Fat is one of life's essentials: too bold a statement?
Fat: One of Life's Essentials. Health professionals have recommended cutting back on fat for years, cautioning the public about the health risks associated with high-fat eating patterns. However, some types of fats have health benefits, while other fats when eaten in excess have adverse effects. Fat: One of Life's Essentials Calling fat one of life's essentials may seem like a bold statement. Health professionals have recommended cutting back on fat for years, cautioning the public about the health risks associated with high-fat eating patterns. However, some types of fats have health benefits, while other fats when eaten in excess have adverse effects.
- Eating excess amounts of certain fats, notably saturated fat, can increase risk of chronic disease.
- Unsaturated fats have important functions in the body that promote health and well-being.
- On average, most Americans consume too much fat, especially saturated fat.
Before cutting back on the fat in our diets, remember that fat serves many important roles, including
- maintaining skin and hair
- storing and transporting fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K
- protecting cell walls
- keeping our bodies warm
- protecting organs
Gaining a bead on fat
That's a lot of work for a single nutrient. In fact, "fat" is actually an umbrella term for several substances, each with its own part to play.
We get many fats from the foods we eat. Our bodies also manufacture some fats. As with all nutrients, when we consume fat, our bodies break it down to individual components and then use those components to build something else. It's like having three kinds of beads strung together, pulling them apart, and then stringing them in a whole new pattern. These strands are known as fatty acids and they vary in the combination and number of "beads." We name fatty acids by their chemical structure and call them saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated.
Saturated fats are among the most common fats in our diet. They are found in animal foods like meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products, and in tropical oils like palm and coconut. Diets high in saturated fats are associated with higher risks of heart disease, certain cancers, and stroke.
Unsaturated fats are found in foods from both plant and animal sources. Unsaturated fatty acids are further divided into monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). MUFA are found mostly in vegetable oils such as olive, canola, and peanut. PUFA are found in nuts and vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, and soybean, and in fatty fish.
The importance of PUFA
Our bodies cannot manufacture all the fatty acids we need. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA) are essential fatty acids (EFAs) because we must obtain them from food. Both ALA and LA are polyunsaturated but come from two different families of PUFA, omega-3 and omega-6.
ALA is part of the omega-3 family and LA is part of the omega-6 family. These two EFAs serve as the basic components, or precursors, to other crucial PUFAs. LA, for example, is used to make another omega-6 fatty acid, arachidonic acid (AA), which is important for infant growth. ALA, which is the predominant omega-3 PUFAs in the American diet, is the precursor to other omega-3 PUFA, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
DHA is important for proper development of the brain and eyes. Although the body can manufacture DHA and EPA from ALA, some researchers consider them "conditionally essential" since they cannot be made if ALA is in short supply. The body's ability to convert ALA to EPA and DHA may also be limited. DHA and EPA are found in both fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring, and the marine plants they feed on.
Some research suggests that omega-3 PUFA may help prevent heart disease through their ability to lower triglycerides and reduce blood clotting, as well as possibly preventing irregular heart beat and lowering blood pressure.
Not too high--not too low
Remember to eat foods rich in the essential fatty acids linoleic and alpha-linoleic acids, such as the seeds and oils of plants and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring. Choose reduced-fat or fat-free dairy products, and lean meat and poultry.
Even though it's important to decrease saturated fat intake, it's also important to keep fat intake in perspective--don't consume a very-high-fat or very-low-fat diet. A registered dietitian can help you apply these recommendations.
For more information
The American Dietetic Association/National Center for Nutrition and Dietetics.
ADA's Consumer Nutrition Information Line (800/366-1655) provides recorded messages with timely, practical nutrition information as well as referrals to registered dietitians. Messages are available 24 hours daily with new topics each month.
This fact sheet is supported by a grant from PUFA Information Group.
Acceptance of this grant does not constitute an endorsement by ADA of any company's products or services.
© ADAF 1999. Reproduction of this fact sheet is permitted for educational purposes.
Trying to lose weight?? Eat more fat!
The low-fat craze has gone too far. I talk to clients all the time who are upset and confused about low fat.
"Cyndi, I've cut out most of the fat. I only eat low-fat, fat-free products. Why aren't I losing? I'm actually gaining weight!"
