Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fatty, Fat, Fat, Fat

Alright, so that title is a little juvenile. Remember how "fat" is a word bad in our society? I protest. I love fat. I LOVE
fat! (If I could have underlined that 'love' I would have.) And I believe that however secretly it may be, we all love fat. You can't really deny it. What tastes better than a fresh piece of homemade bread slathered with butter? Or how about ice cream? A baked potato?

The truth of the matter is we all are programmed to love the stuff.

When I was in college I was under the impression that cutting fat out of my diet was the thing to do. I decided to get serious about exercise and eating healthy. I worked so hard! After about three years of this I looked great, but I just didn't feel well. I would eat, and then literally half an hour later I would get shaky as though I had been fasting. After visiting with a doctor about this, and having some blood tests, I was told that I had Dysmetabolic Syndrome X, aka insulin resistance. I was put on medication, which made me feel awful, but I tried to buckle down and work harder to eat right. For me this meant a continued hardcore lowfat, low sugar diet. Basically your typical diabetic diet. At the end of that semester I had gained 30 lbs, and was so fatigued it was difficult to walk up more than one set of stairs at a time without getting winded. I was devastated.

In time I got off the medication I'd been on, and I began a more moderate approach to healthful living. My last blood test was a few years ago declared me 100% "cured" from any insulin problems. It was a miracle in two ways: I'd prayed and fasted and my blood sugar numbers dramatically changed suddenly. And also because I was put on a path to find a higher road for healthful eating than before.

Before I continue, I want to acknowledge that my sources, (other than my own experiences), are Nourishing Traditions, and Eat Fat, Lose Fat both by writer/researchers Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon. This can only really be a brief overview. To get the whole blessed truth go to your local library and check these books out! Or buy them. They dive into the science of fats and why, chemically speaking, some are not just good for your body, but essential, while others are devastating. You won't regret reading these.

I mentioned last time I posted that Nourishing Traditions
was one of the best things to happen in my nutritional life. The main reason for that is it broke through my life long conditioning against eating fat. Don't get me wrong, not all fats are good for you. However, you might be surprised at the fats that are on the list for healthy eating.

After reading this book I began again to incorporate fat into my diet, and not just as a guilty pleasure. Can I just tell you how much better I feel? It has been revolutionary!

Reasons to eat healthy fats:
  • Eating fats helps your body to feel fuller longer.
  • Did you know that if you are eating a food that is high on the glycemic index adding fat will lower it’s number? Take milk for example. Milk is full of the natural sugar lactose. Drinking low fat, or fat free milk will cause a spike in a person’s blood sugar, whereas drinking full fat milk does not. The fat results in a longer assimilation time for the sugar.
  • As mentioned before, our bodies are programmed to want fat because they are needed for energy, carrying out vital functions in our organs, and for the assimilation of certain vitamins and minerals. Because of this, when we cut fat out of or diets we tend to feel strong, sometimes uncontrollable, cravings. Eating healthy fat eliminates this struggle.
Types of fats:
  • Saturated. Yes, it's true! All of those lovely dreams about butter and steak, and that delicate crunchy chicken skin... delicious and oh so good for you! Saturated fat is found primarily in animal fats, (i.e. butter, milk, yoghurt, and cheese), and tropical fats such as palm oil and coconut oil. These fats are called stable fats, and because of their chemical make up they stay solid at room temperatures. These are great fats for cooking.
  • Monounsaturated. You find these as the main elements of olive oil, a large variety of nuts, sesame oil, and avocados. These fats, liquid at room temperature, solid when refrigerated, are also considered stable and good for cooking. They are healthy, healthy, though should be used with some moderation as they tend to accumulate into fats store around our waists.
  • Polyunsaturated. This is the group we ought to be on the look out for. These fats are highly unstable, and will remain a liquid even when refrigerated. Because they are unstable they are susceptible to rancidity to a much higher extent then other fats. (Rancidity= bodily poison, aka free radicals that cause cancer, heart disease, diabetes and a host of other insulin issues, and mood disorders such as depression.) These fats are super cheap to come by which makes them a favorite with most food companies. These fats should be strictly avoided whenever possible. They are derived from safflower, corn, sunflower, soybean, canola, and cottonseed. The exception: omega fatty acids are also in this category, and are essential for our bodies as our bodies cannot make these themselves. Because they are unstable, flax oil (one of the most widely talked about sources), should never be cooked with. Healthy sources of omega-3 include flax seeds, fish, eggs, etc.
  • Trans Fat. I don't really have time to go into the chemical make up of trans fats, what I can tell you in the limited space that I have is that trans fats take up space in our cellular makeup so making so that our bodies don't function on that most basic level. Trans fats and saturated fats used to be lumped into the same category, and so many of the bad effects of trans fats were blamed on saturated fats. So sad!
  • Cholesterol. This is a substance all over in nature that can not be over looked. It is considered a physical offender, which is funny because our own bodies make it in abundance. Cholesterol is one of the building pieces for our cells, it is what gives our cells their sturdiness. It is found in very high percentage in mother's milk because of it's importance as a human growth factor. Cholesterol is also used in our bodies as an important part of the mass messaging system that are our hormones. Sources include the ever-lovable egg, and other animal products, milk, meat etc.
For more information on the subject of fat and cholesterol try Depp Nutrition, by Dr. Catherine Shanahan, and Luke Shanahan.


