All About Fat (Part 3 of HMM Series)
Debunking the Saturated Fat Myth:
There is a lot of conflicting dietary advice in the world, but most people agree that dietary fat is unhealthy. If this is the truth then why is the average man made up of about 15% fat and the average woman made up of about 25% fat of their total body weight? This is a large percentage of our body – the second largest component after water! The truth is that dietary fat is NOT bad, contrary to popular belief.
For the past 30 years we have believed that dietary fat is bad for our health. This started in the 1950’s when a biochemist named Ansel Keyes published his Seven Countries study, which linked heart disease to diets high in saturated fat. Unfortunately, Keyes left out important data from several countries that did not show a correlation between saturated fat and heart disease. These countries, like Holland and Norway, had low rates of heart disease and diets high in saturated fat. In addition, Keyes also failed to report countries like Chili that had higher rates of heart disease and diets low in fat. Keyes published his research with data only from countries showing a correlation between heart disease and diets high in dietary fat. This data came from only seven countries, even though he had reliable data from 22 countries! Good research? I think not!
Keyes became known for his “lipid hypothesis”, which states that diets high in saturated fat raise cholesterol, leading to heart disease. You have probably been told once before that foods high in cholesterol are bad for you because they will clog your arteries and cause heart disease. This is again FALSE! In 1968 the United States government released dietary recommendations for all Americans to lower their intake of dietary fat and cholesterol. Unfortunately, these recommendations were only based off of Ansel Keyes’ hypothesis. The U.S. government ignored other scientists and governmental officials who voiced concerns about making these diet recommendations. The government’s blanket dietary guidelines urged the public to avoid saturated fat and cholesterol, leading to the “low fat” craze that is still popular today.
So, how can a diet high in dietary fat be healthy when we have been told that saturated fat is the cause of heart disease? That’s a great question! Modern research has disproved Keyes’ hypothesis and has showed that heart disease is not the culprit. It is now believed that inflammation is the leading driver of poor cardiovascular health. In fact, the USDA has excluded recommendations on dietary cholesterol in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. Removing this guideline has been long overdo! It is time that Americans stop fearing fat and dietary cholesterol.
To summarize what you just read, watch this short clip from the documentary, Fat Head.
The Importance of Healthy Fats:
Fat has many important roles in your body, including aiding in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), maintaining cell membranes, and regulating cell function. Fat also serves as barriers between cells, and provides a cushion around vital organs. In addition, fat provides long-lasting energy and maintains metabolism. But, do you want to know the best-kept secret about fat? It tastes amazing and is essential to our survival! And…fat does NOT make you fat!
Fat is extremely important during times of fertility or pregnancy and should not be restricted. Healthy fats and cholesterol are essential for the production of sex hormones and maintaining them at proper levels. This is one reason why healthy fats increase fertility. Your baby needs healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids and saturated fats for brain growth. Your baby’s brain is made up of 12% fat (the second largest component with water being the first!). Did you know that your placenta can choose to allow saturated fats over other fats to reach your baby? That’s how important saturated fats are to your developing baby!
Now, let’s discuss which foods contain these healthy fats that you should eat more of, and which foods contain unhealthy fats that you should avoid….
Saturated fats & monounsaturated fats:
These healthy fats optimize cholesterol levels, help our immune system, fight intruders and contribute to a healthy brain and hormone formation. They are also a great source of energy.
• Fat from grass-fed meat, pastured poultry & pork
• Healthy oils (coconut, MCT, olive, macadamia, avocado, etc.)
• Grass-fed dairy: butter, whole milk, heavy cream
• Pastured egg yolks
• Nuts & seeds
Omega-3 fatty acids:
Omega-3’s reduce inflammation, improve blood circulation and optimize blood pressure.
