The type of fat is important, not how much you eat. A few facts most are unaware of with regards to fats is that each cell membrane in your body (and there are literally millions and millions of these cells) is compose of fats. The second important and often overlooked fact is that your brain is in fact composed of about 60 percent fat! Bearing this in mind, it is very important therefore to understand that the kind of fats you consume therefore strongly influence not only your level of brain function, but your entire health. An interesting book I read several years ago is called “The Paleolithic Prescription”, this was probably the first book written in the late 80’s to outline what we today call the cave man or “paleo” diet. Nutritional expert anthropologist Melvin Konner Ph.D. mentions in his revolutionary book that the human brain probably would not have developed as it did without access to high levels of the type of fat found in fish and wild game. Just two generations of high omega-6 and low omega-3 fats can lead to profound changes in brain size and function. Download your complimentary Cooking with Fats and Oils chart here, it contains my recommendations for the best and worst oils and fats in your diet.
Here are some quick links that will take you to different pages of interest:
- Health On A Budget
- Healthy Food Choices
- High Value Foods
- What Is An Antioxidant?
- Dietary Supplements
- Lifestyle Changes
What Is Fat?
Fats and oils are one of the three major classes of basic food substances, the others being protein and carbohydrate. Fats and oils are a major source of energy for the body. This class of food substances aids considerably in making both natural and prepared foods more palatable by improving both their texture and flavor. The fast food industry knows this very well, as sugar, salt and fats are the three key components of any take-away food. How can you have deep-fried or oven baked french fries for example without salt? A true marriage made in heaven. You can read much more on this What Is Fat?
I must admit, learning about fats can be confusing because there is some degree of biochemistry involved, but it need not be difficult to understand! When you go to the supermarket, you’re confronted with advertisements telling you that this or that product is “99% fat free”, but what they don’t tell you is how loaded these foods can be with sugars. The emphasis today is on “fat free”, and we are under the mistaken belief that “all fat is bad”, and the “eating fat makes you fat”. Whilst it is true that some fats such as the partially hydrogenated oils and deep fried saturated oils are potentially bad for you, the healthy fats are an important part of a healthy diet or To make sense of the various types of fats, we have compiled the following list of definitions for you.
These are found in animal products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream and fatty meats. They are also found in some tropical plants and vegetable oils such as coconut, palm and palm kernel. Saturated fats are not as dangerous as you think. In fact, coconut oil is quite healthy and has been consumed for many years by many living in the pacific. Coconut oil is an excellent oil to use for cooking since it is far less likely to be damaged through heating, it can take a much higher temperature than most other oils without being damaged and thereby causing you health concerns. Many people still believe that “animal fats cause heart attacks”, this is a common fallacy which has persisted since the 1950’s and has even turned people away from consuming eggs. Here are four reasons why saturated fats are good for your health:
- Saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in your diet.
- Saturated fats provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone like substances, they are necessary to maintain optimal health. Each and every cell in your body has a “membrane” or outer wall – and this wall is composed of fats. Saturated fats help strengthen these walls.
- Saturated fats also allow you to regulate your appetite more effectively, because when you eat saturated fat as part of your meal, it slows down absorption so that you can go longer without feeling hungry. You feel satisfied for longer and snack less, resulting in a more stable weight long term.
- Saturated fats act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are also needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption, and for literally dozens of other biological processes.
- Studies on low saturated fat diets also support nutritional typing, which predicts that one-third of people will do very well on low saturated fat diets (which supports the studies showing that they work), whereas another one-third of people need high saturated fat diets to stay healthy.
Many cultures around the world have existed for many generations on a diet rich in saturated animal fats. It is a lie that animal fats “cause heart disease”, and is a myth which has perpetuated since the 1950’s. Here are just a few of the world’s many indigenous cultures which eat a diet rich in saturated animal fats.The interesting thing about these indigenous cultures is that they carry literally NO body fat, have great muscle tone and in addition have exceptional cardiovascular fitness. But – they eat plenty of fat. Note how I didn’t say that they drink plenty of alcohol, eat lots of refined products like white bread, they don’t tend to eat at McDonalds or Burger King either.
- The Masai Tribe from Kenya and Tanzania (Africa) – Meat, milk and blood from cattle. Butter for infants. A diet which is 66% rich in saturated animal fats.
- The Inuit (Eskimos) Arctic Eskimo tribe – Whale meat and blubber, deep sea cold water fish. A diet which is 75% rich in saturated fats.
- The Rendille Tribe from the Kaisut Desert (North-East Africa) – Camel meat, milk and blood. A diet which is 65% rich in saturated animal fats.
- The Tokelau Tribe from three atoll islands (Pacific Ocean) – Fish and coconut. A diet which is 60% rich in saturated animal fats.
These are the bad guys, the “Darth Vader” of processed foods. These fats form when vegetable oil is made to harden with a process called “hydrogenation”, and can raise bad cholesterol (cholesterols, and lower good cholesterol (HDL) levels, which of course is the exact opposite of what you need in order to maintain good heart health! The consumption of food containing trans-fat (as opposed to saturated fats) has unequivocally been shown to increase the risk of heart disease by raising levels of LDL (bad cholesterol), and lowering levels of HDL (good cholesterol).