  1. Lovely Lissa! I had to take a break from reading so I could toast some bread and spread delicious butter on it.

    I'm glad there is science and experience to back up the truth about fat. But to me it just plum feels right! It's how we always ate until really recently in human history, and it has only been in the low-fat age that obesity has become a real problem.

    I do admit... I only really started eating full healthy fats consistently four or five months ago. And I've gained five pounds since then! Ah well... I'll wait to work it off until after the baby comes in Feb. :)

  2. Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your story, and for addressing one of the most misunderstood points of nutrition in America today! (People of other countries seem to get it.) But it is finally starting to come to light in the public arena, thank heavens. We just can't achieve optimal wellness without a good amount of saturated fat in our diets.

    What you said about the glycemic index makes so much sense to me. I haven't read that before! I mostly thought of the fat in milk in terms of helping us absorb the nutrients. Glad to know it gets even better!

    Readers -- if you didn't click on Melissa's first link (article called "The Skinny on Fats" by Dr. Mary Enig), you'll probably enjoy it. It is a clear, thorough, well-documented review of fats, their composition, and how they function in our bodies.

    We've had a pretty high fat (and relatively low carb) lifestyle here for a few years now, and we feel so great. Our primary daily fat sources are fullfat raw milk and butter, coconut oil, and olive oil (a little less frequent are yogurt, raw cream and cheese, and once a week or so, grass-fed beef or bison). I, too, used to be afraid of consuming saturated fat, but since I've discovered the benefits and incorporated it into my diet, I not only feel better, but weigh less than I have since before High School! (Glad to hear you're finally gaining some pregnancy weight, Meredith!)

    I feel canola oil, though incredibly popular, should be added to your list of fats to avoid. Dr. Enig has said that the rape seed, from which it is derived, is unsuited to human consumption. The oil itself, though safer than the rape seed, has a high sulfur content and goes rancid easily, that baked goods containing canola oil mold quickly, and that it may actually contribute to Vitamin E deficiency in the body. Worst of all, in my opinion, is something I recently read by Dr. Enig in a different article: "One problem with canola oil is that it has to be partially hydrogenated or refined before it is used commercially and consequently is a source of trans fatty acids; sometimes at very high levels." She adds, "Another problem is that it is too unsaturated to be used exclusively in the diet; some of the undesirable effects caused by feeding canola can be rectified if the diet is made higher in saturated fatty acids." So if you want to use canola oil, be sure you to include enough saturated fat in your diet to heal it of any deleterious effects left by the use of canola.

    So there's that.

    I also want to add, as long as we're talking about saturated fat and cholesterol, that there has never been any proven link between these and heart disease, a belief that abounds in our country. Maybe I'll do a post on that sometime so I don't create an essay out of this comment.

    By the way, I just could not figure out what that top picture is, Melissa, and though I may love lard too, it's grossing me out! ;)

  3. Ha ha ha ha The top picture looks like a hag fish to me, which is just a terrifying appearing fish from the depths of the ocean. It has a perfectly round, rasping sort of mouth. To me the picture represents the fear Americans feel about fat. Maybe I should have chosen something else...

    Also, Nonie, thanks so much for addressing canola oil! I really should have put that in the post. In fact I'm not sure how it ended up being left out. Canola oil is mentioned in both source books as a fat to definitely avoid.