Time to get the FACTS straight about FATS

Fats have become so demonised over the last few years; we have become sceptical about eating any form of fats.  We are so bombarded by the food industry’s obsession with low fat foods, that we have replaced essential fats with high sugar containing foods instead.  This has resulted in more cases of type 2 diabetes, cancers, degenerative disease and cardiovascular disease than ever before.

Recent research indicates sugar and grains are the major players in these disease processes as well as the BAD fats – the artificial trans fats and processed saturated fats.

But not all fats are bad.  Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats provide the essential fatty acids omega 3, 6 and 9 which are found mostly in plant based foods and oily fish.  They are vital to our well being.  Fatty acids are in every cell of the body, affecting mood, memory, hormones, weight loss, skin, healthy cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health.

Our brain is made up of 60% fat and essential fatty acids which are vital to maintain optimal function.  Is it any surprise that we are seeing a rise in mood, anxiety disorders and depression?

It is time to understand the importance of good fats and put them back onto your plate.

Why do we need fats?

To understand this better we need to look back at our ancestral diet, the paleo diet, when incidence of disease caused by abundance in sugar and grains was not present.

During the Paleolithic period, our ancestors ate primarily vegetables, fruit, nuts, roots and meat.  This diet was high in fats and protein, and low in grain and sugar derived carbohydrates.

Today the average person’s diet is the complete antithesis of this.  The net result is people are suffering from more chronic and debilitating diseases than ever before.  We are not designed to eat high amounts of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, pasteurised dairy products and refined grains/cereals.

We have been encouraged to use glucose as our preferred fuel source, whether diabetics experiencing a crash in blood sugar, or athletes before a race, we have become obsessed with carb loading.  This has been a big mistake because in reality, FAT is the preferred fuel.  Historically the Mayans and Incas ate Chia seeds before battle (Chia meaning “strength”).  These tiny little seeds are rich in protein and essential fatty acids.  Chia sustained them and was their food choice for endurance.

Carbohydrate intake is the primary factor that determines your body’s fat ratio.  Processed, refined grains and sugars (particularly fructose) are the primary culprits behind our overwhelming increase in obesity and diabetes rates.

Weight loss happens when people switch from a carbohydrate rich diet to a protein – fat rich diet.  This rebalances the body and weight loss occurs or indeed a healthy weight is maintained.

We need to dispel the beliefs that eating less, exercising more makes you lose weight, and eating fat makes you fat!

Research by Dr. Richard Johnson, who wrote the book, The Fat Switch, dispels many of the myths relating to diet and obesity.

Dr. Johnson discovered the method that animals use to gain fat prior to times of food scarcity.  His research showed that fructose activates a key enzyme, fructokinase, which in turn activates another enzyme that causes cells to accumulate fat.  In short, Fructose turns on a “switch,” causing cells to accumulate fat, both in animals and in humans.

Overeating and excessive weight gain therefore could be viewed as a symptom of high fructose/sugar intake.  It’s not necessarily the result of eating too many calories, but rather getting calories from the wrong foods, the refined foods that then cause the blood sugar to rise and store the excess sugar as FAT.  Also when you consume too many sugars and carbs, you set off a chemical cascade in your body that makes you more hungry and craving for more sugar.

For example:

  1. Fructose is metabolised differently from glucose, with the majority being turned directly into fat because fructose stimulates a powerful “fat switch.”
  2. This rapidly leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity, weight around the middle, decreased HDL, increased LDL, (bad cholesterol) elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar (risk of diabetes) and high blood pressure (heart disease).
  3. Dietary carbohydrates, especially fructose, are also the primary source of a substance called glycerol-3-phosphate (g-3-p), which causes fat to become fixed in fat tissue – making weight loss more difficult.
  4. At the same time, high carbohydrate intake raises your insulin levels, which prevents fat from being released and burnt as an energy source.
  5. Fructose further tricks your body into gaining weight by turning off your body’s appetite-control system.  Fructose does not suppress ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) and doesn’t stimulate leptin (the “satiety hormone”), the net result you feel hungry all the time, even though you’ve just eaten.  As a result, you overeat and develop insulin resistance, which is an underlying factor of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many other chronic inflammatory diseases.

