Friday, September 20, 2013

I Love Fat!

 We live in a very confused culture and time. What scripture says about what is right being called wrong and what is wrong being called right was so spot on for so many areas of our lives. Food is definitely a category where that deems accurate. There are more dietary theories and misconceptions than I can count. The dangerous part is with many of them there is a little truth mixed in with a little lie and in a case like that it is easy to blur the lines and truly understand nutrition.

In the 1990's the rage was zero to low fat made foods. I can remember being in high school and priding myself on all of my low fat recipes, especially using the low fat dairy products. I was famous for my zero fat sour cream dip at parties (barf!!!!!!). It's really amazing how different someone can be over the course of 6-7 years. Now it seems all I eat are lots of veggies, a minimal amount of animal protein, some fruit and gluten free grains/pseudo grains, and quite a bit of fat. I consume what some would consider an extremely high fat diet. Yet, I weigh what I did in high school as a teenager who danced ballet and jazz 4 nights a week in a studio and worked out for an hour each morning. I am active now, but no where as rigorous. I've had two children since then and it was only when I started eating this way that the weight I gained from getting pregnant came off.

Fat is such an important part of the foods that we eat. We need it for digestion, brain, heart, immune, lung, and joint health. It is imperative that we consume enough of it to function properly and have energy. It is necessary for healing, especially if you are healing from a gut related issue like candida, crohns, colitis, gastritis, or diverticulitis. I still see low fat being touted in products on the shelf. I give healthy grocery store tours so it is part of my job to know the products lurking around for the consumer. It is so easy to be deceived, incredibly so much so if we do not read labels. Marketing and propaganda are tricky my friends. There are different kinds of fats so being aware of what they are for and why we need them may be of assistance to you on your own health journey.

Types of Fat: Unsaturated and Saturated

The key to eating well with fat is knowing which ones to consume more regularly. Our bodies need balance and only a bit of healthy fat at a time. The more variety we eat in our daily diet, especially fruits and veggies, the better off we will be. Fats come from plants and animals. Both can provide us with healthy and unhealthy fats. Don't believe the hype on a label, do your research. Oh and please, please do yourself a favor, if you happen to watch a particular commercial or "doctor somebody" on television...continue to be a detective for your health. Just because it is on TV or the latest craze doesn't mean it's trustworthy...yes?...Say yes, Marie, yes.

Unsaturated fats are broken up into two categories: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. These fats come from vegetables and fish sources. Usually monounsaturated fats like olive oil are suggested for health benefits. Soybean oil is technically a monounsaturated fat and I would not in any way recommend this for consumption. Processed unfermented soy (organic and conventional) is a stressor on the thyroid, a hormone disruptor, as well as a catalyst to the inflammation in the gut. It is very difficult to digest. We really want to restrict and stay away from polyunsaturated fats and trans fats. Some polyunsaturated fats are sunflower, safflower, canola, and corn oils. Sesame oil in small amounts is okay al beit a polyunsaturated fat. Trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils) are polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats that have been processed with high heat so that they will resist rancidity and stay solid. These are found in crackers, cookies, cakes, cereals, and margarine (ewwwww).

Essential Fatty Acids

So these are the "hot fats" everyone is discussing. First of all I can recall a customer at work asking why these fats are called essential. Well, there is a simple reason to the question. Anything considered essential is a fat or other component that our bodies cannot produce on their own, therefore making it essential for us to consume it. This is where marketing gets tricky.

In health food stores you will see essential oil products with the numbers 3, 6, and 9 on them. So the numbers come from the amount of atoms in those particular fats so we can distinguish them. Our bodies need all of these fats. Truth be told we make omega 9 from the unsaturated fats already inside us and we do not need to take it in extra supplement form. Too much of it can even be a detriment. Olive oil actually is mostly made up of omega 9, not omega 3, as stated in marketing. Olive oil is still wonderful, just only consume the extra virgin cold pressed oils, and don't cook with it. It has a low heat tolerance. Use it more on top of foods and for homemade salad dressings. To be sure of getting a good extra virgin olive oil look for ones sold in a dark glass bottle with a harvest date. The best olive oils are currently coming from California, go USA!

Omega 3 and 6 on the other hand our bodies absolutely must take in from our food supply. In the standard American diet (SAD) most are very unbalanced as far the essential fatty acids are concerned. A good ratio of omega 3 to 6 is pertinent to health and inflammation levels. Too much linoleic acid, which is an omega 6 fat, that happens to be prevalent in the SAD causes high levels of inflammation. This can be found in unhealthy plant oils like soybean, sunflower, canola, and corn. Since many of our livestock animals are eating foods like genetically modified corn and soy, instead of grasses and grubs, they too have high levels in their bodies. Now don't totally get down on omega 6, we need it for sure, we just want to try to consume much more of the better kinds.