They are made to prolong the shelf life of processed foods and some companies may in fact make you believe that they are “villain; and point the finger naturally saturated fats as being the villian. Fast food supplier McDonald’s announced in New Zealand in 2006 that it made changes to its cooking oil, resulting in a blend that is “virtually” trans fat free. These fatty acids can cause major clogging of your arteries, as well as potentially causing type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems. Here are several reasons why trans-fats are not so good for you:
- Trans fat is found in most shortenings, many labellinges (avoid them and use REAL butter instead), packaged and processed snacks such as crackers, biscuits and cookies, many commercially fried foods, pastries and other foods prepared with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Check the labels and ask the manufacturer, the label will state: “partially hydrogenated”.
- Some margarine brands use what we call “fractionated” oils instead of partially hydrogenated oils in order to eliminate trans-fat. The fractionation process involves heating then cooling the oil when it is liquid, thus separating it to “fractions” that have different melting points. Unfortunately, this process raises the level of saturated fat in the oil and makes it unhealthy.
- Trans fat containing food packages has been mandatory since 2006 (hence the McDonald’s change), but if a serving has less than one half a gram of trans-fat, the label may state ZERO. And that even includes 0.49 grams in a serving size for a one year old.
- In 2003, Denmark effectively banned trans-fat from all foods, charting a course for an 80% reduction of trans-fat in all foods, and in 2008, California became the first state to ban restaurant chains from using trans-fats for cooking or frying.
- Are you eating a food butter like trans fats? Check it out and if you are – STOP consuming it now if you value your circulation long term.
Health Tip – What is the difference be hydrogenation and partial hydrogenation?
Hydrogenation is the process of bombarding an oil’s fat molecules with hydrogen atoms, making it more dense and raising its melting point, so that the oil becomes solid at room temperature. An unfortunate side effect of this the creation of trans-fatty acids. Partially hydrogenated oil means that the hydrogenation process stopped short of a full solid, reaching a more creamy, semi-soft, butter like consistency. This is the story of margarine. Cis and trans are terms that refer to the arrangement of chains of carbon atoms in a fat molecule, hydrogenation turns cis into trans.
The best oil here is olive oil. Olive oil is in my opinion the “king” of the monounsaturated fats, and is probably the crowning glory of the Mediterranean Diet. Olive oil has a lovely aroma and taste, it is a natural juice which preserves the taste, aroma, vitamins and properties of the olive fruit. Olive oil is the only vegetable oil that can be consumed as it is – freshly pressed from the fruit. I drink about 1 tablespoon each day of the “extra-virgin”. It did take me a few years to get to really like olive oil in my diet, and most folk are not accustomed to pouring oil on their food.
Start with small amounts and build up. You can buy different grades, be sure to purchase the extra virgin. Other healthy oils in the mono-unsaturated category are sesame oil and sunflower oil. Hemp oil is also good. Canola oil is also in this category, but I advise avoiding it and using olive oil instead. You can obtain organic sources but I have my reservations about canola oil, I advise you give it a wide berth. Olive oil comes from olives, peanut oil from peanuts, sunflower oil from sunflowers; but where does canola oil come from? If you have a good look online, you will find plenty of official canola sites raving about canola’s its low-fat health benefits. Canola is not the name of a natural plant but a made-up word, from the words “Canada” and “oil”. Canola is a genetically engineered plant developed in Canada from the rapeseed plant, which is part of the mustard family of plants. According to AgriAlternatives, a major technology magazine for farmers in America: “By nature, rapeseed oils, which have long been used to produce oils for industrial purposes, are toxic to humans and other animals”. So – steer clear from this garbage, and try to avoid foods cooked in canola oil as well.Health-Tip – Olive oil Has many health benefits
- Olive oil is clearly one of the good oils, one of the healing fats. Studies have shown that people who consumed as little as 25 mls (a tablespoon) – of virgin olive oil daily for 1 week showed less oxidation of anti-oxidativeol and higher levels of antioxidant compounds, particularly phenols, in the blood. But while all types of olive oil are sources of monounsaturated fat, EXTRA VIRGIN olive oil, from the first pressing of the olives, contains higher levels of antioxidants, particularly vitamin E and phenols, because it is less processed.
- The beneficial health effects of olive oil are due to both its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidative substances. Many studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels while raising HDL (the “good” cholesterol) levels. No other naturally produced oil has as large an amount of monounsaturated as olive oil (mainly oleic acid) nor confers the benefits to your heart and circulatory system as olive oil.
- Olive oil is very well tolerated by the stomach, and in fact, olive oil’s protective function has a beneficial effect on ulcers and gastritis.
- Olive oil activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones much more naturally than prescribed drugs.
- Olive oil lowers the incidence of gallstone formation. You can read more about gallbladder problems – the most effective treatment here.
What Are Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fats ?