The fact is fructose and dietary carbohydrates (refined grains, which break down into sugar, excessive alcohol intake and stimulants from caffeine) lead to excess body fat, obesity and chronic inflammatory health issues.  Exercise cannot compensate for this damage because if you eat excessive fructose and grains – the primary ingredients NOT found in our ancestral diet – it will activate the switch to cause your body to store fat and remain overweight.

We need to bring back the good fats to feel satiated, increase metabolism and to create fat burning, not fat storing.  To feel full for longer and therefore eating less!  The body needs unadulterated saturated fats with the balance of Omega oils.

What are the bad fats?

Toxic Saturated fats, hydrogenated – trans fats.

These are mainly saturated fats from meat and dairy.  However this does not include grass fed meats because nature intended animals to feed on pasture.  Grass fed meat is rich in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) an omega 6 essential fat which is found only in grass fed meat, dairy and eggs.  CLA boosts metabolism, therefore aids weight loss, boosts immunity and increases good cholesterol (HDL).

The issues surrounding meat and dairy now are due to the farming methods such as the use of growth hormones, antibiotics and corn fed over pasture fed.  Dairy products are pasteurised and homogenised.  Ironically the body is able to digest full fat milk much better than the low fat products which are highly processed.  So if you’re going to chose dairy, source full fat raw organic milk products with live enzymes present, aiding digestion, over the highly processed low fat products.

Foremost among the most destructive processing methods is hydrogenation (or hardening).

Hydrogenation, is a process that is used to turn oils into margarine by shortening or partially hydrogenating vegetable oil.  All vegetable oil spreads ( including olive oil) and margarines are so indigestible for the body you may as well eat the tub they come in!  They contain both oxidised and trans fats.  The body absorbs these fats but once in the cell wall, the cell is unable to use this altered form and dysfunction ensues.  As a result there is a rise of cancers and cardio vascular disease, all from a spread that is marketed to do the exact opposite!

The second is the process used to make refined, bleached, deodorised cooking oils, which have become the main household oils.  Vegetable oil, safflower oil, soya bean oil, safflower oil, canola oil, rice bran oil and sunflower oil.  These oils are unstable, heat treated and partially hydrogenated and in some cases the plant is also genetically modified.  These oils are toxic to the body and in cooking need to be replaced with good saturated fats that are heat stable.

  • Butter -preferably organic
  • Ghee – preferably organic
  • Coconut oil (the king of oils, boosts immunity, anti viral/bacterial properties, creates fat burning in the body)
  • Sesame oil, mixed with coconut oil
  • Animal fats – dripping from roast meats, lard (organically raised animals)

Since the 1950’s artificial trans fatty acids have been introduced into processed foods, causing the increase risk of:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Lower intelligence by interfering with cerebral cortex
  • Interference with vision in children
  • Affecting the detoxification pathway in the liver
  • Increase in cancers
  • In animal studies they are shown to reduce fertility.

This week on 12 November 2013, the FDA has placed a ban on trans fats, declaring them unsafe, expecting to reduce up to 7,000 deaths a year from heart disease and reducing some 20,000 heart attacks.

With all this evidence we not only need to make better food choices by avoiding highly processed fried foods, fast foods, foods processed at high temperatures but also need to change the oils we cook with in the home.

Good oils, healing oils are the unsaturated oils to be used raw i.e. not heat-treated, for example in dressings and smoothies.

The oils must be extra virgin and cold pressed.  Oils should be bought/stored in dark glass airtight containers away from light to prevent them from oxidising or going rancid.

  • Olive
  • Flax seed (store in the fridge)
  • Walnut (store in the fridge)
  • Pumpkin (in the fridge)
  • Hemp seed (in the fridge)

FATS more than any other food group have caused great controversy and misconception.  With the overwhelming evidence of the negative impact that trans fats, hydrogenated fats and toxic saturated fats have on the body and multitude of disease processes they cause, it is time to be confident about fats.  Discard the bad fats and use only the good.  Eat raw nuts, seeds and their oils, a handful for a snack or over salads.  Aim to eat oily fish at least 3 times a week, salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines.  Add avocados into your salads or as a snack filled with hummus.

FATS are vital for longevity, they are anti-inflammatory, maintain healthy weight, happiness and hormone production. n short they are essential; it is time to put GOOD FATS back onto your plate.