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Fat – The Good & The Bad News
By Tammera J. Karr, MSHN, CNC, CNH,CNW 2009©
|How is it that for centuries our ancestors consumed large quantities of high fat foods and never fell victim to the collection of expected health challenges of today’s generations? To answer this we must look at the lifestyle, food and preparation methods commonly used by past generations. Many may also think it is a matter of individuals not living as long in the past; what has actually changed is childhood life expectancy. By more children surviving today, it reflects a longer life expectancy. In fact Americans are only living on average 5 to 7 years longer, than 100 years ago.
The American life style has indeed dramatically changed over this time frame; now we are a sedentary society, consuming on average 900 – 2500 more calories daily than we can burn. No longer are the majority of us consuming whole foods, they are now literally more plastic and petroleum than wholesome natural foods.
Suggested Reading for more on this topic: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Just when did we develop deficiencies in cholesterol lowering medications? I’m convinced it is not a deficiency in medications but abundance in highly processed synthetic fats, commercial foods commonly consumed and a misconception of the role of cholesterol that has lead to the overuse of cholesterol lowering medications.
Fat is the generic term for fats (solid) and oils (liquid) in foods. All fats are triglycerides: all are mixtures of saturated, unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Fatty acids are the building blocks of fat. They are described as saturated, unsaturated and polyunsaturated. Two of these fatty acids are required in the diet making them essential fatty acids – linolenic acid and alpha-linolenic acid – these fats are most commonly found in cold water fish such as Alaskan salmon, free range grass-fed beef and poultry, wild game and high quality omega-3 oil supplements.
Fat is necessary in the diet to add flavor, moisture and it is a key macro-nutrient used by the body for energy, brain function, hormones, nerve development, insulation and weight control – yes weight control… For the past 30 years Americans have been lead to believe (by the media and those who have the most to gain financially), that fat is bad and that a diet high in carbohydrates is heart healthy and better for you. Instead what really happens is we have replaced healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil and yes real butter and eggs with highly processed fats that convert to prostaglandin 2 (found in polyunsaturated, hydrogenated omega-6 vegetable oils), an inflammation driver that leads to heart disease, high cholesterol, type2 diabetes and inflammatory illnesses such as arthritic, gout, fibromyalgia and some believe dementia.
No longer is it advisable to render your own fats from poultry, beef and pork, mostly due to bad press and the commercial use of large quantities of antibiotics, petroleum and hormone disrupting chemicals, all stored by the animals and humans in body fat. But the fact of the matter is the human body is designed as an omnivore and as such real fats found in eggs, flesh and plant foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, fruits, olives and coconut are good for us; provided it comes from the whole fresh food not a plastic bottle, tub or jar. Fat provides not only energy and insulation but it slows down the conversion of carbohydrates like rice, corn, bread, sugar, dairy and potatoes to glucose (sugar). This gives the pancreas time to determine just how much insulin the body really needs. By keeping these two chemicals in check with healthy “real” fats the human body is then able to control inflammation which is the root cause of degenerative illnesses like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Over 60% of the brain is made up of cholesterol; all of our hormones are as well. Without healthy fats in our diet the liver is forced to make cholesterol to meet the body’s needs for these key components. There is a direct correlation with lower cholesterol and increases in depression, impaired immune function, muscle weakness, and hormone imbalances.
In the American obsession with health, we may have thrown the baby out with the bath water when we blindly believe the manufactures proclamations for – healthy food, fat free, no trans-fats, heart healthy, no cholesterol and good for you. Corn and the companies who profit from the sale of it (McDonalds, Coke, Monsanto, Cargill) may be responsible for many of the modern health problems in America. A local egg farmer on average receives .40 cents on every dollar of eggs sold – in contrast a corn farmer only receives .02 cents on every dollar. According to Michael Pollan in his book “The Omnivores Dilemma” The bulk of the profit goes to large companies like McDonalds and Coke. High fructose corn sweetener; only one of the hundreds of products made from #2 corn, is the leading cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, obesity and elevated cholesterols…. Not good fats found in real foods like organic butter, eggs, meats and fresh whole vegetables.
Now is a great time to dust off your grandmothers old cook books, spade up a little dirt for a garden and take back control of your health by eating real foods from your local area and garden.
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