Real Fats

2 Jul

Myth: Saturated Fats are Unhealthy

It seems when it comes to health and fitness, there’s always something new – a new finding, a new method, a new diet . . . and it can be hard to make heads or tails of all that you read and hear.  Ultimately, it comes down to who you trust and common sense.  Our philosophy at FIT, when it comes to exercise and diet, is that the human body is basically the same as it was 100s of years ago, so the question becomes what has changed that’s lead to such an increase in disease and how do we fix it? Back in the 80s, nutrition advice was all about how bad fat was for us.  Not only in terms of weight gain, but also in terms of disease.  People began drastically reducing their fat intake and consuming fat free substitutes, industrialized fats like margarine, refined oil and trans fats that have now been shown to be unhealthy. In truth, all real fats as they are found in nature, those that have not been damaged by heat or processing, are vital to the body and its functions.  Saturated fat, which gets a pretty bad rap, helps fight infection, enables the production of sex hormones, aids in digestion of fat soluble vitamins, extends the body’s use of omega-3 fats, and enables the body to absorb calcium.  In addition to what it does for our bodies, put simply, saturated fat tastes good.  While this news on fat is encouraging, the discussion would be incomplete without addressing concerns about cholesterol and heart disease.

Current research is calling into question the link between cholesterol (and therefore, saturated fat) and heart disease.  There are ample studies that have shown no correlation between cholesterol and heart disease.  Some research has even found a decrease in the rate of disease and death with higher cholesterol levels in women and men over the age of 50.  Heart disease, as it is known today, was first diagnosed in the early 1900s.  The argument can be made that diagnostic techniques and scientific advancements have led to the ability to diagnose this disease, which had led to greater awareness.  An alternative argument would be that our food has changed, which has led to disease(s) that were previously non-existent.  My best guess is that the answer is a combination of the two.

As for medical science and diagnostics, any advancement in knowledge and technology can only be to our benefit.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about our food supply where advances in technology have not all been for the better.  Put simply, all our food is not created equal.  When it comes to produce, many beneficial nutrients are lost in the creation and packaging process before they even get to the point of being what we consider ‘processed’.  As far as animal fats are concerned, fat from industrial animals are not as beneficial as those from animals raised in their natural environment with the feed they would naturally consume.  Grass fed beef and dairy animals, as well as pastured
poultry, eggs and pork, are all sources of essential omega 3 fats. However, wild fish is still the best source of omega 3 fats.  Looking back, industrialization of agriculture began in the mid-1800s with the introduction of machines and fertilizer .  Recalling that heart disease was first diagnosed roughly 50 years later, we might consider how our agricultural methods have changed and take a page out of our ancestors’ book with regards to farming as well as food preparation.  The moral here, whenever possible utilize foods that you can trace back to their source, meaning buying produce from farmers markets or CSAs (community supported agriculture), finding meats that have been raised sustainably and humanely, and omnivorous fish that are caught, not farmed. When the above is not possible, eat as close to those guidelines as possible.

As for food preparation, we need to question much of what has been touted as ‘healthy’ now that we know more about the benefits of saturated fat.  Saturated fats are more stable when heated than monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated, and are therefore less easily damaged.  Damaged fats appear to be the unhealthy, which is why using unsaturated oils for cooking is not advised except over low heat.  Heating fat to smoking point is a sign of damage.

The Best Cooking Fats
Saturated Monounsaturated Polyunsaturated
Heat-Stable                           Moderately Stable                             Unstable
Ideal for Cooking                 Acceptable for Moderate Heat        Ideally Used Cold

Beef                                        Canola Oil                                            Peanut Oil
Butter                                    Lard                                                       Sesame Oil
Coconut Oil                          Macadamia Nut Oil                            Walnut Oil
——————-                         Olive Oil                                                Flax Seed Oil

Traditional Healthy Fats
•    Fat from grass-fed cattle, sheep, bison and other game
•    Butter and cream from grass-fed cows
•    Lard from pastured pigs fed a natural diet
•    Eggs from pastured chickens, ducks and geese
•    Fish oils (preferably wild), especially cod liver oil
Vegetable oils
•    Cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil
•    Cold-pressed, unrefined flaxseed oil
•    Wet-milled, unrefined coconut oil
•    Cold-pressed, unrefined walnut oil
•    Cold-pressed, unrefined macadamia oil
•    Cold-pressed, unrefined sesame oil

References:

The Diet Argument By Uffe Ravnskov, M.D., Ph.D. [Teksti on lainattu kirjoittajan luvalla tekeillä olevan kirjan johdantoluvusta]

A timeline of Agricultural Developments http://robinsonlibrary.com/agriculture/agriculture/history/timeline.htm

Real Food by Nina Plank

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4 Responses to “Real Fats”

  1. Tammy McLeod July 2, 2010 at 6:58 pm #

    Great post with good albeit somewhat contradictory (to what we’ve heard before) information. I think this is particularly interesting because once again, it comes down to how the animal was raised.

  2. Jeffery Anne Tatum July 3, 2010 at 7:17 am #

    I found a lot of really good information along these lines in Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions. I highly recommend it. Ironically, I lost a lot of weight when I radically reduced sugar and processed food intake and began eating only full fat dairy, including raw, whole milk. Tracy’s point to think about how our long-ago ancestors ate is a good one: whole foods!

    • tracey4fit July 3, 2010 at 8:42 am #

      Great book, thanks for mentioning it – have it sitting on my bedside table as we speak. It’s difficult to go against much of what we’ve been told when it comes to saturated fat and meat but like anything, the more information you have, the more informed decision you can make. Glad to hear you are doing well Jeffery.

  3. Chris July 3, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    All you gotta do is act naturally (that would make a good song)

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