Salutations!

It is safe to say that most of the "news" relating to health we receive today is nothing more than cleverly disguised advertisements for various products or unhealthy modalities that aren't very good for you. Unfortunately this "news" is often the only side of the story we receive and because of this we can not make informed decisions. My prayer is that through a network of concerned persons we can present the "other side" of the story in a way that would educate and convict us so that a not-so- educated guess given by others becomes an informed decision made by you.







Saturday, March 2, 2013

Good Fats and How They Help You Control Your Weight

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For most of us we know the old nutritional mantras like "eat healthy", "exercise", "stay away from fat". These mantras are true and should be followed but some extra thought should be given to the one about fat. In our craze to lose weight many doctors, nutritionist, dietitians and the like unfortunately began lumping all fats into the same category. It is vitally important to point out that not all fats are made the same and knowing which fats to consume in their proper quantities and which fats to stay away from in their totality is one significant key to overall health and weight loss.

Fats, Weight Gain, and the Brain

In the 1960's total calories derived from fat in the average American diet was about 45%. Americans managed to decrease their fat consumption to 38% in the 80's and down to 35% in the 90's. Remarkable, right? However, despite a steady decline in overall fat consumption in the U.S. we are still heavier. Much heavier.

Fats have become a modern day dietary boogie man sacrificed for the pursuit of good health. Interestingly, our brain is approximately 60% fat in the form of cholesterol. The fats are necessary for proper brain health. Speaking of our brain health and cholesterol, the FDA issued stronger warnings in July 2012 about how cholesterol lowering drugs could lead to cognitive dysfunction such as memory loss, confusion and fuzzy thinking. We need our fats!

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Good Fats vs. Bad Fats

Being properly informed about which fats to consume and which to stay away from is important as a matter of course so lets take a look at which fats to stay away from first.

  • Trans Fats - These highly toxic fats had long been a cornerstone of the American diet for years.They are man-made fats that create inflammation, raise cholesterol levels and lead to adverse cardiovascular conditions such as arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis. Trans fats is also a leading contributor to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer. These poisonous fats can be found in fast foods, processed foods like crackers, cookies, pies, cereals and bread (just about anything that comes in a box), margarine, shortening and deep-fried foods. 
  • Hydrogenated Fats - These are the "new" trans fats since many people are starting to catch on to the fact that trans fats are terrible for you. Make no mistake, however, hydrogenated fats and oils are notoriously harmful to our bodies and a detriment to our health. All the things highlighted above that trans fats do to our bodies just keep that in mind here. In 2007 the FDA nearly banned Crisco because of trans fat issues but the not-so-happy compromise ended up being hydrogenated fats. Be watchful because the words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" will appear on ingredient lists of both products in grocery stores and on restaurant nutrition information guides.
  • Refined Polyunsaturated Fats - These are fats that were heated during the manufacturing process to a temperature that rendered them rancid and therefore toxic. These fats help contribute to weight gain since they tend to increase insulin resistance in the body. Most salad dressings and vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn, cottonseed, safflower and soybean oil contain these fats. For your health and safety insure the salad dressings and cooking oils you use are not refined. Search for cold pressed or expeller oils to use.
  • Deep Fried Foods - These foods are are cooked in super heated oils that become rancid because of the high heat. The oils are absorbed by the food that it is frying because oil displaces water in high heat situations. These rancid oils are consumed and are extremely detrimental to the body causing significant inflammation and has been known to be a carcinogen.
  • Saturated Fats - This is partially a spin-off from deep fried foods but they also include fats from other familiar sources such as milk, cheese, processed meats, pork, red meat, butter and the skins of poultry. While all deep fried foods should be avoided some of the other items may be perfectly fine unless you consume them in excessive amounts. Saturated fats, excessively consumed, can lead to inflammation increasing cholesterol and setting you up for systemic and chronic cardiovascular issues.  

Now we will discuss the good fats. These are the fats that help build and maintain our brain, cardiovascular systems, endocrine systems and help reduce inflammation. Without these fats it would be difficult to produce certain hormones, cholesterol (for inflammation control) and reduce free radicals in the blood and tissues. Good fats are also great sources of fuel second only to carbohydrates. A word of caution, however. There is a such thing as too much of a good thing. While we do need to incorporate these fats into our diets we do not need to over do it. In a bit we will discuss how much and how often to consume these beneficial fats but first things, first. Let us identify these valuable fats and what they do for us:
  • Omega 3 - An essential fatty acid that is well known for reducing inflammation, lowering triglyceride levels, supporting immune function, prevent or reverse insulin resistance, prevention and treatment of heart disease and helps the body release stored fat. Sources of omega 3's are cold water fish and fatty fish (cod, salmon, herring, sardines) and flax seed and flax seed oil. There are three forms of omega 3 with two forms found in fish (EPA and DHA) and one form found in flax seed and flax seed oil (ALA) it is a good idea to get a healthy mix of both sources or take a high quality supplement. It is estimated that approximately 99% of Americans are deficient in omega 3's. 
  • Omega 6 - This fatty acid Americans tend to get readily usually from grain sources and meat sources (because they tend to be grain fed). This necessary fat helps the body produce the type of prostaglandins that allows for inflammation which is a necessary bodily function when repairs are required to take place. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 should be around 4 to 1. Most Americans consume way too much omega-6 in the form of processed foods which distorts the ratio to 20 to 1. Healthy, unrefined sources of omega-6 (the kind you should focus on) include expeller or cold pressed oils, most seeds and nuts, and grass fed chicken or beef. Avoid omega-6 from grain fed poultry or beef, refined oils (corn, soy, safflower and cottonseed), processed foods, fast food and restaurant food.
  • Omega 9 (including Monounsaturated Fats) -  These fats can actually be produced by the body from converting other fats and therefore are not considered to be essential. They are often left out of the conversation concerning fats but are very beneficial nonetheless. They have anti-inflammatory properties and have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol which is a major benefit for almost everyone consuming a Western style diet. Foods high in these fats include olives, olive oil, avocados, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds to name a few things.
  • Certain Saturated Fats - This may seem counter-intuitive but hold on just a second. The saturated fats found in, around and on the flesh of animals should be avoided whenever possible. This is not healthy. However, short-chain varieties of saturated fats are an excellent source of fuel for the body and are easily digestible which makes them healthier and less likely to increase cholesterol. The good version of saturated fat can be found in unrefined coconut oil and palm kernel oil.

Conclusion

It is far too simple a matter to completely dismiss fats from our eating regimes. The good types of fat are vitally important to our health whether it applies to weight maintenance, cardiovascular issues, hormone support and proper brain function. To figure out how much of the good fats to consume calculate your average caloric intake for a given day. Your healthy fat intake should be 20-35% of your total calories. Incorporate the good fats, eliminate or sharply curtail the bad ones and live a healthy, balanced, and productive life!



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