For as long as I can remember, the British population has received and continues to receive information about foods that are good for you to eat and foods that are not good for you. Do you remember the great margarine challenge? Is it margarine or butter and how those chosen to do the tasting were unable to “tell the difference” because margarine tasted so good?
What about all the low-fat products that crowd the supermarket shelves, because fat is not good for you? Now we are seeing meat outlawed in favour of vegetables because eating red meat might lead to high levels of LDL cholesterol (low density lipoprotein) that in turn might lead to a heart attack because it furs up the blood vessel walls. The second reason we are given is that animals damage the planet. Or is it simply that mankind has created industrial farming which produces great quantities of “cheap” meat pumped full of antibiotics and water to increase the body weight, that is not only causing damage to the environment, but also to the animals whose life is behind bars, as well as to those that eat it.
To add further insult to fat, all of a sudden, we started seeing “lean” bacon, lean cuts of meat and advice to remove the fat from your meat before eating. It is fat in the meat that tells you that the cut is well bred, the animal has been fed on a diet that it would normally eat, consequently the meat is full of flavour, has a good colour and it is less likely to dry out when cooked due to this protective layer of fat marbling throughout the meat.
Then of course there is the promotion to eat more fruit. We have gone from “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” to the recommended 5-a day of fruit and vegetables. Why five, why not six or four? At the same time it is fine to eat your five-a day in a product that has been processed for convenience, sugar added, and then the token strawberries, apples, tropical fruits and nuts added to make up “your five a day!”
This blog is not about the many food fads that I have experienced in my short years, but rather to illustrate how easily we are led to believe the information, jump on the bandwagon and then wonder why our bodies lose energy, ache, swell up, retain water, and our brains lose the ability to remember things, lacking the sharpness to serve us well throughout the day. Perhaps, just perhaps diet has a lot to do with low mood and even depression?
Fats are an essential part of our daily diet. The brain functions on good fats and good hydration. Take away either of these vital foods and you are in trouble. Maybe not today or even tomorrow, but slowly it will creep up on you only to be diagnosed with “mild cognitive impairment.” This is not mild cognitive impairment. This simply means that all of a sudden the markers in your blood are now showing up “out of the norm” in the results. As Dr Dale Bredesen recently said, “This is like saying you have mildly metastatic cancer!”
Fats are lipids – organic substances that are not soluble in water. Fatty acids are chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms filling the available bonds. Most fat in our bodies and in the food we eat are in the form of triglycerides – 3 fatty acid chains attached to a glycerol molecule. These fats are not to be confused with elevated triglycerides in the blood which have been linked to a tendency to heart disease. These triglycerides do not come from dietary fats but are made in the liver from excess sugars that have not been used for energy. The source of these foods is coming from any food containing carbohydrates in particular, refined white flour and sugar.
A fatty acid is saturated when all available carbon bonds are occupied by a hydrogen atom. Very suitable because all carbon-atom linkages are filled, or saturated with hydrogen and in general do not go rancid even when heated for cooking purposes. Mostly solid or semi-solid at room temperature. Commonly found in animal fats and tropical oils including meat and dairy, coconuts and MCT oil. Can also be made by the body from carbohydrates
Monounsaturated Fats (MUFA)
Have one double bond in the form of two carbon atoms double-bonded to each other and therefore lack hydrogen atoms. Tend to be liquid at room temperature. Relatively stable just like saturated fats they do not go rancid easily and can therefore be used in cooking. The monounsaturated fatty acid most commonly found in foods is oleic acid, the main component of olive oil as well as most nut oils, seeds and avocados. The body can make monounsaturated fatty acid from saturated fatty acids to use them in many ways. Prioritise the use of plant-based monounsaturated, omega 3 and saturated fats as these fats, depending on the processing methods and sourcing can make up a good portion of your diet without causing weight gain, resulting in a stable and healthy metabolic profile.
Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFA)
Have two or more pairs of double bonds and therefore lack four or more hydrogen atoms. The most common polyunsaturated fatty acids found in foods are double unsaturated linoleic acid with two double bonds – omega 6’s; and triple unsaturated linolenic acid with three double bonds – omega 3’s. The body cannot make these fatty acids and are therefore known as essential fatty acids and must be obtained through what we eat. Remain liquid even when refrigerated, should never be heated or used in cooking. Goes rancid easily, especially omega 3 – linolenic acid. Cold-water fatty fish, krill and algae, flax seed, chia seed, walnuts and hempseed. Omega 6’s are found in nuts and seeds and the oils that come from nuts and seeds.
Margarine, shortening and other shelf-stable products (biscuits, cakes, crisps, microwave popcorn and fried foods, etc. Trans fats and industrialised hydrogenated vegetable and seed oils are the only bad “apples in the box” and should be avoided.
All fats and oils are a mixture for saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated acids. In general animal fats such as butter and lard contain 40-60% saturated fat and are solid at room temperature. Vegetable oils from northern climates contain a prevalence of polyunsaturated fatty acids and are liquid at room temperature. Vegetable oils from the tropics are highly saturated, such as coconut oil. They are liquid in the tropics, but firm as for butter in northern climates.
To maintain good health most of the fats you eat should be mono or polyunsaturated fats found in oily fish, avocados, fax seeds and most nuts.
A Different Way of Explaining Fats
Always saturated with 4-6 carbon atoms. These fatty acids have antimicrobial properties – they protect us from yeasts, viruses and other pathogenic bacteria in the gut. Also contribute to the health of the immune system. Directly absorbed for quick energy as they do not need to be acted on by bile salts in our digestive system. An example is butter fat from cows and goats and consequently are less likely to cause weight gain.
