What if I told you that if you really wanted to loose body fat you had to increase your intake of dietary fat! Well, to most people that suggestion sounds totally foreign, ludicrous and quite contrary to popular belief, but, apart from a few rules to adhere to, it is an accurate statement that, if put into practice, will yield you so many more health benefits than just the eradication of body fat! The role of fats in your diet (and their influence on your overall health) is perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of your food intake.
For decades fats have been portrayed as the major contributor to chronic and degenerative disease (especially heart disease) so before we break that paradigm down, let’s take a look at the different types of fats and understand a little more about which are good and which are bad. The following list categorizes the different fats you could be exposed to in your diet:
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) – as the name suggests these are the fats the body can’t make so in order to function at an optimal level you need to include foods containing them in your diet. Firstly there are Omega-3 EFAs. These come from both plant and animal sources with seeds or nuts like chia, flax, hemp and walnuts being the most valuable sources and also from fatty cold water fish like salmon and sardines. Secondly there are the Omega 6 EFAs. These are also derived from nuts and seeds and in their raw unprocessed form are also essential for a vital life – but a healthy, low ratio of Omega 6 : Omega 3 EFAs must be maintained or you will dramatically increase your risk of promoting cardiovascular disease and other chronic inflammatory disease. The lower the ratio the better! The Omega 6 family of fatty acids also include industrial oils and trans-fats including hydrogenated oils, partially hydrogenated oils and margarine. These are inflammation promoting and toxic to every cell in your body and it’s estimated that 70% of the Omega 6 fatty acids consumed in the USA and other first world countries are derived from this toxic type of Omega 6 oil! Thirdly, there the EFAs from the Omega 9 family of EFAs also called mono-unsaturated FAs. These occur abundantly in many vegetables, nuts and seeds with the most noteworthy being olives, avocadoes macadamia nuts and sesame seeds. Lastly, there are the EFAs that are from the saturated family. These are derived from coconut and other palm oils and are an extremely valuable addition to a balanced EFA intake.
- Saturated fats (from animal sources) – this family of Fatty Acids (FAs) are not considered essential because you produce them yourself – being a mammal. But over the last 60-70 years this family of FAs have been portrayed as ‘the bad guys’ and we have been told to avoid these cardiovascular disease-promoting FAs if you want to avoid suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Conventional wisdom’s diet-heart disease paradigm (that consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol containing foods raises blood cholesterol and triggers the heart disease process) oversimplifies and severely distorts the true causes and processes that have led to today’s epidemic of cardiovascular disease! In actuality the true causal risk factors that initiate and perpetuate cardiovascular disease are inflammation and oxidation in the vascular system specifically in the arterial and arteriole walls.
This is the take-home – There is no correlation between the consumption of foods rich in saturated fats and cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease! Saturated fat has been the preferred fuel source for the human body right from the beginning of our evolutionary history. The acknowledged ‘bad-guy’ in conventional wisdom’s diet-heart paradigm – LDL cholesterol – is only potentially a problem when other more profound risk factors are present, namely, a high insulin producing diet and other risk factors that compromise the effective clearance of oxidized LDL from the blood stream.
In reality, the actual heart disease process occurs in the following way – Excessive consumption of processed carbohydrates (grains and sugars) promotes excess insulin production and high triglycerides in the blood. In conjunction with a diet high in polyunsaturated oils and a lifestyle full of stressors (not enough sleep or sunshine and excessive chronic exercise), this dietary regime promotes a state of inflammation and oxidation in the blood stream and in turn on the blood vessel walls. Under these circumstances cholesterol in the circulating blood can become dangerous with small, dense LDL molecules inadvertently attaching themselves to your arterial walls which have been compromised due to their inflammatory and oxidised state. The result is further oxidative damage to the arterial lining which will them attract and promote the next degenerative stage of inflammatory calcification! This elicits an immune response that leads to further inflammation and plaque formation on the arterial walls and an eventual heart attack or stroke.
When it comes to high-lighting the real villains in the ingested fat dietary saga, it is without question, the category of Trans fats including industrialized oils, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils that wear the super villain crown. These oils are termed polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and are always derived from omega 6 oils. This has led to the entire family of omega 6 oils being branded as bad and to be avoided. Intake of omega 6 PUFAs in their natural unprocessed form of nuts, seeds and other whole foods AND in a satisfactory low ratio to your intake of omega 3 oils is in fact healthful and even necessary to promote vitally and well-being. It’s the intake of any processed food that is prepared with super heated industrialized, hydrogenated omega 6 PUFAs that will have profound degenerative effects on your cardiovascular, immune and metabolic health.
A diet rich in raw and/or unprocessed omega 3 and 9 EFAs, saturated fats, and with a moderate intake of raw, unprocessed omega 6 EFAs, coupled with a ZERO intake of highly processed, industrialized and hydrogenated trans PUFAs, provides the nutritional foundation necessary for maintaining a healthy heart, brain and blood vessels – with the following important caveat. This critically important condition is that the rest of your eating plan is one that supports an anti-inflammatory, low insulin and low cortisol cellular environment.
I’ll be expanding on this important subject and other fat-filled topics in the coming weeks (including how to eat more fat to lose weight) as they are subjects of relevance for everyone. To keep informed about important topics to improve all aspects of your health, click here…