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Chewing the Fat: 8 Guidelines

20 J0000007UTC 2011

I, like many of you, was once submerged in the low-fat fad diet that started in the early 90s, right around the time I was cheerleading and doing step aerobics. You could find anything with low-to-no-fat, from chocolate to cheese to bologna to pink yogurt. I ask you now if this is natural. In the food industry’s effort to remove fat from the diets of Americans, we have become a fatter nation than ever before. Clearly the no-fat fad did not work.

Real, good fat does not make you fat. It’s proven that foods consumed that are high in fat, such as nuts and coconuts, actually promote fat burning. If the fat is healthy and in-tact, it will be used, processed and eliminated in your body in appropriate ways. If, however, the fat is damaged (hydrogenated oils, processed meats and fried foods), it can wreak havoc in the body. As for what makes you fat, that’s a novel by itself.

Here’s some fat facts. Chew on ’em.

1. Fats are vital for many functions in the body: the brain, cell membranes and hormones rely on fat. Do not fear or avoid fat. We need it!

2. Healthy or helpful fats come through animal products (eggs, poultry, meat, game, fish, shellfish), tolerated dairy products (milk, butter, yogurt, cheese), nuts, seeds (including coconut), cooking oils (olive, coconut, sesame) and two special fat-rich fruits, olive and avocado.

3. The source of the fat is important. Buy and eat organic, grass fed (beef, lamb, buffalo, elk), free-range (eggs, poultry) sources whenever possible.

4. Fats and oils are easily damaged or “oxidized”, and thus become rancid and harmful where once they were helpful. This happens 3 ways: oxygen, light and heat. It is important to store oil and nuts away from oxygen, light and heat and to cook carefully.

5. Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fatty acid ratio is important for excellent brain function, healthy skin, reduction of inflammation and avoidance of chronic disease. Currently the average Om-6 to Om-3 ratio in America is roughly 25:1. The ideal is somewhere between 4:1 and 2:1.

6. Foods rich in Omega-3 essential fatty acids are fish, sardines, flax seeds, flax meal, flax oil (must be stored cold and not used for cooking), pumpkin seeds and walnuts. Any oil rich in Omega-3s should not be heated over 100 degrees. Omega-6s come from animal protein and corn, canola and vegetable oils.

7. Avoid refined (processed) vegetable oils (Crisco, Wesson, corn, canola) because they are heated to over 500 degrees, re-used and bleached back to a nice yellow-y color for sale. They are already rancid when you buy them.

8. Focus on unrefined, extra-virgin, cold/first-pressed oils. These have not been heated over 100 degrees, re-used or bleached with chemicals. They are as close to the original item (an olive, coconut, walnut or sesame seed) as you can find.

Enjoy your oils and fats! They are delicious, rich, filling and help carry and bind the flavors of the foods they accompany.

References: Murray, Michael (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, Atria Books, New York. Wood, Rebecca (2010). The New Whole Food Encyclopedia. Penguin Books, New York.


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