• Oily fish, like wild-caught salmon
• Pastured egg yolks
• Vegetable oil
• Canola oil
• Cottonseed oil
• Sunflower oil
• Safflower oil
• Soybean oil
These oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which promote inflammation. The standard American diet is already very high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fats oxidize easily which make them unhealthy to eat, especially when cooked.
• Trans fats (hydrogenated vegetable oils and margarine)
These fats can cause heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Margarine may be contaminated with mycotoxins.
For more information about healthy foods that contain saturated fat, cholesterol, or both, check out Sarah Pope’s (The Healthy Home Economist) video, Traditional Fats and Sacred Foods, from the Weston A. Price Foundation.
• Buy 100% grass-fed beef or organic meat when possible. These meats have more omega-3 fats and vitamins A, E, and K2 than grain-fed animals.
• Buy pasture-raised eggs when possible. The darker the yolk, the richer it is in nutrients.
• Buy wild-caught fish when possible.
• Look for organic, cold-pressed or expeller-pressed coconut oil.
• Look for extra virgin olive oil cold-pressed and packaged in a green-tinted glass bottle.
• Buy grass-fed butter or ghee. Buy from a local dairy or look for Kerrygold butter at your grocery store.
• Cook meat on low heat to prevent charring/blackening which oxidizes the healthy fats and turns them into unhealthy fats
• Cook eggs on low heat. The ideal egg is poached or raw, but I don’t recommend raw if pregnant. Iodine or GSE (grapeseed extract) are natural ways to disinfect an eggshell to kill salmonella. Remember to ever eat an egg that has been cracked!
• Dress, but don’t cook with olive oil. Cooking olive oil oxidizes the fats and creates free-radical generating oil, which is just as bad as fast-food restaurant oil!
• Sauté with butter, ghee (purified butter), tallow or suet (rendered beef fat).
• You can also cook with coconut oil or MCT oil.
• The best way to prepare nuts and seeds is to soak them for 16+ hours, then dry them in a food dehydrator or oven. Store them in the freezer or refrigerator. Nuts and seeds are susceptible to mold (mycotoxins) and contain high levels of phytic acid, which blocks the absorption of minerals like magnesium, iron and calcium. Soaking helps them to be more digestible and lower the level of phytic acid.
Tips for Incorporating Healthy Fats into Your Diet:
• Add coconut milk or oil to smoothies and dishes.
• Add avocado to salads, scrambled eggs, or smoothies.
• Add MCT oil to smoothies for an energy boost (MCT oil is flavorless and versatile).
• Add olives to your salads and dishes.
• Make homemade trail mix with nuts and seeds for a quick on-the-go snack.
Your Prescription: Aim for eating 2-4 Tablespoons of healthy fats at each meal and 1-2 Tablespoons with every snack.
• Moore J, Westman EC. Keto Clarity: Your Definitive Guide to the Benefits of a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet. Las Vegas: Victory Belt Publishing Inc; 2014.
• Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, et al. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91:535-546.
• Bjorntorp P. Importance of fat as a support nutrient for energy: metabolism of athletes. J Sports Sci. 1991;9(1):71-76.
• Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. What’s Good About Dietary Fat?. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/ss08/fat.html. Accessed September 17, 2014.
• McKinley Health Center. Macronutrients: the Importance of Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat. Available at: http://www.mckinley.illinois.edu/handouts/macronutrients.htm. Accessed September 17, 2014.
• Asprey L, Asprey D. The Better Baby Book. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc; 2013.
I offer nutrition services for women who are pregnant, postpartum, or trying to conceive. At Halley Holloway Nutrition I use Medical Nutrition Therapy with a functional medicine approach to best help my clients. Nutrition is not “one size fits all”, which is why I work with you to develop an individualized nutrition plan that supports your health goals. With your commitment I can help you boost your fertility, have a healthy pregnancy, and ultimately have a happy baby! I will be your teacher, coach, and motivator!
Stay tuned for next week’s post, All About Carbs, Part 4 of my Healthy Mommy & Me series!
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