For more than 50 years, the media and mainstream health “experts” have been harping on the potentially harmful effects of fat (saturated fat especially) on the human body. “Low-fat diets are the key to longevity and good health,” they claim. “Avoid coconut oil and butter. Drink low-fat or two percent milk.” Unfortunately, this entire spiel is a complete and utter myth.
Human beings have consumed animal products for thousands of years. The hunter-gatherers of the ancient past ate what we would call a “paleo diet” today: one consisting mainly of meats and plants. To suggest that saturated fats are suddenly detrimental for our health makes zero sense.
To Eat or Not to Eat…That is the Question
It can be very difficult to determine which fats are good for you to eat. The shelves of grocery stores and supercenters are stocked with a wide array of fats for you to choose from. Stay away from hydrogenated vegetable and seed oils (trans fats), as these can inhibit the function of your insulin receptors and make you more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Healthy saturated fats found in animal products like fatty meats, cheese, raw milk and butter are very, very good for you. And I’ll explain more on that in a minute.
The Myth Surrounding Saturated Fats
Saturated fats were given a bad name by an influential scientist named Dr. Ancel Keys. Dr. Keys erroneously linked high saturated fat intake to increased risk of heart disease. However, it is the trans fats found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine and vegetable shortening that are responsible. These fats you must avoid at all costs.
The best sources of healthy dietary fat are from animals, as they contain balanced levels of omega-3, -6, and -9 fatty acids as well as saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These sources include: avocados, grass-fed meats, raw nuts, organic pastured egg yolks, butter from grass-fed cows, raw cacao butter and coconut oil. Healthy fats from these sources should constitute anywhere from 50 to 85 percent of your entire energy requirements.
For the past 50 years, Americans have been told that a diet high in complex carbs and low in saturated fats is the best. Even diabetics are told that they should be getting 50 percent or more of their daily calories in the form of carbohydrates. At the same time, they are told that healthy high-fat foods like some of the examples I mentioned above should be avoided like the plague. This advice is the exact opposite of what anyone needs to stay healthy. In fact, the shift to a more grain-based diet has led to increased rates of obesity and chronic diseases.
A study was performed over the course of 14 years on 27,000 individuals between the ages of 45 and 74. Those who ate eight servings of full-fat dairy products per day reduced their risk of diabetes by 25 percent . The results of another study performed in 2010 suggested that palmitoleic acid (a product naturally occurring in full-fat dairy products) may help protect against insulin resistance and diabetes. Healthy fats have a wide range of health benefits including the following:
- Aid in mineral absorption
- Support the conversion of carotene into vitamin A
- Act as a carrier for fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
- Help you feel full after eating
- Provide the optimal fuel for your brain and your heart
- Anti-viral properties
- Provide the building blocks for cell membranes and hormones
Did you know that your brain cannot perform properly without the presence of healthy fats? If you fill up on sugar or grains to satisfy your energy requirements, you can cause neural impairment and damage to your brain as the result of blunted insulin signaling.
The Importance of Omega-3s
Omega-3 fats are especially important for optimal brain function. Most Americans fail to receive sufficient amounts through diet alone and are instead consuming large amounts of polyunsaturated omega-6 fats. Omega-3 deficiency has been found to be the significant underlying factor in as many as 96,000 premature deaths each year.
The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is 1:1. One of the easiest ways to maintain this ratio is to consume healthy fish such as Alaskan salmon, sardines and anchovies. These fish are lower in toxins than other types of fish. You can also take krill oil as a supplement. Krill oil contains phospholipids which aid in the absorption of omega-3s. You will not need to take large amounts of this supplement. Krill oil contains more than 50 times the amount of the antioxidant astaxanthin than fish oil. Astaxanthin helps preserve the omega-3s and prevents oxidation of the fish oil.
Omega-3 deficiency tends to manifest itself through certain symptoms. These include:
- Mental fog
- Brittle fingernails
- Dry hair
If you start taking krill oil and increase your consumption of omega-3 rich foods, you may notice that your symptoms improve. However, if you have been taking krill oil for a while and your symptoms suddenly return, you may be taking too much krill oil. Stop for a while to allow your body to re-adjust itself and begin again at a lower dosage.
Omega-3 is also very important for the development of babies in the womb and for the prevention of postpartum depression. Breastfeeding is extremely important as omega-3 is transmitted to the baby through the milk. If you can breastfeed your baby through the first year of life, you will give your child the best possible start.
Why You Need More Cholesterol: What the Medical Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know
Cholesterol is hyped as the threat to your heart health. However, a cholesterol test tells you virtually nothing about the state of your physical health. The most important factor regarding cholesterol is really the relationship between the high-density and low-density lipoprotein and the size of the low-density lipoprotein particles.
Medical magazines and journals are quick to criminalize cholesterol as the bad guy. For more than 50 years, the American public has been advised to consume greater levels of polyunsaturated fat in proportion to saturated fat to lower cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are found in animal products such as butter, cream, eggs and red meat. All of these products contain significant levels of both saturated fat and cholesterol, making them the complete and utter bane of the anti-cholesterol crowd. This fear is completely unfounded.
Medical attention is far too often focused on a single component of a physical ailment rather than on the entire disease process. In heart health cases, this includes blood thickness, calcium and iron deposits in the blood vessels, inflammation, heart rhythm and clotting factors. Atheroma (fatty deposits on the inner lining of the arteries) is not only the result of “high” cholesterol levels.
