Before I delve too far into the realm of fats this morning, I just want to preface this post by saying that I am quite pleased at the national attention this issue is receiving. Back when I was in grade school, (1992) the USDA came out with a fancy pyramid placing fats at the top, and advising consumers to “use sparingly”. (That same pyramid, incidentally, recommended 6-11 servings per day of breads, cereal, rice, pasta, which are all high-carbohydrate foods.) Fortunately, the USDA has now recalled that poor example of how we should eat. Unfortunately, it is much harder to reverse the damaging ideas in people’s minds that resulted from having that pyramid plastered on cute little magnets on their refrigerator for more than two decades.
But our country, as a whole, is making a lot of progress in the right direction. A couple weeks ago, Dr. Oz did a segment on fats, and why they are essential. He spent about twenty minutes on the topic, and had some valuable information. But honestly, we could talk for hours about fats and still only skim the surface. What I am going to try to do this morning is summarize for you why fats are not only important to your health and weight-loss goals, but essential!
First off, fats from both animal and vegetable sources provide an important source of energy in the diet. They are building blocks for cell membranes, good for the bones and heart, and they help normalize hormone levels in the body. Consider this:
“Before 1920, coronary heart disease was rare in America; in those days clogged arteries were a medical rarity…During the next forty years, however, the incidence of coronary heart disease rose dramatically, so much so that by the mid-1950s heart disease was the leading cause of death among Americans. Today heart disease causes at least 40 percent of all US deaths. If, as we have been told, heart disease is caused by consumption of saturated fats, one would expect to find a corresponding increase in animal fat in the American diet. Actually, the reverse is true. During the sixty-year period from 1910-1970, the proportion of fat in the American diet declined from 83 percent to 62 percent, and butter consumption plummeted from 18 pounds per person per year to four. During the past eighty years, dietary cholesterol intake has increased only 1 percent. During the same period…the consumption of sugar and processed foods increased about 60 percent.”
–Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon
Here are some additional benefits of fat:
Fats play a vital role in the health of our bones. For calcium to be put to use in the body, we need fat.
Fats stabilize blood sugar, helping you feel full longer after eating. Anyone who has ever tried to stick to a low-fat diet for any period of time will tell you about how hungry they felt when doing so!
Fats enhance the immune system.
Fats protect the liver from alcohol, OTC drugs, and other toxins.
We could go on all morning. If you still need further convincing on this issue, by all means, take a trip over to Mark Sisson’s blog, watch the Dr. Oz segment on youtube, or check out what Dr. Mercola has to say on the topic. They are all medical doctors that recognize that a low-fat diet is not the way to go. For my purposes today, however, let’s keep moving forward.
Fatty acids are classified into three primary groups, as follows:
Saturated: These fats are found mostly in animal fats and tropical oils. They are stable at room temperature, normally do not go rancid, and are excellent fats for cooking and heating to extreme temperatures without changing their composition.
Monounsaturated: These fats do not pack together as easily as saturated fats, and tend to be liquid at room temperature. They include olive oils, oils from almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts, and avocados. Like saturated fats, they are relatively stable. They, also, can be used in cooking.
Polyunsaturated: These are the omega-3s that we hear so much about. They are essential fats, and unlike the other two types, the body cannot produce them. These oils remain liquid, even when refrigerated. They are highly reactive and go rancid easily. They should never be heated or used in cooking. (I get my omega 3’s from flax or fish oil mixed for a salad dressing or blended into a smoothie.)
It is best to try to obtain a balance from all three groups of fat, and to consume a variety of different fat sources in your diet. (Note that man-made fats such as corn oil, vegetable oil, and canola oil have no place on this list, or in our diets.)
But, Angie, I don’t get it. How am I going to lose body fat if I am eating fat all of the time?
Actually, eating fat encourages your body to burn fat for fuel during both exercise and your daily tasks. If I want to cut my body fat for a race or for bikini season, I actually increase my fat consumption and reduce my carbohydrates.
Dr. Ted Morter has a handy chart in his book “Your Health, Your Choice”. It looks like this:
Excess Refined Carbohydrate–>Triglyceride–>Fatty Acid–>Fat Stored
That’s right! It is excess carbohydrate in the diet that results in stored fat, not fat itself. Those cereals, cookies, cakes, sandwiches, and pastas are much more likely to inhibit your weight-loss efforts than fatty foods like, oh, say…BACON!
Speaking of which, my bacon is done. And my running partner awaits. Happy Friday, Friends! Be sure to include bacon and avocado on those burgers you’re grilling up for Mothers’ Day!
Yours in Health,