We live in a world where fats—especially the saturated, animal-based variety—are falsely accused of being our greatest enemy. Meanwhile, the polyunsaturated fats, whose benefits are often celebrated, are not as good for our health as we have been led to believe. In fact, they can be very dangerous. Science has moved on since much of the erroneous “fat research” appeared some 40 years ago. But politically correct dietary advice and mainstream public consciousness has not. Health-supporting evidence has come to light. It’s vitally important you learn about it: A lot of saturated fats–which we have long been told are dangerous–are, in truth not dangerous at all. They do NOT cause heart disease as we have been taught. In truth they are GOOD for us. So are many other fats which our forefathers ate but which we have long been told to avoid. The trick is to choose the right kinds of these fats in your meals. When you do this, your body, health and looks will be revolutionized.
THE BAD SCIENCE
For generations, fats have been surrounded by all sorts of false beliefs. One of these is that “saturated fat is a prime cause of heart disease”. This theory is based on the 1950s ‘lipid hypothesis’, by the scientist Ancel Keys. This erroneous research greatly benefited the vegetable oil and food processing industries, who suppressed alternative views. Over sixty years later, many still believe it. Another myth: “The Western diet has increased in saturated fat over the last century”. This is absolutely wrong. In fact, the reverse is true. At the turn of the century, most people got their fatty acids from saturated or monounsaturated animal-based sources: Lard, butter, tallow, etc—and they were better off for it. But from 1910 to 1970 in the United States, the proportion of animal fats declined from 83 to 62%. Butter consumption went from 18 to 4 pounds per person per year, all because of the promotion of margarine manufacturers. What has increased is the amount of fats we’re taking in the form of refined vegetable oils, margarines and junk fats—by a whopping 400%—during the same period. And our health as a species continues to suffer.
THE REAL CULPRITS
Here’s something else that might shock you. Analysis of the fat in artery clogs reveals that only about 26% is saturated. The rest is mostly polyunsaturated! In actual fact, saturated fats are our heart’s preferred source of “food” to draw on under stress. They help our bodies perform many other functions too, building our cells, strengthening our bones and immune systems.
As for polyunsaturated fats, most of which are in the form of omega-6 fatty acids, these tend to become rancid quickly when heated—such as during cooking or food processing. They then become a health-undermining source of free radicals, “marauders” inside our bodies. Polyunsaturates can do our body a great deal of harm, attacking our cells and damaging DNA. Little wonder that time after time, studies show a high link between consumption of these fats with cancer and heart disease. (Whether rancid or not, too much omega-6 in the diet is dangerous. This is just beginning to be discovered.) Yet most of the fats in modern diets come from these vegetable oils—with many diets consisting of up to 30% polyunsaturated fat. So don’t do yourself a disservice by believing what those P.C. diet gurus tell you. A good hard look at the evidence shows us quite the opposite is true.
OUT OF WHACK - OMEGA 3 BENEFITS
Omega-6 and omega 3 fatty acids, when in the right balance, help your body in all sorts of ways. They increase your cells’ sensitivity to insulin, helping your body regulate its blood sugar. They increase metabolic rate and fat metabolism, so more of your stored fat can be burnt as energy. Paleontologists have discovered that our ancestors consumed them in the ratio of 1:1 or 2:1 (omega-6 to omega 3 fatty acids). However today, in our Western diets, the balance between these two fatty acids has become all screwed up. Modern diets contain a ratio of about 22:1—far too high for optimal health. This excess can cause all sorts of problems, from weight gain to cancer. What can we do about it? For a start, you never have to worry about getting enough omega-6s. They’re everywhere. What you do need to do is increase your intake of omega 3 fatty acids]. A great way of doing this is to start taking a good-quality fish oil supplement.
Good Fats and Bad Fats - GET SAVVY
Another vital way to address the imbalance of good and bad fats in our diets is to get savvy about what oils we are using daily—in our cooking, baking, dressings, and everything else:
Safflower, Corn, Sunflower, Soybean and Cottonseed Oils are very high in omega-6—over 50%—and are badly processed, using all sorts of nasty chemicals. Avoid them completely.
Canola Oil has been associated with fibrotic heart lesions; is high in sulfur and easily turns rancid. Steer clear of it at all costs.
Olive Oil is monounsaturated rather than polyunsaturated, so is the safest vegetable oil you can use. It’s well-suited to dressings and can be heated at moderate temperatures. Make sure it’s cloudy (not filtered) and a golden-yellow color.
Sesame Oil is reasonably stable and can be used on occasion for frying. But don’t overdo it, as it is still high in omega-6.
Coconut, Palm, Palm Kernel and Red Palm Oils are much more highly saturated than the other vegetable oils, so are the safest, healthiest oils you can cook with. Coconut oil in particular is very good for you, containing antiviral and antibacterial properties and plenty of medium chain triglycerides which support weight loss.
BUTTER ‘EM UP
If you’re like millions of others, you buy margarine in the belief that it’s “better for you” than butter. Here’s an order: Avoid it like the plague. The process used to make margarine, known as hydrogenization, does horrendous things to the already-rancid vegetable oils it is made from. Not only does it contain all sorts of additives you should steer clear of. It’s linked to both cancer and heart disease, and can cause chronic high cholesterol. On the other hand, natural, good quality butter contains many essential nutrients. In fact, it may be the only good source of fat-soluble vitamins in the American diet! Experiments comparing the health of margarine eaters with butter eaters continually find in butter’s favor: In one such study, the risk of developing heart disease in butter users was half that of those using margarine. Infants and children especially benefit from butter for their normal growth and development. Use this delicious stuff liberally—and without guilt—in the knowledge that it will do you no harm, and your body will thank you for it.