"Just as eating lots of green vegetables doesn't turn us green, eating fat doesn't make us fat." --Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, Swedish Physician
If you've read my previous blog, The Skinny on Fats (Part 1), you may have already increased your intake of healthy fats and decreased your intake of sugar. If so, good for you! In this, Part 2 of the series, we'll continue to explore which fats support vibrant health and weight loss, and which are best to avoid.
As you now know, omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) are essential to your wellbeing. I recommend including them in your diet in the form of fatty, cold water, and low-mercury fish, as well as by taking high-quality fish oil supplements. Vegetarian options such as flax, chia and hemp seeds, walnuts, and dark green leafy vegetables are excellent sources of ALA (alpha linolenic acid)--small amounts of which are converted to EPA and DHA.
Omega-6s: Benefits & Cautions
Omega-6 fatty acids are also vital to your health. They can relieve nerve pain in neuropathy, help lower high blood pressure, support blood clotting, and lower your risk of heart disease. One healthy omega-6 oil is GLA (gamma linolenic acid). It is found in borage, black currant seed, and evening primrose oils.
Sadly, in our current, Standard American Diet (SAD), far greater amounts of omega-6s than omega-3s are being consumed. This is due to the high intake of vegetable oils that are rich in omega-6s. These include canola, corn, cottonseed, grape seed, peanut, safflower, soy, and sunflower oils. It's best to avoid all of these oils. But this is easier said than done. Look at many of today's product labels and you'll discover an abundance of these oils in almost all processed foods--among them cookies, cakes, chips, crackers, salad dressings, and mayonnaise.
The more omega-6s you consume, the less available healthy omega-3s are for your body to use. The ideal ratio of omega-6s to omegs-3s is around 4:1 or lower. In the typical American diet today, this ratio is around 16:1. This unfavorable balance contributes to increased inflammation, the root cause of many chronic illnesses, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. More than enough reason to reduce your omega-6s and increase your omega-3s!
Saturated "Good" Fats
There has been much controversy surrounding saturated fats, which are found mostly in animal products, such as meat, chicken (with the skin), eggs, butter, cream and cheese. Vegetarian sources include coconut and coconut oil, palm oil, chocolate, as well as brazil, macadamia, and cashew nuts.
There are many benefits to saturated fats. They provide excellent fuel for your brain cells. This makes perfect sense when you consider that brains are 60% fat. 54% of the fat in breast milk is saturated fat, not surprisingly the best nourishment for a baby's development. These healthy fats also provide the building blocks for cell membrane strength and integrity. Saturated fats also support your immune system and keep your bones strong by enhancing calcium absorption. And they protect your liver from toxicity caused by alcohol and certain medications.
There's more. Saturated fats create a vital substance that moistens the lungs, increasing their ability to expand and inhale. Saturated fats also protect against heart disease by reducing a substance called lipoprotein (a), a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Plus, they support the absorption of vital, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Clearly, when consumed in moderation, healthy saturated fats are an important part of a good and balanced diet. Since toxins, antibiotics, and hormones accumulate in animal products, it's important to go organic whenever possible.
The Other "Unhealthy" Fats
The worst type of fats are a form of unsaturated fats called trans fats. They are produced by pumping hydrogen into vegetable oils, changing them from liquid to solid to discourage rancidity and increase their shelf life. This same process was used to create margarine--a mid-20th century staple--and is frequently listed as partially hydrogenated oil. Hard to believe It was once considered healthy!
Trans fats can put you at greater risk for heart disease by increasing inflammation, as revealed by various inflammatory markers in your blood, including hs-CRP (highly sensitive C-Reactive Protein). They have been known to elevate your bad cholesterol (LDL) and reduce your good cholesterol (HDL), as well as damage the inner lining of your blood vessels. Trans fats can also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Many companies have removed trans fats from their food ingredients, but these toxic fats are still found in many processed and fast foods. They show up frequently in favorites such as French fries and fried chicken, pies, cake mixes, non-dairy creamers, and microwave popcorn. I encourage you to avoid all of these whenever possible.
Eat Up, Slim Down
There are many ways that healthy fats help you slim down and stay that way. Food tastes better with healthy fats. When you enjoy what you're eating, you'll be emotionally satisfied, with fewer cravings for sugar and refined carbs. This, in turn, will help keep you on course. Healthy fats aslo help lower your food and calorie intake by regulating the release of leptin and gherlin, two primary hormones that regulate appetite. In short, making good fats a part of your daily diet will help keep you healthy, happier and trimmer. And that's the skinny on fats!