Archive for The Fat Police

The Importance of Dietary Fats

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We are living in a world where fats in our diet have been increasingly feared and avoided for nearly five decades. Things are finally beginning to change. With epidemic numbers of people experiencing heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and cancer, health experts and professionals are really starting to examine the significant correlation between diet and health condition.

Heart disease was almost non-existent in the United States until the 1920s, which was just decades after the inception of the Industrial Revolution – an occurrence which altered forever the face of agriculture, manufacturing, mining and transportation. With the advent of packaged and processed foods, diseases and illness previously not observed began to surface.

So what’s this business about red meats and other fats being unhealthy for us to consume? Make no mistake, doctors have historically been inclined to advise patients to steer clear of saturated fats and cholesterol. But it isn’t a coincidence that these guidelines have been in place for the last fifty or so years and disease numbers have been on the rise. In fact, there are various studies and research done by medical personnel which concluded that saturated fats and cholesterol were not the cause of heart disease, and were actually essential to health. If saturated fats are really the culprit of heart disease, there should be a corresponding increase in the consumption of animal fat in the American diet. However, a decrease of animal fat consumption has actually occurred more and more over the last fifty plus years.

Here’s what we learned: from 1910 to 1970, the proportion of traditional animal fat in the American diet declined from 83 to 62 percent, and consumption of butter also decreased from eighteen pounds per person per year to four. Cholesterol in the diet increased by only about one percent in the last eighty or so years. In the same time span, the percentage of dietary vegetable oils in the form of refined oils, butter substitutes, margarine, and shortening went up about 400 percent. At the same time, we have observed the intake of processed foods and sugar rising  by about 60 percent.

The reason red meat and saturated fats are under such scrutiny is because the majority of what people consume in the way of these foods is the industrially-produced variety. That’s right – industrially produced. What does that mean? It means most of the food people are eating comes from conventional, commercial, and factory-farmed environments. These foods are full of chemicals and pesticides – and the meat, in particular – is raised in a way that meat was never intended to be raised. These meats are from animals fed improper diets (grains, soy, and corn – not grass and hay), administered hormones and steroids, and kept in close confinement where they are not allowed to move around and live healthy lives. They are also standing around in their own waste. Does this sound like a place from where you would want to obtain food? Would you want to eat meat that comes from an environment such as this?

It is important to realize that fats are not the enemy; but the medical and food industries have done a thorough job of scaring everyone from eating fats. Yet the general health condition of the average person continues to decline. Why? Fats are essential nutrients to health! Here are the reasons:

  • Fats are the foundation for cell membranes – including the cells in our brains. In fact, fat is critical to brain development and maintenance, and provides the building blocks for cell membranes needed for important work to be performed by neurotransmitters which are responsible for regulation of our moods.
  • Fats are needed for the manufacturing of hormones and prostaglandins that regulate bodily functions like immune system function, digestion, and reproductive activity.
  • Fats keep the digestive tract working smoothly and balance blood sugar levels.
  • The myelin sheath around our nerves is comprised of fats; if we don’t eat fats, the tissue making up these sheaths becomes damaged and can die.
  • Fats are necessary to keep our body temperature regulated, protecting internal organs from damage, and allow us to have continuous levels of energy throughout each day
  • Fats are not only essential to life, but they provide fantastic flavor, too!

Fats help in nutrient absorption

Another important role played by saturated fats in our diets is that of aiding in the absorption of vital nutrients. An example are fat-soluble vitamins such as A and E. These Vitamins are important anti-oxidants to the body which prevent free-radical damage to our cells. When you eat a low-fat diet, you reduce the amount of anti-oxidant activity necessary to keep oxidation from occurring. Eating low-fat foods such as reduced fat milk and cheese can actually cause gross deficiencies due to the fact that when digestion occurs, those nutrients needed by the body travel through and do not get absorbed.  For example, calcium needs fat for absorption. So if you consume low-fat dairy or take synthetic calcium without the proper co-factors, your body will continue to lose nutrients unless you consume sufficient amounts of healthy fats at the same time.

Fats and Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids

Other problems experienced by those maintaining low-fat diets are lacking proper amounts and ratios of essential fatty acids. The human body does not produce essential fatty acids, so we must get them from a healthy, balanced diet. Omega 3s and 6s are important to health. Ratios of Omega 6 to Omega 3 are one to two times as many 6s as the 3s. Vegetable oils generally contain five to ten times the amount of Omega 6s than Omega 3s. In our processed and refined diets, Omega 3s are scarce, but there is an over-abundance of Omega 6s. The result is many individuals suffering Omega 3 deficiencies.

As proof of this, consider the native diets of people all over the world. Eskimos of Greenland Eskimos consuming a  traditional diet that consists of 80 percent calories originating from animal fats show no sign of heart disease. People of French descent, who maintain a diet replete with animal fats exhibit less than half the rate of cardiovascular disease as Americans. People residing in tropical locations and whose primary dietary fat is coconut oil  have some of the lowest rates of death from coronary heart disease.

Where do you get healthy saturated fats?

Pasture-raised or grass-fed meats like beef, lamb, and game, eggs from pasture-raised hens, pasture-raised poultry, dairy products from pasture-raised sources (raw is a plus!), safe-sourced fish, and raw nuts and seeds.

Why have we been told fats are unhealthy to consume?