Now gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) on the other hand, which is an omega 6, is highly anti-inflammatory and immune system supporting. You can take this in supplement form from borage or evening primrose oils. My preferred way to utilize it is from hemp. Oh how I love hemp. Hemp was one of the super foods that I blogged about a while back, check it out here. So hemp seeds, protein powder (just the ground hemp seeds), and hemp oil all contain GLA. The seeds are delicious, light and a little almondy. Throw them in salad, in smoothies for protein, in homemade raw bars, mix with rice, quinoa, or millet, or top your soup off with some. Just don't cook with the oil, its great for salad dressings though. I say don't cook with it because this particular fat, much like olive oil, has a very low heat tolerance. Heat can change certain fats structures then making them toxic to the body.

Ah so on to the sacred omega 3 fats. Omega 3's help reduce inflammation and improve immunity. They also increase our lung health and cognitive function and brain development. Remember being told when you were young that fish are brain food...well, there is something to that statement. This is why fish oil sales are through the roof. In the fish oil we receive fatty acids called DHA and EPA. These are important for brain and eye health. I'll be honest with you, I think a high quality fish oil supplement, in the right form being triglyceride form, is great! We do this at my house. If I miss a day I don't worry too much since I eat a wide variety of foods with omega 3's. My favorite is fermented cod liver oil by Green Pasture. Fermented versus distilled is better because the fermentation keeps all of the natural health properties in tact, where distillation removes some of them, like some of the natural vitamin D. If you don't have access to fermented I still think a high quality distilled is fine; Nordic Naturals is a good brand for those. Not all brands are equal kids, there are too many rancid fish oils sitting on the shelves of America. Do yourself a favor, go to the local health food store, and pick up your fish oil. Do not buy it at a superstore or regular pharmacy...yuck! If you have EVER burped it up, that means you were consuming the rancid stuff.

Just so you know fish oil is high in omega 3 because of what the fish eat, not because fish naturally contain it. Omega 3's are found in the plants like seaweed that the fish eat. Omega 3's are found in green plants. This is why grass fed cows are so important! Grass has omega 3's, unlike soy and corn with omega 6, so grass eating cows are healthy cows. Healthy cows give us healthy beef and milk (not that I currently consume either). Yay grass fed!

Other fabulous foods that give us omega 3's are raw walnuts, flax seeds (ground unheated), chia seeds (unheated, don't need to be ground, awesome source), sea veggies like dulse and kelp, green algaes such as chlorella and spirulina, truly free range eggs from pastured-free range chickens, wild salmon (not farmed salmon because they eat corn and soy), wild rice (because it is grass), avocados (have omega 6 also; my favorite food), and black beans! The walnuts and flax give us a fat called alpha-lineleic acid. These turn into DHA in the body. Avocados actually provide a spectacular cooking oil because the smoke point and heat tolerance is actually 520 degrees. The draw back is it is very expensive.

Saturated Fats: Oh the Controversy

Saturated fats typically come from animals. The skinny on this fat though is that they aren't bad unless they come from animals who aren't being fed properly. Remember how grass fed cows and true free range pastured chickens give us omega 3's.....well, soy and corn fed animals give us WAY TOO MANY omega 6's. That linoleic acid is very inflammatory. It's the linoleic acid that packs on the belly fat and clogs the arteries.

So here's the thing for years modern medicine has said saturated fats were bad and that they raised bad cholesterol. That's unfair and only partly true, all saturated fats are not equal. My favorite oil happens to be a saturated fat, organic unrefined coconut oil. I will not go into all of the benefits of coconut oil here. Just know its spectacular and super healthy to go on the body and in the body. Most saturated fats are long chain fatty acids. Coconut oil is a medium chain fatty acid, these are magic in the body. For more health facts read my post on coconut here . It has a very high smoking point, so the tolerance to heat for baking is wonderful.It speeds up metabolism and can assist in weightless. Only buy organic, virgin, unrefined coconut oil. Try this one.

Grass fed butter and ghee are saturated fats. These are natural, fairly easy to attain, delicious, and good for you. Now don't go eating a whole stick of butter, lets not get too crazy. Be responsible, bigger is not better. Ghee is a little bit more exotic, it can be found at local health food stores, online, and in Whole Foods. Trader Joes carries it, but I'm not sure it is from grass fed cows. You can also learn what ghee is if you don't know and how to make your own ghee here.

Another spectacular saturated fat is red palm oil. It is from the palm tree, not be confused with the coconut palm. Outside of the USA, palm oil is the most widely used oil. When unprocessed it has a red hue. It is actually extremely beneficial to the body. It can help UNCLOG arteries and keep them clean. It also has an extremely high smoking point of 410 so its perfect for stir frying some of your local, fresh, organic veggies! Look for it virgin and cold pressed. Try this one.

Hope this was helpful to you! What fat is your favorite? Remember to be healthy, be blessed, and be a good steward.

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  1. My favorite fats are avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, and butter. It's hard to get through a meal without one of these; I love them so much. Unfortunately they do not love me!!

  2. Miss you Cathy! Thanks for your comment!