Medium chain FA’s
8-12 carbon atoms and are found mostly in butterfat and tropical oils. They also have antimicrobial properties and are absorbed quickly for energy, as well as contributing to the health of the immune system.
Long Chain FA’s
14-18 carbon atoms and can be either saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Stearic acid found mainly in beef and mutton tallow is 18-carbon saturated fatty acids. Oleic acid is an 18-carbon monounsaturated fat which is the chief component of olive oil. The two essential fatty acids are both long chain fatty acids with 18 carbons in length. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) has 18 carbons and 3 double bonds and is found in evening primrose, borage and black currant oils. A healthy body can make GLA out of omega-6 linolenic acid. It is used in the production of prostaglandins; localised tissue hormones that regulate many processes at the cellular level.
Very long chain FA’s
20-24 atoms and tend to be highly unsaturated. The body can make these fatty acids, but not everyone is capable of doing so and therefore have to be obtained through eating organ meats, egg yolks, butter and fish oils.
The rule applies as for all food, the more natural the fat and less processed the better it is for your wellbeing. Fats that are high in linoleic acid alpha linoleic acid – Omega 3’s and 6’s in the ration 2:1 are the best fats. Not all fats lend themselves to being heated and therefore soon turn into trans fats which are harmful to the body when used in cooking. Olive oil can stand warm heat whereas coconut oil can take a more intense heat. Eating natural foods high in Omegs 3’s such as avocados, oily fish – mackerel, sardine, herring, and salmon (wild). Sadly, farmed salmon is kept in a habitat that is unhealthy and unnatural for salmon and therefore is pumped full of antibiotics to stop fungus damaging the flesh and eventually killing the fish. This is the reason that wild salmon is deep pinky-orange and farmed salmon pale in comparison.
What Role does Fat Play in the Body?
Fat is used for different purposes within the body including:
- Feeding the brain – it is a key component of good brain health
- Eye health
- Fuel the body and provide energy
- Protect vital organs
- Provide insulation to keep us warm
- Promotes cell growth
- Aids absorption of essential nutrients
- Keeps cholesterol and blood pressure under control
What Happens if you Don't get Enough Fat in your Diet?
If you don't get enough fat in your diet, you may notice symptoms such as dry skin rashes, hair loss, a weaker immune system, and issues related to vitamin deficiencies such as low energy, inability to concentrate and general lethargy. You may also have low mood and no zest for life.
In conclusion, to be healthy and feel well fats are an essential part of your diet. The more saturated, the more stable and less prone to oxidation and rancidity. Animal fats to be eaten in moderation because toxins are stored and accumulated in fat. For this reason, grass-fed and wild caught are always preferable. The low-fat products are just that – low in fat, but who says that this is a healthy option?
Tips on Consuming Fats
Function in the Body
Tips for Consumption
Extra virgin olive oil
- Reduction in neuroinflammation
- Improvement in metabolic markers
- Improvement in synaptic integrity
- Reduction in beta-amyloid and tau
- Promotes LDL cholesterol removal through oxidation and improves function of HDL
Best as a finishing oil –
- Avocado oil (*271)
- Ghee *(251)
- Coconut oil *(176)
- Sesame oil *(210)
- Butter* (176)
Do not exceed the smoke point
Add ghee and coconut oils to porridge, vegetables and smoothies
Use as the base for stews, casseroles and soups
Nuts & Seeds
- Cardio and neuro protective
- Support ketosis
- Rich source of healthy fat, protein, vitamins and minerals, and fibre
Best soaked, fresh, raw and organic. Sprout when possible. Soaking and sprouting reduces lectins. Phytates and enzyme inhibitors all of which impair digestion and nutrient absorption.
Roast or sauté lightly to enjoy in salads
- Excellent for brain health as high omega 3 fatty acid content
Consume raw to avoid damage to the PUFA’s
- High in omega 3. Rich in lignans that help to balance hormones
- Rich source antioxidant and fibre
Eat raw after soaking overnight. Or use immediately after grinding as it goes rancid easily
- Neuroprotective benefits and reduced risk of cognitive decline
- Increases alertness
- Anti inflammatory, antibacterial effects
- Increases plasma ketones when drunk black
- To address insulin resistance, add a small amount of MCT to your cuppa
Limit to 2 cups daily to avoid elevating homocysteine levels which is associated with brain atrophy and diminished cognition
Consume before noon to avoid affecting the circadian rhythm and sleep quality
Consume black for maximum benefit
Acidity in coffee can exacerbate gastro oesophageal reflux (GERD) and heartburn
Avoid if suffering from chronic stress that is accompanied by elevated levels of free-flowing cortisol
- Soybean oil, corn oil, rapeseed oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, palm kernel oil and trans fats.
- Avoid all oils that are seed, grain, bean or any vegetable oils that are polyunsaturated, omega-6, heated or chemically extracted, GMO and refined oils
Remove from your diet completely
*Smoke point in degrees C – do not produce smoker that damages the oil at higher temperatures
**Other nuts – hazelnut, macadamias, almonds, Brazil nuts are beneficial to brain as a rich source of antioxidants. Good source of protein and fats.
Ancient Remedie for Modern Life, Dr Josh Axe
Nourishing Traditions, Revised Second Edition, Sally Fallon, Mary G. Enig, Ph.D
The End of Alzheimer’s Programme, Dr Dale Bredesen