Myths surrounding “Fat” in our diet are some of the most controversial subjects in the health and wellness world. Does fat really make you fat? Should we follow the advice handed out by the USDA and eat based on their “food pyramid,” which recommends a diet heavy in grains and low-fat dairy?
The answer is a big FAT NO! The food pyramid, or the new and not so improved “My Plate,” is 25% grains, or 11 servings a day. These include processed cereals, pasta, and bread, which are quickly converted into glucose by the body. One slice of the supposedly healthy whole-wheat bread has a higher glycemic index than a Snickers bar! There’s some food for thought.
The Rise of Low Fat/ Non-Fat
Remember the 1990s low-fat craze? It turns out that removing the fat from food also removes the taste, and no one wants to eat food that doesn’t taste good. So what did the food industry add to liven up the flavor of these products? You guessed it: SUGAR. All for the sake of slapping on a label that says “LOW” or “NON-FAT,” and thus leaving consumers with the impression that this food is good for their health. Surely the dietary guidelines for Americans given by the USDA must be based on hard science that is rooted in solid studies, right? After all, this is supposed to guide us in the right direction when feeding our families and making rules for school lunches. Another BIG FAT NO!
As Denis Minger details in Death by Food Pyramid, the recommendation to eat less fat and more grains is the product of “shoddy science, sketchy politics, and shady special interests.” Minger explains: “Contrary to popular belief, America’s guidelines aren’t the magnum opus of highly-ranking scientists, cerebral cortexes pulsating in the moonlight as they solve the mysteries of human nutrition. What reaches our ears have been squeezed, tortured, reshaped, paid off, and defiled by a phenomenal number of sources . . . the USDA’s wisdom pyramid and beyond isn’t the only source of misguided health information out there. But it is some of the most pervasive, the most coddled by the food industry, the most sheltered from criticism, and . . . as a consequence . . . the most hazardous to public health.”
So What is Good Fat?
If refined sugars are poison then fat is the antidote. Roughly 15% of our body weight is comprised of fat. Fat plays many important roles in the body. Fat is a slow-burning source of energy giving you the stamina to coast through the morning into lunch. In addition, it supports the importance of building healthy cell membranes and the transportation of hormones throughout the body. It provides a protective lining for our internal organs and regulates blood sugar by slowing the absorption of food. Finally, it aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and just makes food taste good. Bottom line: Fat doesn’t make you fat and will add enjoyment to your life.
Deficiency in fatty acids has become an epidemic that leads to people suffering from musculoskeletal issues, endocrine issues, cardiovascular disease, immune issues, allergies, skin problems, and depression. Inflammation from these injuries and diseases can be managed through nutritional therapy by regulating the consumption of fatty acids, which reduces healing time.
So How Do I Know a Good from a Bad Fat?
The difference between a Good and Bad Fat is in the way it’s processed—not in the nature of the source of the oil. One way to differentiate the good from the bad is to look at the way it’s stored at the supermarket. Living fats and oils are very sensitive to light, heat, and oxygen, and become rancid easily. These oils should be cold-pressed and properly stored in dark bottles to protect them from becoming rancid. You should avoid oils such as corn, canola, and various vegetable oils stored in clear, plastic bottles under bright lights and not refrigerated.
When shopping, look for the following products: Good fats high in Omega 3s such as fish oil, hemp, pumpkinseed, flaxseed, and walnut oil. Oils high in Omega 6s are also essential; examples include sesame, sunflower, peanut, and black currant seed oils. Foods high in saturated fats like palm oil, coconut, eggs, grass-fed butter, and raw dairy are also excellent natural sources. Finally, oils like extra virgin olive oil, hazelnut, almond, and avocado are high in Omega 9s and also essential to optimal health. Consuming a combination of these healthy fats in your daily diet will combat chronic inflammation in the body and lead you to a higher quality of life.
Karey is a regular contributor to the Live Your Value team. Be sure to check her recent posts about mindful eating during the holiday season and how to relieve both psoriasis and IBS symptoms through diet. Thanks for reading and remember, today and every day, Live Your Value one nutritional choice at a time!