This whole nutrition thing is hella confusing! Low fat or high fat? Eat carbs or avoid carbs? High protein or low protein? Olive oil or vegetable oil? Butter or margarine? For the past 60+ years we have been receiving A LOT of varying information about what to eat, how much, when and even who with… Ok maybe the nutrition world doesn’t talk about dining partners but frankly I’m surprised not since who we eat with influences the choices we make. But anywho, another talk for another time. When I first starting learning about nutrition I got mad, and I mean really pissed about all the lies, and deceiving information we have been getting fed. The more I discovered how politics, big pharma, and big business influenced the FDA and nutrition dogma, the angrier I got.
After a lot of deep breaths and the realization that my anger wasn’t going to serve anyone, I decided to do something about it. Namely, educate myself so that I can educate others. I began questioning every dietary statement out there. My goal has been to dig deeper and discover the truth and reality behind the foods on our grocery store shelves so that I can make better decisions for myself and my family. In turn my objective is to share my eduction and information with anyone who will listen.
When someone asks what is the number one thing to change in their diet my response is always… and possibly always will be…. sugar consumption! Sugar is such a crazy demon. Following closely behind in that second spot is vegetable oils and all refined oils. These oils cause insane inflammation and all styles of bodily distress. This is one of the biggest fights between holistic and conventional nutrition. Vegetable oils came about with the demonizing of saturated fats. An herein my blog discussion starts…
The beginning of the downfall of saturated fats
For years the FDA has been convincing the American public that saturated fats cause cancer and heart disease. Oh the looks I get when my peers see how much animal fat I consume. Conventional nutrition has succeeded in demonizing saturated fat and placing a halo around refined vegetable oils. Unfortunately this “belief” is based on fraudulent outdated science and money… lots of money.
The lipid hypothesis, developed in the 1850’s by Ancel Keys, proposed that saturated fats and cholesterol in the blood are a major factor in cardiovascular disease. This study catapulted decades of misguided information, but now there is evidence that Ancel Keys cherry picked his data to fit his hypothesis. Unfortunately though, the lipid hypothesis has dominated cardiovascular research and prevention for years, although currently the number of studies that disprove this hypothesis far exceed those in support. And it will probably take decades for the public opinion on saturated fat to change.
So why are we still told that saturated fat is bad?
Well, this is where the money part comes in to play. Here is the short version – Companies were able to cheaply make massive amounts of polyunsaturated vegetable oils to replace the saturated fats that dominated the markets. Vegetable oils replaced coconut oil and saturated fats in processed foods. Crisco replaced lard, and so on. Combine the cheap development of these oils with the public scare of saturated fats in the forms of animal fats, coconut oil, and the like and you get lots of $$ beginning to come in for the vegetable oil companies.
Nows the fun part! These companies started seeing massive $$ potential in their products so they began lobbying against saturated fats to ensure the mainstream thought on saturated fats stayed the same. In fact, the American Soy Association (ASA), a big producer of vegetable oil, sent a “Fat Fighter Kit” to 400,000 American soybean farmers, encouraging them to write government officials, food companies, and newspapers protesting the encroachment of “highly saturated fats” in America’s food supply. Their wives were also encouraged to educate the public about the health benefits of soy oil. Soon, organizations like the Center for Science in the Public Interest embraced the pro-soy, anti saturated fat campaign, and food manufacturers gave in to public pressure, replacing the saturated coconut oils in their products with soy oil.
Although for decades researchers have been fighting the war on saturated fats, the research that gets funded the most and whispered into mainstream medias ear, is the research that supports the industry that is funding it. So basically, the vegetable oil companies are lining the pockets of the researchers and research programs that are continuing to provide poor research and guiding public opinion. Just because the latest research shows such and such… and was touted on the morning news show, it doesn’t mean that it is accurate or even good research!