Both the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids belong to a group of polyunsaturated fats called ‘essential’ because they are necessary to life and to health yet we cannot make them in the body – they must be obtained from your diet. Like all fats, EFAs provide energy. Their calorie value is similar to other fats and oils but, unlike saturated fats, they have important health roles. In fact, as their name suggest, they are essential and must be consumed regularly as the body has limited storage for them.They cannot be converted from other fats and both must be present in the diet in a proper balance for good health.Their difference lies in their chemical structure and their roles in the body. Basically, the omega-3s have anti-inflammatory benefits and help prevent heart disease, whereas omega-6s lower blood cholesterol and support the skin.Traditionally, our diets maximised nutrition while modern diets minimise nurition. Is it any wonder people are getting sicker? Traditional diets had higher levels ofthe essential fatty acids Omega 3 than we consume today, and the ratio used to be 1 part Omega 3 to about two parts Omega 6. In America and many other countries around the world today, this ratio is estimated to be more in the region of 1 to 20 and some experts even say that we consume up to fifty times more Omega 6 than Omega 3. Fish, chickens, and eggs are also sources of omega-3 fats because they eat plants that contain these fatty acids. Therefore, non-caged chickens that eat green plants or algae are reliable sources.
- Both of the important EFA families – omega-6 and omega-3 – are components of nerve cells and cell membranes. Omega-3 fats improve your cell’s response to insulin, neurotransmitters and other messengers. They also help the repair process when your cells are damaged. The reason why you don’t want too much Omega 6 in your diet, in comparison to Omega 3 is that omega-6 fats can be pro-inflammatory and contribute to insulin and membrane resistance, altering your mood, and impairing learning and cell repair.
- To avoid high levels of omega-6, it is important to reduce your intake of the vegetable seed oils and consume more Omega 3 from fresh oily fish and Omega 3 supplements. It is important to understand this concept: it’s not only necessary to consciously consume omega-3 fats, it is just as important to lower your omega-6 fat intake.
- If you don’t lower your omega-6 fats to acceptable levels, your omega 6:3 ratio will not be low enough, and you will not be likely receive the full benefits of omega-3 fats such as reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and many other degenerative illnesses.
- Omega 3 fatty acids offer such a wide range of health benefits and should be part of our daily diet. There are various sources of omega 3 fatty acids, where the most well known are fish oil and flaxseed oil.
- Omega 3 fish oil is probably the most beneficial source of omega 3 fatty acids, and can be found in cold water fish, like mackerel, tuna, salmon and herring, hoki and many more species.
- Omega3 but is also available in form of capsules. Another advantage of omega-3 nutritional supplements is that most of the contaminants (such as PCB and metals) are removed during the purification process called “molecular distillation”.
The health benefits of Omega 3 Here follows quite an impressive list of health benefits, but you should also be aware that omega 3 fish oil isn’t a “miracle cure” that helps you to get rid of all kinds of conditions in an instant. Omega 3 fish oil should be used for preventative measures and as a long term initiative to keep a healthy body and mind. No natural medicine “cures” the body but assists in the healing process.
- Improve your sleep
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve muscle recovery from trauma
- Assists with arthritis.
- Provide lubrication to the skin, arteries, veins and intestinal tract.
- Benefits cardiovascular diseases (many studies validate this)
- Help to improve concentration
- Benefit for diseases like: Alzheimer’s, depression and many other cognitively impaired situations.
- Assists with high blood pressure and lowers cholesterol (Triglycerides are lowered in particular).
- May improve the healing capability for many and varied health problems.
- Can improve constipation.
- Can help to increase your energy level.
Health Tip – Take a high quality omega-3 supplement dailyAustralians and New Zealanders in general consume an insufficient amount of omega-3, a fat essential to good health but only found in fish oil and a few other foods like venison (deer meat), walnuts free range eggs. Some claim that flaxseed contains sufficient amounts of Omega3 but this is a disputed claim. The tiny amounts you do receive are not really worth consuming flaxseed just to increase your Omega 3 intake.Do you buy Krill oil, maybe you have been told that it is a ‘superior’ choice instead of Omega 3? You may want to read Krill Oil – The Dirty Truth.
- Our intake of omega-6, another fat found in many processed foods is far too high. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 should be 1:1, but as I mentioned earlier, the typically ratio ranges anywhere from 15:1 to 50:1 A reduction in the Omega 6 foods, and an increase in oily fish and Omega 3 supplement such as Hoki Omega 3 is a smart choice.
- A lack of omega-3 in our diets is one of the main reasons behind many of the potential health problems Australians and New Zealanders face, and our shorter lifespan in relation to many other countries such as Japan or Greece who consume much more Omega 3 in their diets.
- While a helpful form of omega-3 can be found in flaxseed, walnuts and a few other foods, the most beneficial form of omega-3 — containing two fatty acids, DHA and EPA, which are essential to fighting and preventing both physical and mental disease — can only be found in fish. Unfortunately, nearly all fish, from most all sources, are now severely contaminated with toxic mercury, which is why I have amended my previous recommendations to consume fish on a routine basis. It’s simply not advisable for most people any longer.
- My recommendation for a source of high quality omega-3 fats is Omega 3 fish oil.