RFNH = “Real Food Nutrition & Health” Study. My children and I will be working our way through Kristen Michaelis' book, Real Food Nutrition and Health, during the fall and winter months as part of our homeschooling curriculum. If you're following along, or falling behind, no worries! This series will be here for you whenever you're ready. And even if you're not quite caught up, feel free to jump in regardless.
Click here to read more about the study and get the proposed schedule, as well as current and past downloadable discussion questions/activities each week — which you can save for the future if you're not going to participate now.
We're on Chapter 3: Healthy Fats and Oils. Click here for Chapter 3's discussion questions/activities (a free PDF download).
This was a long chapter, and frankly, I was worried how it was going to go over. Seemed very challenging to me when I prepared myself for it. We took a good hour+ to read through it and talk about it, stopping frequently to just review what we'd learned already.
Now, none of my children are highschoolers, but I still think they got it! Well, at least A. and B. did. I didn't ask them to remember specifics — like lauric acid has how many carbon atoms? — but I hoped they would take away the basics of fats.
Here's what I hoped they would learn:
- Fats are macro-nutrients, in the company of carbohydrates and proteins.
- Fats share a common molecular structure, much like a backbone (glycerol) with ribs (fatty acids) — a similar visual picture to the one Kristen gave.
- Fats are either saturated or unsaturated.
- Saturated fats have a hydrogen atom attached to a carbon whereever possible.
- Unsaturated fats have a not-hydrogen atom bonded to a carbon atom at least somewhere.
- Monounsaturated fats have a not-hydrogen atom bonded to a carbon atom once.
- Polyunsaturated fats have a not-hydrogen atom bonded to a carbon atom more than once.
- Saturated fats pack closely and well due to their chemical structure, keeping them solid at room temperature.
- Unsaturated fats don't pack so closely and well because of being differently bonded at least one place; thus they are liquid at room temperature and more susceptible to rancidity.
- Our bodies are composed of fats in this order: saturated fats, followed closely by monounsaturated, with polyunsaturated at less than 4% — the same percentages as traditional diets!
- Fats give energy, provide insulation, are building blocks, and help our bodies make the most use of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D, E, and K).
- Our bodies can synthesize needed fats, with the exception of essential fatty acids called omega-6 fats and omega-3 fats.
- The ratio in which we consume omega-6 to omega-3 fats is very important; keeping it between 1:1 and 4:1 is ideal for good health.
- The standard American diet offers a ratio of omega-6:omega-3 at 20:1, largely due to the high presence of corn in food production (corn's ratio is 46:1!).
- Traditional diets offered a ratio of 1:1 (omega-6:omega-3)!
Isn't that alot to absorb? And there's more, too! I just tried to boil it down to the main points.
We do follow the dietary guidelines Kristen offered for consuming fats in traditional ratios and amounts. The kids were amazed to hear the health implications of smoking oils (heart disease and cancer). Now they know why I tell them to turn the egg pan down and to keep the fat from smoking. I doubt they will ever let that happen again. 😉
The chapter ended with a history lesson on fats. Kristen made a good summary about Ancel Keys, the father of the lipid hypothesis, and the flaws in his conclusions. Also, she told us how the McGovern Senate Committee caved to the meat industry when they backtracked from declaring Americans should eat less red meat, and instead recommended that we eat less saturated fat. Of course, they got it all wrong anyway, but significantly, as Kristen pointed out, they made a classic shift in naming what should be avoided. Instead of calling out red meat (a whole food) they demonized saturated fat (a nutrient). That was the main point of Chapter 1, if you recall. If you don't recall, no worries, I just reminded you. 🙂
Kristen recommended, and I agree, to consume animal fats from pastured, wild or traditionally raised animals. You see, if the animal is eating its traditional diet, then the balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in that animal's meat and milk will be closest to ideal. Grass-fed (but pasteurized) Kerrygold butter is arguably one of the best commercial options for butter.
We stock up on the Kerrygold butter from Trader Joe's. But, when we're out of it and not planning a trip to get more (it is an hour away), sometimes I will buy a few sticks of grocery store butter to get us by. Well… now I am reminded of why that's not so good. Sure, any butter offers needed saturated fats and passably good flavor. But factory farm cows are fed on corn with a 46:1 essential fatty acid ratio — so their milk and meat ends up with an omega-6:omega-3 ratio that is not only off, but lends serious health implications to the eaters.
So, butter is good, but grass-fed butter is better! And then there's raw, homemade grass-fed cultured butter, which I love to make when I can get the raw cream.
So, it is your turn… How did your kids like this chapter? What did you learn? Anything shock you? Anything confuse you? If you compared the fats you eat to the fats of a traditional diet, where do you need to improve? What are you doing right? Any other thoughts? Please jump right in!
Want to check out my daughters' blog posts? Each week they're sharing their answers to a couple of the discussion questions. I love reading how they put their thoughts into words. A.'s post and B.'s post.
By Monday morning, I'll have the discussion questions for Chapter 4 available. Visit the main RFNH post for the schedule, links to other discussion questions, and links to all the blog posts in this series.
GNOWFGLINS will earn a commission on sales of the Real Food Nutrition and Health book through this blog. But honestly, we'd be doing this study whether or not we were associated. Thank you for supporting GNOWFGLINS with your purchase. You should also know I'm very thankful to be undertaking this study with Kristen's permission.
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