It's true. There's a dark side to fat. But fat is also an important essential nutrient.
While bad fats cause heart disease, cancer and other health problems, good fats provide protection from heart disease and cancer and offer many amazing health benefits.
The problem begins when commercial meat producers and oil processors start messing around with our natural healthy food chain. If you’re tired of all of the confusion and misunderstanding around good fat vs. bad fat, then let's clarify the fat facts.
The Problem with Saturated Fat
The 1980’s were a decade of fat consciousness and concern. Leading authorities decided fats were our enemies and everyone was advised to drastically lower their fat intake. The finger was pointed at foods high in saturated fats.
The reason seemed apparent. Prior to a meal high in saturated fat, blood cells flow freely. When they bump into each other, they just bounce off.
But an hour after a fatty meal, cells become sticky and start clumping together, which slows blood flow so severely that it can actually stop. This blood sludge can lead to plaque deposits, narrow arteries, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Saturated fat come mainly from animal products. But since our early ancestors were hunters and gatherers, people have been eating meat for a long, long time. So how come all of a sudden it’s a problem? The answer is simple.
Although saturated fat is natural when consumed in small quantities, the balance has been thrown way off. Commercial practices in breeding and raising domesticated animals have created a gigantic unnatural leap in saturated fat consumption.
Whereas wild game is about 2% to 3% fat, commercial domesticated meats and full fat dairy products can be anywhere from 20% to 60%. That’s a big FAT difference!
Trans Fats Emerge with a Vengeance
The story gets even worse. Now there's serious concern about unsaturated fats too.
Plants in their natural form are nature’s most abundant source of essential fatty acids. The problems arise when unsaturated fats are commercially extracted.
Oils are particularly sensitive to the light, heat, bleaching, deodorizing and solvents used in the intense extraction process. So what do you get? Sorry to tell you that the beautiful clear sweet smelling refined cooking and salad oils you buy at the grocery store are totally void of any good essential fatty acids. Plus, they’re loaded with toxins.
These toxic processed oils are then often hydrogenated. This can turn the natural nutritious fatty acid molecule into an unnatural, unhealthy trans fatty acid molecule. It may not look much different, but it makes a big difference to your body.
Where do you find these destructive trans fats? In bakery goods, margarine, fried foods, shortening, cooking oils, salad dressings, ice cream, candy and all pastries.
But take heart, because there are also some good healing fats (lipids).
Nutritious and Essential Fatty Acids
Although the recent past was a time of discovering that some bad fats are enemies, the current decade is clearly a time of good fat consciousness.
Besides the important fat soluble vitamins A, E and D, scientists now realize there are other good fats absolutely essential to optimum health. These are the healing fats.
Essential fatty acids are essential because you must get them from your diet in order to survive. But good fats are even more important than just sustaining life. An optimum intake can make the difference between a retched or so-so life and a great life.
Here's how it works.
Diets high in saturated fats and trans fat, not only plug your arteries, they also cause rigid cell membranes and plug cells too. This means nutrients can’t get into your cells and waste products and toxins can’t get out. Good fats work just the opposite.
Omega 3 and essential fatty acids create healthy cell membranes, keeping allergens, bacteria and toxins out and letting vitamins, minerals and other good things in.
Good fats are major players in regulating virtually all bodily functions. They're necessary for energy, hormones and to build and maintain muscle, cells and tissue.
The Good Fatty Acids
Omega 3 oils, monosaturated fats and omega 6 polyunsaturated essential fatty acids are the three main categories of beneficial good fats.
Studies show the balance and quality of dietary fats has changed dramatically over the past century. Because our modern commercial diet is so high in processed vegetable oils, it looks as if we’re getting way too many of the omega 6 fatty acids.
But, while it's true that most people get too much highly processed omega 6 vegetable oils, these oils are depleted of good fatty acids and some are even high in trans fats.
Healthy omega 6 oils are found naturally in whole wheat, brown rice, whole soy and other wholesome grains, seeds and beans. And the best source of healthy monosaturated fats is organic extra virgin olive oil.
While beneficial omega 3 oils used to be abundant in many foods, this is no longer the case. Besides being available in mother’s breast milk, omega 3 with EPA and DHA is now only abundant in cold water fatty fish. Salmon is the highest source.
Benefiting from Good Fats
Good fats are the most exciting anti aging, feel-good, natural disease fighting substances of our modern age. They help balance hormones, slow down aging and protect you from a whole list of deadly, debilitating degenerative diseases.
The natural anti-inflammatory qualities help reduce swelling and the physical pain from migraines, injuries and arthritis (or any other “itis”). You’ll be less susceptible to colds, flu and other illnesses and, because of balanced hormones, you'll feel a lot better too.
To increase the good fats in your diet and improve your fatty acid balance, eliminate the use of refined vegetable oils. Stick with organic extra virgin olive oil for salads. And use olive oil, water or very small amounts of organic butter for cooking.
Focus on a diet rich in whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fresh vegetables, organic low fat dairy and poultry. And eat cold water omega 3 fatty fish several times a week.
Quality omega 3 fish oil supplements are also highly recommended. And you can check out my recommendation for omega 6 essential fatty acids at the feel better web site.
Be sure to check out my free Natural Health Newsletter too.
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Note: The information contained on this website is not intended to be prescriptive. Any attempt to diagnose or treat an illness should come under the direction of a physician who is familiar with nutritional therapy.