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Not Your Father’s Dietary Fat

Not Your Father’s Dietary Fat

Myths about food and diet abound. Here are a couple of my favorite myths about dietary fat.

Myth: A Very Low Fat Diet is Best

I read an article recently titled, “Low Fat Diets are Grossly Misrepresented.” The author, T. Colin Campbell is a PhD doctor, not a medical doctor, and he took strong issue with some of the notions bouncing around today about low fat diets.

I totally agree with the author when he talks about carbs that are healthy for us to eat vs. carbs that are not. No issues there. I also agree with him that obesity rises as people eat more and more processed “foods.”

However, he goes on to advocate a low protein, plant-based diet (translation: vegetarian) containing only about 10-12% fat.

To this I say a resounding “hooey.”

How does he account for the health of Eskimos, whose traditional diet is over 80% fat? They didn’t show any heart disease until they were exposed to a Western diet.

What about the health of those who eat a Mediterranean diet?

What about the fact that your body needs fat to protect your heart, protect your nervous system, avoid depression and a raft of other requirements?

First, I don’t think a one size fits all approach is sensible or logical. We’re human beings, for goodness sakes, not machines. We’re all different, with different DNA. If I eat a food that tells my DNA to do something that’s not healthy for me – let’s just call it a bad message for simplicity’s sake – it does not follow that the same food will be unhealthy for you.

Here’s what I do believe, however: if we’re going to eat fats – in any quantity – they should be from natural sources unadulterated with chemicals or other contaminants, and undamaged by heating or processing. And that goes for animal fats, too.

Myth: Saturated Fat is Bad For You

Actually, no.

Here are just a few of the ways your body needs saturated fat:

  • Your cell membranes are 50% saturated fatty acids
  • They help your bones absorb calcium
  • They protect your liver from alcohol and other toxins
  • They enhance your immune system
  • Omega 3 fatty acids work better when your tissues contain adequate saturated fatty acids
  • They are your heart’s best source of food
  • Short- and medium-chain saturated fatty acids help protect your digestive tract against harmful microorganisms

For years, coconut oil, a heavily saturated plant-derived fat, has been villified. Turns out, it’s actually pretty good stuff as long as you don’t damage it by overheating.

Virgin coconut oil, according to Cherie Calbom, author of the book The Coconut Diet, delivers amazing health benefits.

“Virgin coconut oil works wonders because it is made up predominantly of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that burn up quickly in the body – a lot like kindling in a fire rather than a big log.”

According to Dr. Mercola, coconut oil helps you promote:

  • heart health
  • weight loss
  • immune system health
  • healthy metabolism
  • proper thyroid functioning

Coconut oil has medium-chain fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides which are small enough to enter your cells directly. So your cells use it right away instead of storing it as fat.

In studies pitting coconut oil against corn and soybean oil, the coconut oil produced weight loss and measurable health benefits. You can read more about it here.

What about saturated animal fats?

First off, the earlier studies of saturated fats were flawed because researchers at that time hadn’t recognized the difference between trans fats — “fake” fats produced by adding hydrogen to fats to make them more solid at room temperature – and regular, healthy fats. Any conclusions reached before this decade should be thrown out.

Second, it turns out that saturated animal fats are fine for you as long as they come from animals that were raised on their native diets. In other words, corn-fed beef? Bad. Grass-fed beef? Good. Ditto with chicken, pork, etc. Just as a poor diet makes us sick, an inappropriate diet makes an animal sick. And when we eat the meat from the sick animal? You guessed it, it makes us sick.

The bottom line is, as with anything else you eat, make sure your food is natural, healthy and uncontaminated.

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