FAT. It seems scary. No one wants to be fat and many still think that fatty food causes fat accumulation. Most of us have been told to fear fat since childhood. Here's why it's time to stop fearing fat and to enjoy it with without any guilt.
Fat is not a four letter word. (although "carb" is) Many people by now have learned that some fats are good and some are bad but there still is a large amount of confusion about which is which. Like much orthodox dietary wisdom of the last 50 years, our concept of healthy and unhealthy fat was almost completely the opposite of correct. About a hundred years ago industrial technology was invented that enabled companies like Procter & Gamble to extract inexpensive oils from seeds, corn, and soy. Cottonseed was a useless byproduct of the cotton industry until P&G invented a technologically advanced process to extract and render the oil palatable to humans. Being seen as modern and pure, these oils quickly replaced traditional animal fats. Unfortunately, No one tested them for safety in humans before they were widely released to the American public. Within 10 years of the introduction of Crisco, there occurred the beginnings of the modern heart disease epidemic. Ironically, the nutrition experts of the 1950s blamed good old animal fat for the new epidemic of heart attacks and gave the new and still untested seed oils their official endorsement. The American Heart Association calls them heart-healthy because they lower LDL. Unfortunately lower LDL hasn't translated into less heart disease.
Only fat has zero effect on insulin, not true of carbs and not true of protein either. Some fats are healthy and some are deadly. True: Fat is more energy dense than carbs and proteins. This sounds bad but isn't. Fat's magical property is its ability to quickly induce satiety. It makes your appetite vanish before you eat too much. No calorie counting required!
How I learned to stop worrying and came to love fat:
GOOD FAT: One measure of the healthfulness of animal fat is the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. The optimal ratio isn't precisely known. Some say 1:1 is best. Unfortunately, the common American diet is very lacking in omega 3s so the typical ratio is > 20:1. It is bad because cell membranes function optimally when both are present in a lower ratio. It may be a cause of inflammation and heart disease. Fat from grain-fed animals contains little omega 3. Soybean, canola and cottonseed oil are lacking omega-3.
Cold water fish, anchovies, salmon, herring, shellfish, shrimp, crab scallops and oysters are rich in omega-3. Tuna and swordfish also are rich in omega-3 but because these fish live longer, they also contain more mercury.
Meat and dairy from Grass-fed animals also have higher amounts of omega-3 but not as much as oily fish.
Mono-unsaturated fat found in olives, macadamia nuts, and avocados are healthy despite having somewhat higher omega-6 to 3 ratios.
Medium chain triglycerides (MCT)-The body tends not to store MCTs at all but burns them as energy preferentially. MCTs get turned straight into ketones for burning in the brain, heart, and muscles. Coconut oil is the most common source of MCT.
Saturated fats: You probably thought saturated fats belong in the bad category. I can't blame you. Until not so long ago, so did I, but then I learned that there is no evidence that saturated fats contribute to disease. Human fat is 97% saturated fat and some mono-unsaturated fat. Evidence that saturated fat is unhealthy was weak from the start and has almost vanished. Read The Big Fat Surprise if you want to learn more.
BAD FAT: Trans-fats. Trans fats are created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils such as cottonseed or soybean that making them less liquid and more solid. Margarine and Crisco are examples. Back in the 50s when animal fats were wrongly blamed for heart disease, the heart association promoted vegetable oils as safe alternatives. Boy, did they get that wrong. Belatedly, their toxic properties were discovered. It took 100 years but, as of 2015 they were banned...(mostly) They are still permitted if the serving size is small like in Cool-Whip. It's still all trans fat. Food processors loved trans fats because of their near infinite shelf-life. A tub of Crisco can stay on the shelf at room temperature forever because even bacteria and mold find them revolting. They never go rancid. Trans-fats raise Inflammation, the bad-type LDL and lower HDL.
Scientists have found that animals eating vegetable oils and seed oils developed cancer but those fed animal fats did not. Additionally,
Heated oil: Uncontrolled chemical reactions take place when vegetable oils are heated. These reactions create toxic chemicals called aldehydes. These abnormal chemicals are incorporated into lipoproteins that are oxidized easily. It is thought that oxidized fat starts inflammation in arteries leading to heart disease.
Coconut oil, lard, and butter seem to be the least apt to change when heated. Corn and canola are pretty bad. That sticky, impossible to clean shellac stuck to the frying pan after using vegetable oil also goes into your body where it sticks to your arteries the same way, Gross, right? I've been using butter and coconut oil for frying. I can tell youit takes no time at all to clean the pan.
Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) They oxidize easily. These oxidized fats cause inflammation and mutation in cells. That oxidation is linked to all sorts of issues from cancer, heart disease, endrometriosis, PCOS, etc. PUFAs are bad news and they're in most packaged foods. Yikes.
Mono-Unsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA)
Omega- Refers to the place on a fatty acid chain where there is a double bond. The 3rd place is a omega-3 and 6th place is an omega-6. Both types are essential in the diet but the ratio of the two matters. The modern diet is too rich in 6s and poor in 3s.
Interesterified oils-A newly created oil derived from vegetable oil that appears to be very inflammatory.