Monday, September 6, 2010

Bringin' Back the PHAT

I wanted to write a post about one of my very favorite "new" discoveries: Coconut oil.

However, one can't really talk about the benefits of extra-virgin coconut oil without first going into fats in general. So, this post is on the different types of fats and why knowing about them matters. Next post will be on my favorite source for fat: Coconut oil.

Most people now-a-days know to stay away from trans fats, but what they don't know is just how prevalent they really are (ie in margarine, cake mix, pretty much every cracker (including the goldfish you feed to your toddler) almost every granola bar and candy such as starbursts. Start reading the labels because it's in pretty much anything pre-made or boxed. Not to mention deep fried and fast food. Even in some breads).

Trans fats, while openly labeled when they are NOT in a product, are not as easily recognizable when IN something. They hide under many different names, but almost always have the term "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" in it.

So, now, let's talk about just what "hydrogenated" means.

Hydrogenated fats are liquid fats that have been injected with hydrogen gas at high temperatures under high pressure to make the fat solid at room temperature. This process makes them indigestible (goes straight to storage if not used). Another danger about transfats is that they have a different DNA structure than natural fats (unsaturated, polyunsaturated...and even saturated).

My nutrition professor back in college explained it this way:

If a saturated fat strand is shaped this way in the body: VVVVVVV , then every time your body stores fat, they stack up nicely one on top of the other.

Then along comes a transfat strand shaped like this: MMMMMM. It doesn't stack the same, causing a the fat to take up more space in the person's body and the person to actually be LARGER than had they just eaten saturated fats.

But lets get to the real reason to avoid hydrogenated fats. Trans fats have been directly linked to cancer, obesity, immune-system dysfunction, birth defects, sterility, diabetes,  to just name a few. YIKES! Those are all things we want to avoid!

Natural fats on the other hand...are fats that were intended for humans to eat (*ahem* they're found in nature and not man-made in a laboratory somewhere. Just eat them in moderation).

Natural Fats:
Natural fats are fats found in fish, cod liver oil, olive oil, extra-virgin coconut oil, omega-3 eggs (those are produced by free-range chickens allowed to eat grasses), as well as organic grass-fed meats or other organic animal products such as butter, cheeses, yogurt, kefir, and milk.

Perhaps you're thinking, "But those are loaded with saturated fats."
Contrary to common belief, saturated fats are not bad for you (as long as they are from sources stated above  and not a Krispy Kreme doughnut). Don't believe me?

  • Saturated fatty acids make up 50% of all cell membranes. (Hmm...cell formation...that's important)
  • Saturated fats are needed in order to effectively incorporate calcium into your bones. (Ever heard of osteoporosis? Guess that's important too!)
  • Saturated fats actually LOWER LP (LP is a substance in the blood that determines if you are proned to heart disease).
  • It is impossible for a saturated fat to be hydrogenated. The structure of the molecule doesn't allow it.
  • Saturated fats protect the liver from toxins.
  • Saturated fats enhance the immune system.
  • Saturated fats are actually the PREFERRED fuel of the heart (which is why the fat around the heart muscle is highly saturated)
  • Saturated fatty acids found in butter, coconut and palm oil have important microbial properties which protect us from harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract.**
Our bodies were made to consume and use fats. We need fat for our brains, joints and skin. In fact, most people probably know this. We weren't, however, made to eat so much sugar. Too much sugar ruins your teeth, causes liver and kidney problems, causes diabetes and weakens bones by depleting calcium levels in the body.

Why is it then that when people want to lose weight they actually do non-fat or low-fat diets? 

We should be doing low-sugar diets! (But that's another post)

So, don't be afraid of fats. Just learn about them and which ones to eat.

**most of this information was taken from The Maker's Diet by Jordan S. Rubin. Excellent read, by the way.

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