Keep the Fat! Why it is Critical for our Body.

We have a deep ingrained belief that fat, especially saturated fat, is the villain of all villains. “It clogs our arteries, leads to cardiovascular disease, and makes us fat,” right? Not so fast! Much of this belief began with the publication of Ancel Key’s “Seven Countries Study” in the early 1950s. Keys showed a strong trend between fat consumption and heart attack incidence. What wasn’t brought to people’s attention was that Keys had data from 22 countries but threw out the numbers that didn’t meet his hypothesis. With all information accounted for there was actually NO relationship between fat intake and cardiovascular disease! Where would we be today had we known THIS?!

 

It’s true; not all fats are created equal! We still have to be aware of what types will aid in optimal health, but assuming quality choices are made, it’s time to STOP the fat phobia!

 

Check out this great video: The Saturated Fat Myth Debunked in Two Minutes and Thirty Five Seconds

 

And this clip of Dr. Peter Attia with Dr. Oz: The Truth About Saturated Fat

 

Pastured lard

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of fat and why some are so important.

Foods tend to be a mixture of different types of fat (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated).

 

Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) have gained more acceptance of the years and are found in foods such as olive oil, avocados and nuts. Among other functions, they are important for improved insulin sensitivity.

 

Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) include the essential fats, omega-3s and omega-6s. We must consume these fats through our diet for our bodies to function properly, but the key is eating them in the proper ratio! The Standard American Diet is oversaturated with omega-6s (found in grains, processed foods and grain-fed livestock) with ratios ranging from 10:1 to a whopping 30:1 (omega 6:omega 3). We should be striving for a ratio closer to 1:1 or 2:1!

  • Omega-6s are important for skin health, kidney function, and other body processes, however, too much can lead to severe systemic inflammation, increased blood pressure, blood clots, decreased cognitive and neurological function, as well as depressed immune function.
  • The overconsumption of omega-6 PUFAs is largely due to the “industrialized” oils (corn, soy, safflower, sunflower and similar vegetable oils) that are in most processed foods today.
  • Omega 3 fats naturally thin the blood (aid in circulation), fight systemic inflammation, support brain function and improve symptoms of depression, anxiety and ADHD.
  • The best sources of omega-3s include: fatty fish, flax, macadamia nuts, walnuts, eggs (from chickens feed fish or flax meal), grass-fed meat, and algae.
  • While PUFAs in the proper ratio fall into the “good fat” category, we still need to be aware of their downfalls. Because of their chemical structure, they are unstable, oxidize and go rancid easily. This can result in free-radical damage within our body. It’s therefore recommended that we buy the freshest sources of foods high in PUFAs, store them properly (away from light and heat) and consume foods rich in antioxidants to help combat oxidative damage. Check out Mark Sisson’s post on PUFAs HERE.

 

Saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature. They are highly stable, meaning they don’t go rancid or oxidize easily under heat like many liquid oils do.

  • Coconut oil, palm oil, organic pasture-raised butter, ghee, tallow and lard are all examples of foods that contain quality saturated fat.
  • Saturated fats are essential to many body functions including, the structure of our cell membranes, a great source of energy, calcium absorption, immune function, and they provide essential fat-soluble vitamins (such as A, D, and K2).

 

Our brains, nerves and hormones are largely made up of fat. We NEED fat to be at our best! By choosing quality sources of food, and therefore fat, from a paleo way of eating you are allowing your body to efficiently use fat and begin regaining a balance of health.

 

Cautionary Note: A high intake of saturated fats ALONG WITH a high intake of carbohydrate (processed grains, sugars) is what we want to avoid!! This combination can lead to systemic inflammation and an unhealthy heart!

 

Fats to Enjoy!

Olive Oil:

  • A quality extra virgin olive oil (cold pressed) is great for adding to salads or dishes after cooking.
  • It is easily oxidized under medium to high heat, so it is not the best choice for a cooking fat. A light olive oil can be used for cooking at lower heat.

Avocados:

  • A great source of monounsaturated fat!

Coconut Oil, Coconut Butter, Coconut Milk:

  • Coconut is a source of fat that paleo enthusiasts learn to love!
  • Coconut oil is a great choice for cooking. It’s very stable under heat and adds great flavor to food.
  • Coconut oil is easily digested and converted to energy. It helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and aids in proper blood pressure, digestion and metabolism.
  • Coconut contains the most lauric acid of any natural substance. Lauric acid appears to have incredible health benefits including anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties (important for our digestive and immune function).

Macadamia Nuts and Walnuts:

  • These nuts are a decent source of omega 3 fats.
  • If weight loss is your primary goal, you may want to go easy on these nuts. Think of them as a healthy condiment.
  • Note: Almonds are high in omega 6 fats! They are considered part of a paleo-friendly “diet,” but they are best used in moderation. It’s easy to over-consume almonds (and nuts in general) given many snacks and recipes call for almond butter or almond flour.

Wild Fatty Fish:

  • Wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies, trout….

Animal fat from organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed and finished meat.

 

Fats to Avoid!

Industrialized Oils:

  • Corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower seed oil, vegetable oil
  • Read ingredient lists carefully! These are found in most processed foods.

Trans Fats and Interesterified Fats:

  • RUN AWAY!
  • They are chemically modified “fats” that the body doesn’t recognize and therefore doesn’t know how to get rid of.
  • They are associated with inflammation, atherosclerosis, immune dysfunction, obesity and diabetes.
  • Often lurking in: processed foods (frozen dinners, canned soups, breads, peanut butter, margarine, snack foods, etc.)
  • Stay away from foods that contain the words “hydrogenated” or “partially-hydrogenated” on the ingredient list.

Grain-fed/Feed-lot Beef, Conventionally Raised Pork:

  • Toxins such as antibiotics and hormones given to cattle are found in high amounts in their fat.
  • If grain-fed beef is your only option, choose lean cuts and trim the fat!

 

Now go add some natural fat to your plate! What’s your favorite source?

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