Besides the obvious fact that most meat produced is the unhealthy variety and is a proponent of disease and illness, would it surprise you to know that one of the main proponents of the low-fat philosophy was money? The author of Know Your Fats, Dr. Mary Enig, PhD., made the following statement about fats and heart disease, “The claim that saturated fat leads to heart disease is simply false. This claim was initiated as a marketing tool to sell oils and margarine. Eventually the idea became dogma as it was repeated year after year.” Corporations selling margarine, shortening, butter substitutes, and refined vegetable oils make a lot of money on their products, and they have successfully convinced the majority that these products are superior for health. These products cost less to produce and people buy them because they are told they are also healthier to consume.

These substances also contain a too-high ratio of Omega 6s fatty acids (and not enough Omega 3s – most often associated with lower rates of heart and other diseases), commonly known as one of the main causes of inflammation and disease in the body. Yet heart disease, obesity, and diabetes continue to be some of the worst and most prevalent health issues we as a nation experience.

It should give most of us comfort to know that it is actually healthy to consume animal fats – those from healthy, grass-fed, organically, and sustainably raised animals. Not only they are healthy to consume, but delicious as well.

No matter where you live, it is likely that you can obtain these healthy meats for your family from a local farmer. When you purchase meats and dairy from a local farmer, you can have access to information you wouldn’t otherwise when you buy meat from the grocery store. You can meet the farmer, see the premises where animals are raised, and find out from the farmer just how the food is produced.

For more information on fats and cholesterol and their role in maintaining health, visit the Weston A. Price Foundation.

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Fat Free, Low-Fat, and Non-Fat Do Not Equal Health

Consumers, read your labels! I just heard yet another story about people in an office telling each other a package of Red Vines was fine to eat because the label read, “fat-free”. Just read the nutritional information on any package that says “low-fat”, “fat free”, or “non-fat” and you will likely find that the amount of carbohydrates in the product is sky high.

For instance, Red Vines contains 35 grams of carbohydrates per 4 pieces.  Just imagine what your body would be subjected to if you ate more than that.

Different people have different caloric intake needs – depending on how active you are. According to WikiAnswers, “if you are eating 2,500 calories a day, the recommended daily intake is at least 313 grams of carbohydrate. If your daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories eat at least 250 grams of carbohydrate per day. 1,500 calories a day equals to 188 grams of carbohydrates per day.” But don’t be fooled. Where health is concerned, carbohydrates means the natural kind, like those found in fruits, vegetables, and whole, sprouted grains – not the processed, package garbage sold in most grocery stores (and many natural food stores). If all the carbs you eat come from junk, you will soon be on your way to a myriad of lifelong health issues like heart disease, Diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Fats and carbohydrates are both important sources of calories. One reason why you might feel like you can eat a whole box of crackers, for example, is the fact that crackers do not truly satisfy your hunger. This is because all the fat calories have been replaced with carbohydrates. So you eat and eat and eat more carbs, until your body has no choice but to gain massive amounts of weight. Your body is still starving and your hunger levels are not abated.

When you are dealing with excesses, you can encounter tremendous problems. This is true with overloading your body with carbs. Too many of the wrong types of carbs will cause a failure in your digestive processes on many levels, which leads to other problems in the body including the heart, nervous system, and elimination systems (kidneys and other detoxification systems).

The opposite can occur as a deficiency in the elements and nutrients your body needs to be healthy, such as fats. Fats are critical in so many parts of health – skin, eyes, hair, cardiovascular, nervous system, digestion, and feeling full. The bottom line here is that anything which isn’t a whole food is going to be unhealthy for consumption.

Ask yourself, when you are purchasing fat free, low-fat, and non-fat products…are these foods a whole food? If the answer is no, putting the product back on the shelf should be all that much easier to do.

A good example of an unhealthy, fat-free or low-fat food is low-fat milk or non-fat yogurt. These products are not healthier because the fat has been lowered. In fact, the dairy product is unhealthier because it has been changed from the natural, whole-fat food it originally was. The body cannot properly absorb calcium, protein, or fats from a dairy product that has been made low or non-fat because all the proper digestive enzymes and other important substances in a whole-fat food are no longer present to aid the digestive system in absorbing the nutrients. Low-fat and non-fat dairy products, when consumed, will effectively leech calcium from the bone. Disrupting the natural molecular content of calcium, fat, and protein in meat and dairy products by artificially making these foods low-fat will consistently cause health problems to occur such as weight gain, osteoporosis, and heart disease.

One problem in our society lies with the fact that if people have to take time to prepare something, they are less likely to “have enough time” or become motivated to restructure their day to enable the needed time for cooking and preparing foods. The more convenience foods we eat, the more our health declines. If we take time to grow and purchase healthy organic foods and make meals from scratch, we are going to see an amazing difference for the good in the way we feel, look, and live.

So stop counting calories! If you are purchasing processed food, it doesn’t matter how few calories it contains. It will create adverse health conditions for anyone who regularly consumes it. Everyone needs the right amount (depending on your health, level of activity, etc. ) of healthy, unadulterated calories from natural, whole, organic foods. Until the public realizes this fact, we will continue to see monumental amounts of chronic disease and obesity amongst the population.

For more information on eating healthy fats and avoiding bad carbohydrates, visit Food and Healing.

The New York Times has a good article supported by a medical doctor and a nutritionist about the dangers of low-fat diets.

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