In part 1 of this series, we discussed how fat got its bad reputation. Experts have long touted low fat diets as the epitome of good nutrition, yet heart disease and obesity remain at an all-time high. Misinformation, politics and bad science seem to be the culprits in an ever increasing smear campaign against fat, particularly saturated fat.
In the past, health care providers and nutrition experts would rarely mention the benefits of fat intake or even make the distinction between good and bad fat. The party line was: All fat was bad. It clogs your arteries and makes you overweight. Period.
Let’s set the record straight: Fat is a basic building block of life. Every cell in your body has an outer layer made up of 50% fat. Fat is also the main component of hormones. Of particular importance in fat metabolism are the hormones ghrelin and leptin. These help your body burn or store fat as needed. In other words, the fat you eat fuels the hormones that help you metabolize fat.
Fat is the preferential fuel used to run many of your internal organs, like the kidneys and the liver. That is why our bodies store it for future use.
Fat is essential for a newborn’s survival. From day one, if you were breastfed as a baby, your diet consisted of around 80% saturated fat. Saturated doesn’t stop being an important nutrient as we age.
Saturated fat, particularly animal fat, is a great source of vitamins A, D and K2. These are heart healthy vitamins that have been shown to protect us against heart disease. Clearly our bodies are designed to thrive of this very important fuel.
If you chose to start adding more fat to your diet, it is important to be able to distinguish between good and bad fat.
Simply put: Good fat is from a natural plant or animal source that has not been over-processed or over-heated. Once you heat a fat beyond its “smoke point” it become rancid and can have negative effects on your health. Trans fats are a good example of heated, bad fats.
Good fats can be added to foods after cooking or used in the cooking process itself, provided they are not heated beyond their smoke points.
Good cooking fats include: coconut oil, palm oil, grapeseed oil, pastured butter, lard or rendered animal fat for higher heat applications. Olive oils and other cold pressed oils such as nut or avocado oils should not be used for cooking but should be drizzled on top of foods instead.
Beware of certain “heart healthy” seed oils that claim to be high in omega 3’s. These are heat extracted in their production and are rancid before ever being bottled and sold. Avoid consuming seed oils altogether for this reason.
Food sources of good fat include: wild caught, oily fish, grass-fed or pastured beef and bison, pastured dairy products (where available), omega-3 eggs, coconut and hemp products, to name a few.
You’ll find that adding good fat to your diet can be an essential part of a healthy nutrition plan at any age. As with any major changes to your diet, do your research, consult with experts and be open to new ideas. Always monitor your progress and make changes as appropriate.