Fat. Will it Kill Me?

Fat.  Is it good for me?  Will it kill me? Will it make me lose weight?  Do eat coconut oil?  Don’t eat coconut oil?  Eat margarine and use vegetable oil to cook with?  Low fat is better for you.  Butter is your friend. Red meat is fine.  Saturated fat is good.  Saturated fat will kill you.  And so it goes on.  Below, I will do my best in a succinct manner to make it a bit clearer.

Fats – a bit of science

Saturated fat has become demonised over the last 40 plus years, because some research said that saturated fat raises the ‘bad’ cholesterol levels causing heart disease.  A recent survey of trials said there is not enough evidence to support this claim. Saturated fat is called saturated because all the single chemical bonds have a hydrogen atom on the end, so they are all linked together and it’s hard for the chemical bond to be broken.  Saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature and liquidise in heat – coconut oil, butter, lard, ghee, fat in meat and cheese.

Unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are called this because some of the bonds between the atoms are double bonds, so not every bond has its own hydrogen atom attached.  Some bonds share one hydrogen between two.  These are the fats that without a doubt make your body healthier.  These fats are liquid at room temperature and include vegetable oils, fat in nuts, seeds, oily fish and avocado.

Trans fats are dangerous and happen when a healthy unsaturated oil is heated, the double bonds break and the molecule twists in a certain direction. This is done to the oils to prevent them from going off, and to lengthen shelf life.  The liquid unsaturated fat and often become solid in the process.  The most obvious example is margarine.  Trans fats damage your health.  Trans fats mixed with sugar are a death sentence. It is this combination that is causing the obesity epidemic, the increase in type 2 diabetes and killing people.  Trans fats are found in shop bought processed foods, fast food and deep fried food – pizza, biscuits, pastry, chips, chocolate, crisps etc.  They are often listed as ‘partially hydrogenated oil’ in food ingredients list.  Trans fats are in margarine and spreadable vegetable oils that are sold as an alternative to butter.  If you eat dairy, switch to (organic if you can) butter immediately, or go without

Cholesterol.  Did you know that your body makes around 80% of the cholesterol in your body REGARDLESS of what you eat?  This is because cholesterol is vital for health.  It is the natural plaster in our body and actually protects blood vessels.  The reason why is gets bad press is because when autopsies were done on people who had heart attacks, they saw loads of cholesterol in the veins and arteries, so cholesterol got blamed.  What was happening in fact, was that the cholesterol was there covering damage done to the blood vessel walls caused by poor diet and stress.  The cholesterol sticks over the damaged areas so the vessel walls can rebuild and repair damage, rather than leak blood into the body. Keeping blood vessel walls functioning is obviously, rather important for the body! Cholesterol is also the precursor to many of our hormones, including our sex hormones, so without it, we don’t function; and cholesterol helps the body synthesize Vitamin D.  Do you still want to cut cholesterol out of your diet?

Some more science on cholesterol

Another reason there is this obsession to reduce cholesterol in the diet is because cholesterol is made up of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) the ‘bad’ which raises cardiovascular disease, and High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) the ‘good’, which reduces inflammation and is good for heart health.  What we have been told to do is to eliminate LDL and only have HDL. The problem is that in foods, the two tend to come together, so we are also eliminate foods that also have the ‘good’ HDL.  (Also having some LDL in your body is not a bad thing, if it was, the body wouldn’t make it as part of the cell wall structure).  This has made everyone scared of fat, confused about what to eat and cutting out an essential part of our diet.

Fats to include

Some saturated fat, organic being best, butter, cheese, full fat milk, red meat, and coconut oil. The better the quality of the fat, the more you should have.  The poorer the quality, the more you should avoid. This is because of the other components that will be present in the food.  For example, non organic dairy is full of antibiotics which are not good for you.  You also need lots of the unsaturated fats which the body can’t make and are essential for good health.   They include organic, cold pressed* extra virgin or virgin olive oil and, avocado oil and nut oils.  Wild/sustainably farmed oily fish – salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, trout and herrings.  Be careful with tuna because of mercury levels. All the nuts, seeds including flax and chia and avocado. Use organic virgin or extra virgin olive oil, butter, ghee, lard and coconut oil for cooking.  Drizzle nut and seed oils over food once cooked and salad.

*(oil should be cold pressed so the bonds aren’t damaged by heat, and extra virgin has the purest quality.  They should also be in dark glass and stored away from heat and out of direct sunlight to maintain the chemical bond structure and to stop them turning into trans fats).

Fats to avoid

Basically, anything shop bought that has been cooked already, or is ready to cook because they use trans fats in the pastry, dough etc.   Also avoid deep fried food as the really high temperature used damages the oil and turns it into a trans-fat, so even if it started off being healthy, it doesn’t end up being that.  Don’t use low calorie sprays for cooking with or sunflower oil as it gets damaged really easily. As already said, don’t use margarine, the process if goes through is disgusting. And finally, don’t use the ‘safer to use at higher heat’ oils sold in the supermarkets.  They have already been heated and damaged to the full so they can’t get damaged any further.  Trans-fats cause internal inflammation which is the root cause of all ill health.

Fat free diets.  Do not do them, they are not good for you.  Every single cell wall in your body and most of your brain is made of fat.  By cutting it out you are doing damage to every little bit of you.  This means that your biochemical health is hindered.  This is when ill health begins to show its face. Also, if you buy a fat free/low fat alternative from the supermarket then I can promise that the sugar content will have been increased to make it taste nice and the food has gone through god knows what processing and has had all the nutrients removed.  Full fat is much better for you than low fat.  (Always organic if you can of course).

Finally an example of a fat that has recently come under scrutiny because of its saturated fat content.

Coconut oil has had a lot of bad press recently which may be due to it having high levels of Palmitic acid which raises LDL.  The thing is, that yes, palmitic acid does raise LDL, but what does coconut oil as an entirety do to the HDL cholesterol and the overall cholesterol level?  This is the important question.   Coconut oil also contains Lauric acid which raises HDL cholesterol.  When the different components of Coconut oil are broken down, it was found that it contains approximately 44.6% Lauric acid and only approximately 11.2% of palmitic acid. Science often looks at one small element of a food and its impact, rather than the food as a whole.  If you are eating palmitic acid on its own, then yes, you will be causing harm, but I doubt you are doing that.  So keep eating coconut oil, just make sure it’s part of a healthy balanced diet.

This is why I encourage eating whole foods that you cook yourself that aren’t procced and full of chemicals that damage your health.

Obviously, life is for living and once in a while it’s fine to eat pastry, pizza etc.  But every day?  No.

If you would like to book in for a nutrition consultation, email me at Katie@harleystreetnaturopath.co.uk for details.

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