Fats have been unfairly lumped together as being all bad for too long. Fat doesn’t necessarily cause disease, and can actually cause a role in its prevention. The truth is that some fats are very bad for us and some fats are actually very good for us.
Time has shown us that diets that restrict all fats fail in terms of weight loss. Since the end of World War II, Americans have been told that they need to restrict saturated fat in their diets. So we switched to margarine from butter, and did what we could to restrict fat. We have been constantly told that the reason for our health problems is that we still eat too much fat, especially saturated fats.
Since Americans have been told to eat a low fat diet to lose weight, the results are that nearly two thirds of adult Americans are now classified as overweight and more children are overweight now than ever before. Obviously something is wrong. That is because we need special kinds of fats in our diets that we are not getting.
If you are like me, you grew up being told that vegetable oils were the good oils and saturated fats were the bad ones. Now we are finding out that it is just the opposite. Diets that are moderate to high in “good” saturated fats and oils such as coconut oil and olive oil are actually very good for us. They raise good cholesterol levels and lower bad cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure. As a matter of fact, people who started adding at least 4 tablespoons of coconut oil to their diets every day, have found that they can now lose weight when they could not before on a fat restricted diet. Sometimes the addition of these oils even helps with their health problems.
It turns out that the bad guys are polyunsaturated oils, which carry toxic fatty acids (long chain fatty acids or LCT’s). These LCT’s tend to produce fat in the body. Polyunsaturated oils are the vegetable oils we commonly see in the grocery store, such as soy, corn, cottonseed, rapeseed and safflower.
We have been told that they lower cholesterol, but they way that they do is not healthy, as it ends up collecting in the liver. These oils are easily oxidized and damaged by free radicals. When cooked they become rancid in a few hours, even in the refrigerator. This causes damage to our body at a cellular level, the end results showing up as problems like diabetes, cancer, hypothyroidism and heart disease. And if that is not enough, these oils help us to get fat, lower the metabolic rate in our bodies, help suppress the thyroid function and cause our skin to age quicker.
Trans-fat is one of the worst bad guys. Trans-fatty acids often appear on ingredient labels as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. It is what they do to vegetable oils to make them into hard fats such as margarine and vegetable shortening. It is used in the prepared food industry in baked goods like cookies, crackers, and most supermarket peanut butter to prolong the shelf life. These bad fats are used almost exclusively in fast foods that are fried. When heated and eaten, they turn into something like poison in your system, because your body can not process this kind of chemically made fat. Trans-fats not only increase levels of bad cholesterol, but they will decrease levels of good cholesterol in the blood stream and trans-fatty acids have been linked to heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Fats such as margarine and shortening should be totally avoided, as well as foods items that contain them.
The United States FDA is finally catching up to this truth, and by January 2006 they will be requiring food products to label the amount of trans-fat they have in them.) What is frightening is that trans-fats are found in over 40% of the products on our supermarket shelves.
The fatty acid chains in coconut and olive oil are medium-chain fatty acids (MCT’s) and they promote weight loss by increasing the body’s metabolism to create energy. Coconut oil has become popular lately, because it has been discovered that coconut oil is nature’s richest source of MTC’s. If you decide to add coconut oil to your diet, it is recommended that you purchase virgin coconut oil (VCO), usually found in health food stores, because it from the best part of the coconut and has not been chemically bleached and heat processed. It is better for cooking than olive oil, because olive oil can be damaged by the heat of cooking, making it similar to the other vegetable oils in the body when cooked.
Even saturated fat from animals is not as bad as it once was thought to be, especially if it is from organically raised animals (free range and grass fed). Organic butter has a very high conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) content, which helps us lose weight and gain muscle. But non-organic meats may still be dangerous because of the way the animals were raised or fed. Most grocery store meats are filled with hormones, pesticides, medicines and unhealthy fat that gets transferred to us when we eat it.
Organic grass fed and free range meat and eggs avoid these problems, and give us a much healthier source of protein and saturated fat. Organic saturated fats and oils are actually good for you and should be eaten daily. The body needs these fats for healthy functioning.
So, forget the guilt and fry up that range-fed chicken in some coconut oil and enjoy!