We need to clear up something right now. just because it says "low-fat", doesn't mean you can eat as much as you want and still lose weight. Sorry. sad but true.
We seemed to have forgotten all about calories. And contrary to popular belief, calories do count. And eating only low-fat foods will certainly cause you to eat more.
Diets with less than 20 percent fat leave you hungry, unsatisfied, and more likely to overeat.
If you keep chowing down on just carrot and celery sticks all day, you will be much more likely to snap. "I want some ice-cream and I want it NOW!"
Fat increases your sense of satiety, so you'll eat less. Fat will also give you a fuller feeling for a longer period of time.
When my kids want an afternoon snack, I can give them some raw carrot sticks and they will be back in about 20 min. wanting more. If I give them some raw carrot sticks and whole grain crackers with some almond butter on them. It will more than keep them out of my kitchen till dinner.
A diet rich in essential fats and oils works to increase metabolic rate and improve the entire system of energy production. With this increase in metabolism, weight loss is not only possible but also inevitable. Blood sugar levels are balanced and food cravings become a thing of the past.
Besides hindering weight loss, dramatically reducing your fat intake can bring on additional health problems. Low fat diets can increase your risk of heart disease by decreasing HDL's (the good cholesterol) and boosting triglycerides. It can also raise your risk for gout and gallstones.
For women, cutting back on fats will wreck havoc with your hormones. A healthy hormonal system relies on "fats". When you are experiencing things like, missed or irregular periods, menopausal symptoms, pre-menstrual syndrome, dry skin, and oily skin. your hormones are not functioning as they should. You need fat.
However, (this is really important, so listen up) all fats are not created equal.
Saturated fats should be avoided. They create all the problems we just discussed. These would include fatty meats, whole milk, cheese, ice cream, and chocolate (that one hurt). saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature. Some of the fats that should be included are:
· Monounsaturated Fats: These are found in, olives, flax oil, most nuts and avocados. These fats will bring your hormones into balance, lower your total cholesterol, while increasing heart-protective HDL's. Studies show that just 5 serving per week of the "good fats" can decrease your risk of heart disease by 50%. (nuts should be eaten 'raw' for the greatest benefit)
· Omega-3 Fats: These are most plentiful in fatty fish - salmon, trout, tuna.as well as in green leafy vegetables, flaxseed, flaxseed oil and tofu.
Lack of dietary fat may also prevent the absorption of the phytochemicals contained in fruits and vegetables.
According to Kevin Vigilante, M.D., co-author of Low-Fat Lies: High-Fat Frauds and the Healthiest Diet in the World. "One of the most unhealthy things you can do is pour a nonfat dressing on a salad.
"Carotenes (phytochemicals that are some of the most potent anticancer antioxidants) bind to fat. If you don't eat any fat within a few hours of consuming carotenes, you won't absorb them. So the health benefits of that salad are flushed down the toilet," he says.
One of the best ways to get the "fat" with your salad is flax oil. Here are some of my favorites dressing recipes using flax oil: (NEVER cook with flax oil, it becomes toxic when cooked)
Cyndi's Famous Flax Dressing
1 Cup flax oil
4 T. honey
3/4 t. ginger
1/2 t. pepper
2 T. raw apple cider vinegar
Blend all ingredients and serve. Shake well just before using. You can increase or decrease the amount of honey to taste. This is a sweet dressing. probably why I like it so much!
You can also try these different variations;
Your favorite barbeque sauce and flax oil.
Honey Mustard Dressing
Again, Flax oil, mustard and honey. mix to taste.
It used to be that there was only one kind of fat - BAD! Now research is showing the importance of the essential fatty acids.
Not only will those "good fats" help you lose weight, they will help you achieve your health!
Medical Disclaimer: The School of Natural Health has provided this material for informational purposes only. We do not prescribe and we do not diagnose. If you use the information outlined in this website (book, survey form, newsletter, supplements) without the approval of a health professional, you prescribe for yourself, which remains your constitutional right, but neither the author(s), nor the School of Natural Health assume any responsibility. Please check with a trusted medical doctor before making any sudden and new dietary changes.
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