and shelf stable foods. A few popular examples include Jiff peanut butter and Ritz crackers. It is not enough to check the nutrition information for trans fats, you must read through the ingredients. The FDA has begun the process of banning trans fats from foods.
Another type of fat, omega six should be consumed in moderation. Omega 6 fats are commonly found in grains, vegetable oils, such as corn and canola oils, and meat from grain fed animals. While these are essentially not bad for you, we get way too much of this type of fat in our diet and it is out of proportion with other healthier fats. Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids have a complex relationship in the inflammatory process. Modern diets typically have an unhealthy ratio of omega 6 to omega 3s with too high a proportion of 6s disrupting the fragile balance.
AGE’s are not a type of fat but a by product of cooking with certain types of fats. AGEs are basically a byproduct of heating oils like vegetable and olive oil, which have a high concentration of polyunsaturated fats and a low tolerance to heat. They are linked to aging and create oxidation molecules in the body. Try to cook with saturated fats such as coconut oil or grass fed butter in order to avoid high concentrations of AGE’s. If you are going to cook with olive or vegetable oil try to keep the temperature low and do not let the oil smoke. You can always add vegetable oil at the end of cooking so it does not get heated.
These are great for cooking at high heat. Saturated fats include animal fats, such as beef, bacon, butter, and eggs. Vegetable sources of saturated fats include nuts, seeds, avocados, and coconuts. Your body needs saturated fats. Consumption of saturated fats decrease the concentration of lipoprotein a in your blood, lipoprotein a is associated with heart disease. Saturated fats are required in order for your body to assimilate calcium in the bones. Consumption of saturated fats causes the body to release stored fats in the liver, which contain toxins that the liver has filtered out. Keeping a steady consumption of saturated fat will help your body to become less toxic.Your brain is composed of 65% fat and cholesterol. There is a correlation between alzheimer’s disease and low concentration of saturated fats in the body. Saturated fats also play a key role in the way your nervous system sends signals through the body.
Monosaturated fats are healthy fats that include olive oil and advocados.
These include nuts, seeds, flaxseed and hemp seed. They are more easily damaged by heat and flaxseed, hemp seed and flax seed oil needs to be kept in the refrigerator. I love to sprinkle flaxseed on cereal or yogurt or into smoothies. Nuts such as almonds, pecans, walnuts and cashews are very good for you and help keep you full. Flaxseed, hemp seed and walnuts are also great omega 3 sources. Just watch the serving size as they can pack some calories.
Omega-3 fatty acids
They are a type of polyunsaturated fat that is especially good for you.They play a vital role in brain function including memory and helping depression. They reduce inflammation throughout your body which is essential for good health. In fact, excess inflammation may be one of the leading contributers to the most serious diseases we are dealing with today. In fact, excess inflammation may be one of the leading drivers of the most serious diseases we are This includes heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer,s and many types of cancer.
The best sources of omega 3 are salmon (especially wild caught and sockeye), tuna and other wild caught fish, sardines and anchovies and supplements including cod liver oil, krill oil and tuna oil. The American heart association recommends 1000 milligrams a day. We need both EPA and DHA. Also ALA which is found in flaxseed, walnuts and hemp seed. Our body converts ALA to EPA and DHA. Also grass fed beef has higher levels of omega 3.
Supplements will contain EPA and DHA. Check the label for the milligrams of each. Some will have a higher amount of one or the other depending on what you want to focus on. DHA is vitally important for our brain and studies show it is beneficial for alzheimers, depression and ADHD. 200 to 300 mg is recommended. EPA is also showing benefits for autoimmune diseases like lupus and psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. A recent study found that men who took DHA reduced their inflammatory markers in their blood by 20%. There is a strong correlation in reduced deaths from heart conditions in those taking DHA of 200 milligrams daily. Fish oil reduces the inflammation on our arteries that is a main cause of artherosclerois.
Studies recommend one can safely eat 12 ounces a week of the larger cold water fish. Above that and the mercury level is too high. Good quality supplements are mercury free. If your supplement gives you a fishy taste it is of very poor quality or even rancid. If you prick open a Standard process fish oil capsule and place it on your tongue it even has a slightly sweet taste. I know parents who give fish oil to their toddlers this way. I carry a couple brands of high quality fish oil and cod liver, including Douglas and Standard Process. Omega 3s are one of the most important nutrients to add to your diet for good health and anti aging.
Good Sources Of Healthy Fats
Animal sourced saturated fats
One of the main problems with animal products at the grocery store today is the way the animals are raised. They are often given hormones, crowded not allowed to exercise and stuffed full of grains such as corn and soy in order to raise them as quick as possible and to get the most profit. The animal welfare is disregarded and so unhealthy meat from sickly overweight animals with poor fat profiles and high levels of stress hormones and bad bacteria is passed to the consumer. The old adage you are what you eat is extremely applicable. High quality food products such as grass fed butter (Kerrygold), meat from grass fed pasture raised animals, and eggs from pasture raised chickens(different from free range) from local farms have numerous benefits. These animals have much higher concentration of healthy fats such as omega 3s and a more well balanced fat profile.
Vegetable sourced saturated fat
Coconut oil is excellent and contains a different kind of saturated fat called medium chain triglycerides or MCTs. MCTs are amazing for our brain and our body. They are the only type of fat which is directly absorbable by your bodies cell structure without a conversion process, and thus sparks fat metabolism increasing fat burning and creating a strong energy source. Coconut oil also helps us feel less hungry throughout the day. Studies have shown coconut oil helps reduce abdominal fat, the bad fat that causes metabolic syndrome. Studies also show its effectiveness for seizures and even Alzheimer’s. Make sure you buy organic virgin coconut oil. One popular way to consume coconut oil recently has been through Bullet Proof Coffee.
Walnuts contain a good concentration of saturated and unsaturated fats and can help clear the arteries of other types of unhealthy fats.
A good source of saturated and mono unsaturated fat. Advocados are a very heart healthy and brain healthy food. They also keep you feeling full and satisfied and are good for losing belly fat. Learn how to make guacamole and put them in sandwiches and salads.
Olive oil is excellent to make salad dressings and sautee with on the stovetop. Olives themselves are a good snack too.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 Fats: An Essential Contribution – All about the health benefits of the important omega-3 fatty acids, including the best food sources in which to find them. (Harvard School of Public Health)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Simple charts listing omega-3 fatty acid content of selected foods. (Tufts University)
Omega-3 fatty acids – Comprehensive article on omega-3 fatty acids and the role they may play in preventing several diseases and conditions. (University of Maryland Medical Center)
Trans fat: A cholesterol double-whammy – Trans fat lowers good and raises bad cholesterol, making it even worse than saturated fat in the fight against heart disease. (Mayo Clinic)
Trans fat: On the way out! – Periodically updated information on the ban of trans fats in restaurants with a chart listing where they have already been banned. (Center for Science in the Public Interest)