Feb 15 2013
The consumption of fat is always a hot topic when we perform nutritional consultations with new clients; indeed no matter how many times I inform them that they need to eat more fat, they struggle to come to terms with the idea due to the low fat mantra repeated…
The consumption of fat is always a hot topic when we perform nutritional consultations with new clients; indeed no matter how many times I inform them that they need to eat more fat, they struggle to come to terms with the idea due to the low fat mantra repeated on almost every food advertisement or government health drive.
So here’s the truth:
People who consume the most amount of fat live the longest and have the lowest rate of lifestyle related disease.
These are the most common reactions I hear, “But won’t eating fat make me fat? Avocados have a lot of fat in them so maybe I should cut down, I was told to avoid red meat and eggs as they raise my cholesterol and contain too much saturated fat.” All these are only half truths if truths at all.
We need fats in our diets as they:
- Provide an energy source
- Help manufacture and balance hormones
- Form our cell membranes
- Form our brains and nervous system
- Help the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins A,D,E & K
As I’m sure you’re all aware, fats are usually lumped into one of three categories; saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated. These categories are based on the number of double bonds found along the carbon chain:
- Saturated (sat) Fats – Animal fats & Tropical Oils such as Coconut Oil
- Monounsaturated – Nuts, Avocado, Olive Oil
- Polyunsaturated – Flax, Omega-3/6, Safflower Oil
Sat fats are those that are solid at room temperature and have a positive correlation with risk of cardiovascular disease. However, stearic acid (another sat fat found in cocoa butter & beef), may actually lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels. Therefore, saturated fat should not be universally condemned. Indeed, many of the foods we are told to avoid due to a high saturated fat content do not contain high dosages.
Most people consider eggs to be high in saturated fat: eggs actually contain only 39% sat and 61% unsaturated. Even beef contains 55% sat and 45% unsaturated. Mothers milk provides the highest proportion of cholesterol than almost any other food. It contains over 50% of it’s calories as fat, much of it saturated fat. This fat is essential to the development of babies and young children especially the development of the brain.
Poor dietary choices, along with a diet high in sat fat, will increase the risk of cardiovascular disease not the consumption of sat fat on its own. A diet too high in sugar and processed / refined foods will lead to an increase in weight and the likelihood of lifestyle related diseases. Don’t avoid saturated fats; saturated fat intake can be relatively high if processed (white) carbohydrate intake is low, but do not combine in the same meal processed (white) carbohydrates i.e. white read, rice, pasta with saturated fats as your body will store them as fat as it burns the carbs first.
Unsaturated & omega fats are those that are liquid at room temperature. Humans evolved consuming marine life which is generally high in Omega 3&6. It has been argued that we evolved to the dominant species on this planet due to our increased consumption of these fats.
If people do make an effort to consume fats, they are usually monounsaturated or oils rich in Omega 6 (corn / vegetable oils). This has led us to consume a Omega 6/3 ratio of about 16:1 to 21:1. The ideal ratio of Omega 6 – 3 is 1:1. It should be noted that the ratios are even more distorted in vegetarians than in meat-eaters due to their lack of dietary fish, so vegetarians should be particularly vigilant about this. An abundance of omega 6 can cause blood vessel constriction, inflammation, blood clotting and even memory loss 1.
These are not, however, a bad thing if controlled, as these biological processes are needed. But, when they are out of balance, this can cause problems. The Omega 6 oils perform the opposite actions to those of Omega 3 – hence the importance of balance.
Omega-3 supplementation is discouraged with heart rhythm disturbances, however, for most other individuals, Omega-3 supplementation is essential. You should look for a fish oil supplement (from a marine animal, the most beneficial of sources) with high DHA & EPA (fatty acids) levels around 250mg. Vegetarians can have flax & walnuts and add in DHA from micro-algae and sea vegetables. You must supplement with flax oil and fish oil daily. 1 tbsp of flax oil and 3-6g of fish oil is recommended.
If you would like to purchase a high quality Omega 3 Fish Oil please click here
Here’s something to chew on… ‘The long lifespan of the Japanese, the longest of any nation in the world, is generally attributed to a low fat diet. Although the Japanese eat few diary fats, the notion that their diet is low in fat is a myth, rather, it contains moderate amounts of animal fats from eggs, pork, chicken, beef, seafood and organ meats. With their fondness for shellfish and fish broth, eaten on a daily basis, the Japanese probably consume more cholesterol than most Americans. What they do not consume, however, is a lot of white flour or processed food. The lifespan of the Japanese has increased since WWII along with an increase in animal fat and protein in the diet 2.
1 There is an increasingly strong amount of scientific evidence this may lead to Alzheimer’s in later years
2 Koga, Y et al, “The Recent Trends in Cardiovascular Disease and Risk Factors in The Seven Countries Study: Japan,” H Toshima, et al, eds, Spinger, New York, NY, 1994, 63-74
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Salman Kassam Pn1 iTS BCT