Wars have been around pretty much since time began. Good versus evil. Cops and robbers. You get the point. There are opposing sides to just about everything, and it's no different in your gut. In fact, there's a war waging as we speak. You can't always see or feel it, but it's happening just the same.
The good guys are fighting to keep you alive and the bad guys want you, shall we say, less alive.
Is it that serious? Sometimes, yes.
Let's meet the players.
The Bad Fats
Enter the bad guys. Snarling, booing, hissing — yep, throw your rotten tomatoes at them!
Trans Fats (the result of the hydrogenation process):
- cause dysfunction and chaos on a cellular level
- interfere with enzymes your body uses to fight cancer
- interfere with the insulin receptors in your cell membranes
- reduce your immune response
- interfere with enzymes needed to produce sex hormones
- linked to obesity
- can cause major clogging of your arteries
- known to increase “bad” cholesterol, while lowering “good” cholesterol
- have been linked to an increase in asthma
- increase the risk of diabetes
Trans fats are found mostly in margarine and shortening, however, they're also lurking in fried foods like french fries, doughnuts, and crackers, just to name a few.
Polyunsaturated Fats (canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, etc.):
- go rancid easily
- create a vitamin E deficiency
- are associated with heart lesions
- become carcinogenic when heated
- cause stress to cellular DNA which can lead to aging, cell destruction, and cancers
- suppress immune system
- inhibit enzymes involved in the digestion of food, removal of clots, and formation of thyroid hormone
The Good Fats
Enter the good guys. The knights on white horses with cheering crowds, smiling babies, and flower-throwing fans. These guys are known as saturated fats.
Saturated fats fall into four categories:
- Short-chain fatty acids are found in butterfat from cows and goats. They protect us from viruses, yeasts, pathogenic bacteria in the gut, and contribute to a healthy immune system.
- Medium-chain fatty acids are mostly found in butterfat and tropical oils like palm oil and coconut oil. They have antibacterial properties and are good for the immune system.
- Long-chain fatty acids are found in tallow from beef or mutton (sheep), animal fats, olive oil, evening primrose oil, and borage and black currant oils. They have antimicrobial properties and are helpful for regulating tissue hormones at a cellular level.
- Very long-chain fatty acids are found in foods like organ meats, egg yolks, butter, and fish oils. They play an important role in the nervous system.
These misrepresented and misunderstood fats are the ones mainstream media commonly tells you to avoid. But the fact is, they're one of our biggest advocates to health. Here are a few reasons why. They…
- protect the liver
- give necessary stiffness to cell membranes
- are needed by the brain to function properly
- effectively incorporate calcium into our bones
- protect against harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract
- assist the body's metabolism of essential fatty acids
- are the preferred food for a healthy heart
- have cholesterol lowering properties
- enhance the immune system
They aren't damaging your body. They are fighting for your health and longevity.
Saturated Fats and the Heart
The French — who love their butter, cheese, cream, eggs, and rich pâtés — have a lower rate of coronary heart disease than any other western country. In the United States, 315 out of every 100,000 middle-aged men die each year from heart attacks. In certain regions of France, where duck and goose liver are a staple, that rate is only 80 out of every 100,000.
In a 60-year period (from 1910 to 1970) the amount of animal fats (saturated fats) eaten per person lowered from 83% to 62%, and the amount of real butter consumed dropped nearly 78%. Today heart disease is on the rise, causing 40% of all deaths in the United States. Doesn't it seem odd that to protect our hearts we're told to stay away from saturated fats?
Wynn Institute for Metabolic Research in London performed a medical evaluation regarding the fat found in clogged arteries. Their study showed that only about 26% is saturated fat. The remaining 74% is unsaturated fat.
A Medical Research Council Survey showed that men who eat butter have only half the risk of developing heart disease in comparison to those who use margarine.
Saturated Fats by Percentage
Which fats have the highest amount of saturated fat?
- coconut oil — 92% saturated fat
- animal fats (butter, lard, and tallow) — 40% to 60% saturated fat
- palm oil — 50% saturated fat
- olive oil — 13% saturated fat
The King of Saturated Fats
Truth be told, any of the fats listed above are great, but coconut oil holds a special place in the line up. Not only is it a whopping 92% saturated, but it also contains other phenomenal benefits to fighting the internal war.
Coconut oil is made up mostly of medium-chain fatty acids, which means it is great for the immune system and quickly absorbed for energy. It boasts lauric acid (also found in breastmilk), which has strong antimicrobial and antifungal properties. This is especially important to someone battling candida, an internal bacteria in the gut which can cause leaky gut, brain fog, yeast infections, and a myriad of other health issues.
In conclusion, there are so many ways saturated fats fight for our health. They are essential to a healthy diet. Don't let the “fat scare” fool you. 😉
Do you still or did you used to buy into the “fat scare”? How do you feel about it now? What are your favorite traditional fats to use in cooking and health and what have they done for you?
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