“The Big Fat Lie”
By Dr. Matt Thompson: Highlands Ranch, Colorado 100% Chiropractic A Wellness Center
Like many who ate “healthy” in the 1990’s, my afternoon snack might have been non-fat pretzels with low fat ranch for dip. For dinner? Maybe a burger on the George Foreman Grill to let the fat drip off. You couldn’t walk down a grocery aisle without being bombarded with the words “fat-free” and “low-fat”. Fat was vilified and blamed for everything from heart disease, stroke, cancer, and obesity, to general degradation of health at every age.
Fast forward 20 years. We now know that fat, in most cases, isn’t a villain, but actually an ally in health. Fat helps the absorption of vitamins A,D,E & K, is essential for brain and nerve system health, provides efficient fuel for mitochondria (energy power packs of the body located inside our cells), aids skin and eye health, increases metabolism, among other amazing benefits.
What the heck is fat anyways? Fat is defined as a group of fatty acids linked together in a chain. There are four classifications of fatty acids: saturated, mono-unsaturated, poly-unsaturated, and trans-unsaturated.
Saturated fats have received the most unfair scrutiny of all the fats. Let’s take a closer look. Saturated fats have been associated with increased heart disease for years. The truth? There are no studies linking saturated fats to heart disease. What studies have shown, is that saturated fats increase cholesterol. And we have been led to believe that cholesterol causes heart disease. What really matters is the shape and type of cholesterol. The misguided notion that cholesterol causes heart disease was then used to bridge saturated fats to heart disease. Here’s what we know about how saturated fats really affect cholesterol. Saturated fat raises good cholesterol, HDL, and changes the composition of bad cholesterol, LDL, to a more favorable (less-inflammatory), fluffy particle. The increase in HDL raises the overall cholesterol number, creating a more favorable HDL:LDL ratio, which is a better marker of health. The ratio should be 3.5:1. Saturated fats are also very stable under heat, which means they are much less likely to break down and oxidize when used in cooking. I start out almost every morning with a couple of pastured eggs cooked in coconut oil and half an avocado. We recommend saturated fats that can be found in organic extra virgin coconut oil, grass-fed meets, butters and cheeses, and the skin of organic pastured chickens.
Mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) can be found in organic extra virgin olive oil and organic avocados. MUFAs decrease the risk for breast cancer, reduce bad cholesterol (LDL), lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, aid weight loss, etc. These fats are heat sensitive, and should be consumed uncooked. Think dressings and toppings.
Poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are categorized as either Omega-3 (wild fish, grass fed meat, walnuts, flaxseed) or Omega-6 (vegetable oils) fats. We have all heard that Omega-3’s are good for reducing inflammation, reducing heart disease and increasing brain function to name a few. While Omega-6 fats improve cellular function and gene expression, they also cause inflammation. This is one reason we should avoid most vegetable oils such as vegetable, canola, sunflower and safflower. Omega-6 fats are prevalent in our diet, so we don’t have to seek them out. The ratio of Omega-6:3 is the important marker. The Standard American Diet (SAD) has a ratio of as much as 25:1. A healthy ratio is between 2:1 to 5:1. Just another reason why the SAD creates chronic diseases.
Trans fats are mostly man made and should be avoided at all costs. Think deep fried, cookies, chips and margarine. “Trans Fat Free” has been used in successful marketing for many years by companies, but the term can used even if the product contains up to .5 grams of trans fats per serving, per the FDA. With some serving sizes ridiculously small, an actual snack or meal can contain a significant amount of trans fat. When looking at labels, trans fats are also known as hydrogenated and partially hydrogenate fats.
Here’s how to clean up your fats. Start by getting rid of any vegetable oils you have (corn, canola, peanut, safflower, soybean, etc.) These are mostly genetically modified in the U.S., in addition to being highly processed. Any processed fats, such as cookies, in your pantry need to go as well. Processed dressings and soups, milk, butter and ice cream that aren’t from grass fed sources are next. When you’re eating out, assume that most fats aren’t healthy unless you know they are from the following sources. Now what to add…. coconut oil, avocados, olive oil, grass fed meats, wild fish, grass fed butter, grass fed cheese, walnuts, breast milk for babies. Always use organic when you can to minimize toxins.
So you see, the key to staying healthy is to stay educated and empowered! Remember, the more pure the food source, the more healthy it will be. So, stay away from processed and refined “food” sources. If people weren’t eating it 100 years ago, it probably isn’t healthy.