The way journalists report on science contributes to the confusion about nutrition. We over-report the latest findings. Science is this process where hypotheses are advanced, and then they get knocked down. But you lose track of that when they run the big story on page 1: “Study of Low-Fat Diets Finds They Don’t Really Work.” That makes it sound like a consensus has formed. You look more closely and you realize, well, that’s not really what that proved. It really proved that it’s very hard to get people to go on a low-fat diet. The people in that study didn’t really reduce their fat intake that much. We’ve tended to amplify a very uncertain science.
The deterioration of American health can be linked to the change over from saturated fats to refined and polyunsaturated vegetable oils!
Ya, I know thats a bold statement but every day it is becoming clearer just how bad these oils are for us. Remember how excited everyone was to have a tub of shelf stable crisco in their pantry to cook with instead of lard? Now we know that stuff is made from trans fats and trans fats do indeed lead to cancer. Ugh! We went from eating fat from healthy grass raised animals and tropical nuts to somehow believing that oil extracted from a corn cob is good for us. CORN OIL! That just sounds ridiculous! And these oils are pretty much rancid by the time we get to them because of the chemical processing, high heat and light they go through. Not to mention the dangerous chemicals that are used to extract the oils and create consistency.
The American population has been placed on a low fat, low cholesterol diet and it’s making us sick. Much evidence suggests that a low serum cholesterol is associated with depression, suicide, muscle damage, memory loss, serious progressive neurological disorders and general ill-health. Also, a diet high in carbohydrates and unnatural (partially hydrogenated) fats and oils can contribute to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and an unhealthy lifestyle.
The really sad part… The American Heart Association actually tells us not to eat saturated fats or cholesterol and that we should all be on a low fat diet. And they are the American Heart Association so shouldn’t we trust them? Consider this. The AHA is funded by companies that are profiting off of these products. They not only own certain pharmaceutical companies which put up the money for bad “research,” they also are giving large amounts of money to organizations that steer public opinion. I do believe organizations like the American Heart Association was founded on the premise to help people. But somewhere over time, money skewed the information they began providing to the public and the research they were given.
The Skinny On Fat – We need fat!
- Fats are the building blocks for cell membranes and hormones
- They aid in mineral absorption
- They are necessary to convert carotene to vitamin A
- As part of a meal, they slow down nutrient absorption so we can go longer without feeling hungry
- They help improve metabolism and balance hormones
We need a balance of Omega 3 & Omega 6 fatty acids to function – Omega 3’s are anti-inflammatory and omega 6’s are inflammatory. Our bodies need both of them. They compete for enzymes and transport in your body so when you have more of one than the other then your body is out of balance and this can influence chronic illness. Too much omega 6 interferes with production of prostaglandins – increased tendency to form blood clots and imflammation, high blood pressure, irritation of the digestive tract, depressed immune function, sterility, cell proliferation, cancer, weight gain…
The premise of a low-fat diet is you will lose weight and become “healthier.” The reality: Low fat foods are full of sugars and artificial ingredients our body doesn’t know how to handle. Low fat diets actually starve the body of major nutrients needed to function optimally. Cutting fat does not cut weight, mainly because fats are typically replaced with carb dense foods. Carbs (such as those whole grains we are told to eat so much of) are broken down in our bodies into glucose (sugar). Our body uses the glucose it needs then stores the rest as… wait for it…. fat! When we eat a diet rich in carbs from vegetable sources (not grains or sugars) and high in fat, our body will actually better utilize the fat and in turn improve body composition. We are a fat deprived nation. In fact, there is a lot of research coming forth linking low-fat diets to mental disorders. This does not surprise me since our brains actually need fat to function.
SATURATED FATS ARE NOT THE ENEMY!
Saturated fats benefit us in the following ways:
- They constitute at least 50% of the cell membranes so the can function properly
- Needed for calcium to be incorporated into the skeletal structure
- They protect the liver from alcohol and other toxins
- Enhance the immune system
- Needed to properly utilize essential fatty acids (Omega 3’s are better retained in tissue with saturated fats)
- Our hearts preferred fat which it draws from in times of stress
- Antimicrobial properties hich protect us against harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract
Simply put, we need them to function. Saturated fats do not cause heart disease. Here is a link to pretty recent study that shows this. In fact, the fatty acids found in artery clogs are mostly unsaturated (74%) of which 41% are polyunsaturated.