Russia and Rabbits
An experiment performed nearly 100 years ago in Russia on rabbits came up with interesting results. The rabbits were given cholesterol as part of their diets for a specific period of time. Although the rabbits did develop atherosclerosis, it has since been found out that these animals are unique in how they respond to the substance. When the rabbits were given a thyroid supplement along with cholesterol, they did not develop atherosclerosis. By 1936, doctors and scientists were able to make that connection between hypothyroidism and the development of many diseases including cardiovascular ailments and cancer. At this point, high cholesterol was viewed more as the body’s defense mechanism rather than the cause of a problem.
Vegetable Oils and Cholesterol
Cholesterol was first villainized in the 1905s during the age of vegetable oil. The vegetable oil industry learned that the polyunsaturated oils they were producing lowered blood cholesterol levels (there are many toxins that lower cholesterol levels, but this little fact is conveniently ignored most of the time). The industry began marketing its products as being “heart healthy” and enlisted the help of big names in the health industry to provide backbone to their claims. Among these names were the American Heart Association, the American Dietetic Association, the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.
The death rate from heart diseases in the United States began to increase during the first half of the 20th century. It reached a peak between 1950 and 1975 before declining somewhat. During the decades that saw rising death rates, the use of animal fats decreased and the use of vegetable oils in cooking increased.
What Truly Causes Heart Disease
If the American public would take a look at the factors that have changed in this country during the time that heart disease was increasing, they would see that reducing the consumption of animal products was not beneficial to human health. The increased consumption of processed foods, leaded gasoline, air and water pollution, increased stress, increased use of cigarettes and drugs and higher amounts of radiation are all factors that should be considered in light of the mortality rate from heart disease.
Commercial Cholesterol and Heart Disease
During the early ’70s, commercial cholesterol used in feeding experiments was found to be oxidized, which altered its composition. When you cook with these oils, the oxidized cholesterol enters your system and converts your good cholesterol into bad cholesterol. The cooking process of foods high in cholesterol can determine whether or not these foods will actually benefit you.
For example, steamed salmon contains much more oxidized cholesterol than fried salmon due to the longer cooking process. The polyunsaturated fatty acids in salmon break down during the steaming process and produce toxins such as acrolein and other free radical elements. The toxicity of the cholesterol found in salmon was much greater than that of beef cooked at a higher temperature.
Stress and Cholesterol Levels
Did you know that stress accelerates the oxidation of polyunsaturated fats in the body? People who consume unsaturated fats will naturally have small levels of oxidized cholesterol in their bodies. However, the constant turnover of cholesterol in the body tends to lower the levels of toxic cholesterol. Those with untreated hypothyroidism are more likely to suffer from high levels of toxic cholesterol.
Antioxidant supplements are able to prevent atherosclerosis even when extra toxic cholesterol is given to test subject animals. People who consume seafood often have much higher levels of selenium in their diets than people who avoid seafood. Selenium is one of the best antioxidant nutrients available and can help prevent atherosclerosis in animal experiments.
Cholesterol is Not the Enemy
The medical establishment has spent a great deal of time and money in the past 60 years fighting against the use of vitamin E or selenium for the prevention of heart disease. However, those who study free radicals and how they work in the body have discovered that, although polyunsaturated fats are susceptible to oxidation, saturated fats help to slow down the oxidation process, thereby protecting the DNA and other vital components of cell tissues. Cholesterol itself acts as a protectant for the cells of the body.
Cholesterol has been villainized for decades, but does it really deserve the bad rap? Below you will find two myths regarding cholesterol that will leave you with something to think about.
Myth #1 Everyone’s Cholesterol Levels Need To Be the Same
Despite what your doctor tells you, there is no hard and fast rule stating that total cholesterol levels should be less than 200 mg/dL and LDL levels less than 100 mg/dL. These numbers tell you very little about your risk for heart disease. For more information you should request an NMR LipoProfile, a test that determines the size of the LDL cholesterol particles in your body. Only small LDL particles are a problem as they can pass through the lining of your arteries. If they should oxidize there, they can cause inflammatory damage. You should also be looking at the ratio of HDL to total cholesterol. When HDL falls below 25% of total cholesterol, things can be become problematic.
Myth #2 Margarine is Better than Butter
Butter, especially if it is raw, organic and from grass-fed cows, is a powerhouse of nutrition and can have far-reaching benefits for your health. Studies have shown that fat levels in the blood are lower after eating a meal with butter than after consuming canola oil or olive oil. Saturated fats such as those found in butter have the ability to raise the levels of HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) and can change small LDL particles into healthier large LDL particles. Margarine, on the other hand, contains the very worst form of man-made fat: synthetic trans fat. Trans fat will increase the risk of developing small, dense LDL particles that can lead to chronic disease.
So, is cholesterol bad for you? Only if you have high levels and small sizes of LDL particles in your blood. Cholesterol actually has the benefit of helping to preserve the integrity of every cell in your body, making it more likely that you will live a long and healthy life.
Not all fat is the enemy. In fact, the lack of healthy fats in your diet can lead to serious health problems and even death. Regular consumption of animal fats and foods high in omega-3s will help increase your absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and provide critical support for your body’s functions.
In my new book Eat Fat, Get Fit, I show you how to craft your ideal figure and nourish your body without counting calories or getting lost in crazy diet plans.
If you’re interested in achieving great health and unstoppable energy, I think you will love this book.
To your health,
Kusha Karvandi, CSCS