Today I'm going to break down fats in the diet and why they are important and which ones are the most healthy and which ones to avoid. First, the theory that saturated fats are bad and cause heart disease has been proven false. It was some bad science that created that theory and it is unfortunate that the "low fat" craze is still in existence. I hope to change that mindset in at least a few people with this post (share with your friends if you think they'll benefit.) In case you need more info about how low fat diets don't work, just look around the US population and the amount of obesity that is prevalent in people of all ages. When the food industry told us to take the fat out of food, they had to replace it with something tasty... and that something is sugar. Notice how everything has some form of sugar in it? High fructose corn syrup being the most common, but anything ending in -ose (fructose, sucrose, lactose, etc...) is a form of sugar. The health consequences of high amounts of sugar in the diet will be a future post.
So what are fats? Fats are one of the macronutrients in food; the others being protein and carbohydrates. Fats are used by the body to create ATP which is the food for mitochondria, the workhorses of our cells. Our brains are actually 60% fat and modern neuroscience has taught us that restricting fat and cholesterol in the body actually changes the state of our brains. Now who doesn't want a healthy brain? I know I sure do! No dementia or Alzheimers for me or my kids, please. Certain vitamins (A, D, E & K) and minerals are fat-soluable which means you need to consume fat with them so they can be absorbed by the body. The body also turns carbohydrates into energy, but at a much more rapid pace which is why if you eat a donut for breakfast, you get a burst of energy, followed shortly by that crash. Conversely, if you consume some healthy fat, such as a Bulletproof® Coffee, you have lasting energy for several hours.
There are many types of fats out there: saturated, unsaturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fats. Typically, saturated fats are solid at room temperature, so this includes lard, tallow, coconut oil, palm oil and butter. Unsaturated is the opposite; liquid at room temperature: fish oil, avocado oil, olive oil, nut and seed oils.
Here are the ones to avoid: trans fats (you'll notice this on packaging now "0 trans fats" but that can be misleading as there could still be a small amount of trans fats.) This is something that even the FDA is on board with. The others to avoid are most polyunsaturated fats. These are typically grain-derived cooking oils - think canola, cottonseed, soy bean, peanut and corn. According to the Bulletproof Diet, they are high in Omega-6 fatty acids which can be very inflammatory as well as full of mycotoxins. They are also more likely to be made from GMO crops, sprayed with glycosphate (a pesticide) and then heated to the point of being rancid to extract the oil before they make it to your kitchen. Not very appetizing now, huh?
So, what is left to consume are the saturated which come from animal sources and plants and the unsaturated that are processed in a way to prevent being rancid. These are cold-pressed, expeller pressed oils like olive, avocado, walnut, almond and fish oils. Notice how these are real food that Grandma could make on the farm and you don't need a factory to produce them? There is so much we still don't know or understand about nutrition as it has only really been studied for the past 100 years or so, that there are probably a lot of underlying things going on in the body beyond our currently defined macronutrients and micronutrients that also makes eating real, unadulterated food so important for good health.
Something new I learned about fats while reading the Bulletproof Diet and Bulletproof: The Cookbook, both by Dave Asprey is that the way you cook fats is also important. You don't want to heat them to the point of smoking, because then you'll cause oxidation which creates free radicals in the body which can cause some nasty things to take place, like inflammation and cancer. So, low and slow is the way to go. Here is a list of smoke points for certain fats to give an idea of maximum cooking temperatures.
- Butter: 300°F
- Ghee (clarified butter): 485°F
- Coconut oil: 350°F
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: 320°F
- Avocado Oil: 520°F
Another thing about fats is when they come from an animal source, the health of that animal affects the nutritional content of the fat. Makes sense, right? If you are eating a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) steak, you are also consuming in small amounts the antibiotics and growth hormones forced on the cow, both given to the cow so it can gain weight quickly... probably does the same to the human. A malnourished cow also won't have the level of antioxidants, omega-3’s, CLA, TVA, trace minerals, and vitamins as a healthy, grass-fed cow not to mention the ethical aspects of the cow's life.
How does this all tie into kid's health and well being? Well, as parents, we are the responsible for what we serve our kids to eat. We are also responsible for the care taking, which means taking care of ourselves first so that we are able to meet their needs. So, if you'd like to avoid the "hangry" (hungry + angry) child or the mood swings that come with the carbohydrate roller coaster, switch to eating foods with healthy fats at each meal. You'll be eating less often and feel better and be able to be a more present, patient parent. I know it helps me. And, as stated before, fats are needed for healthy brain development and who doesn't want a smart kid?
Want some more reading on the subject? Check out this post from Dr. Mercola's website.
Also, check out the Bulletproof Diet book.
Check out Omnivores Dilema if you want to learn me about CAFO animals.
I have this related book on my reading list if you want to jump ahead of me. :)
Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes
With love, hugs and smiles,