Before 1920 CHD was rare in America – during next 40 yrs heart disease rose drastically that by the 50’s it was the leading cause of death among Americans – during the 60 years between 1910 and 1970, the amount of animal fat in the traditional Amerian diet declined 83% to 62% and butter went down from 19 lbs per person per year to 4 lbs per person per yr – during same time dietary vegetable oils in form of margerine, shortening and refined oils increased about 400% & consumption of sugar and processed foods increased about 60% (Trans Fatty Acids in the food supply)
What Fats to Use?
- Full Fat Grass Fed Butter – higher in omega 3’s than conventional butter
- Ghee – clarified butter, a better option for those who a sensitive to dairy
- Coconut Oil – antimicrobial properties; is absorbed directly for quick energy; contributes to the health of the immune system
- Olive Oil – packaged in opaque or dark containers; don’t heat it as it can go rancid with heat and light
- Walnut Oil or Macadamia Nut Oil – Great flavor but can’t withstand high heat; use sparingly as they are higher in omega 6 fatty acids
- Avocado Oil
- Grass Fed Tallow
- Lard from trusted farms
- Bacon fat – make bacon from quality meat and save the fat, no need to toss that yumminess out
- EAT THE YOLK! But remember that pastured eggs are the best.
- As long as you are eating grass fed beef and quality meats, don’t trim the fat!
Which fats/oils to avoid?
- Refined Oils: Oils are refined to create consistency in product and make the oil last on the shelf longer. During the refining process, the oils are subjected to very high heat as well as oxygen, light, and chemicals such as deodorizers and neutralizing agents. These oils are full of chemicals, made up of free radicals, and void of vitamin E.
- Blended Vegetable Oils: Most commercial blended oils are a mixture of unidentified oils that use chemicals to extract the oil. You don’t know what you are getting or how safe the oil is.
- Polyunsaturated Vegetable Oils (Canola, Corn, Soybean, Grape Seed, Safflower, Sunflower, Cottonseed, Peanut): These oils become oxidized or rancid when subjected to heat, oxygen and moisture in cooking and through processing. They are free radicald and extremely ractive chemically. They attack cell membranes and red blood cells causing dmamge to DNA/RNA strands and can trigger mutations in tissue, blood vessels and skin. Causes wrinkles, premature adding, free radical damage to the tissues and organs. Sets the stage for tumors and buildup of plaque – autoimmune diseases – arthritis – parkinsons – Lou Gherigs – Alzheimers – cataracts…
- Vegetable Shortening: Vegetable shortening is not only made up of the above oils, it has gone through a process called hydrogenation to make it more solid and extend shelf life. These oils are already rancid from the extraction process. They are then mixed with metal particles (typically nickel oxide) and subjected to hydrogen gas in high pressure at very high temperatures. Then soap-like emulsifiers and starch are squeezed into the mixture for better consistency. They are then steam cleaned through high temps to remove odors – then bleached to remove bad colors (at this point margarine is actually grey) – dyes and strong flavors are then added so they taste more like butter then compressed & packaged.
So the moral of the story… besides hopefully understanding fats and oils a little better… Don’t take everything your told at face value. Hell! Even question me! It only makes me better and dig deeper for the truth. Question the status quo and realize that sometimes, ok many times, money and politics get in the way of what originally were good intentions. As for Ancel Keyes… I don’t know what to tell you about that guy.
Enig, Mary G, PhD & Fallan, Sally, Nourishing Traditions; The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, New Trends Publishing, Inc., 2003
Enig, Mary G, PhD, Trans Fatty Acids in the food supply: A Comprehensive Report Covering 60 Years of Research, 2nd Edition, Enig Associates, Inc., Silver Spring, MD, 1995, 4-8