Dietary fat is an enigmatic concept; hence Americans have had a confusing relationship with fat throughout the years. Since the 1930s, scientists have suspected that fat and cholesterol (a fat) could cause atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke. However, later research has shown that judging all fats together — even all saturated fats — is a mistaken generalization
The war on fat began with the rise of heart disease during the 50s as all fats took the wrap for this attack and trusting, obedient consumers were discouraged to eat fats that provide get-up-and-go and energy-dense macronutrients. Remember the fat scare craze of the 70’s and 80’s: all fats are bad for our health!? Americans reacted and for decades many needlessly avoided all “evil” fats. Wildly unhealthy and unjustified, considering good fats support cognitive health, provide energy, assist absorption of vitamins, aid skin health and balances hormones. Our body’s cells are held together by fat, need it to function properly, but not greasy fat oozing out of chili fries.
Gentle readers, there are good fats and there are bad fats. Some whole, unprocessed fats are vital for overall nutrition, others cause diseases of modern society. It’s quite simple: good fats are found in nature’s plant foods, and are minimally processed. Bad fats are man-made, high-heat treated, processed and refined. DOA.
Fat can be divided into three major groups: saturated, unsaturated, and trans: saturated fats are solid at room temperature, with the exception of unrefined coconut oil. Good unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, and trans fats (a.k.a. partially hydrogenated oils) are primarily artificial fats. It’s important to distinguish “good” unsaturated fats and “bad” trans fats found in highly processed foods like margarine, vegetable, corn oil, canola, sunflower, safflower, soybean, grapeseed oils, shortening made from any of the above and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated anything. Unless they’re hydrogenated, all coconut oils have medium chain fatty acids that are healthy and do not break down when heated. PubMed shares that several populations around the world have thrived for multiple generations eating massive amounts of unrefined coconut.
Cholesterol, a good fat, is not necessarily our enemy but we’re not suggesting anyone stop taking their statins. Although, it's misleading to call cholesterol an evil, artery-clogging fat because it’s a useful fatty substance with many important jobs in our body. Every single cell in your body needs cholesterol to survive. Some MDs and scientists are now saying that levels of 150 and below can cause psychological side effects. The brain needs cholesterol to grow new nerve cells and for these nerve cells to work properly. So, when their brain is deprived of cholesterol, things don’t go so well up there. In fact, without enough cholesterol, you may even develop serious brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. AARP.org reports if our cholesterol is too low, we can experience depression, violent and aggressive behavior, fatigue and Lethargy. Cholesterol is like ice cream: good in moderation.
Mayo clinic says the omega-3 fatty acids in fish are good for your heart. Just ask the Eskimos. Fatty fish such as wild caught salmon, mackerel, sardines, and plant foods such as walnuts, chia, flax, and hemp seeds, Brussels sprouts, all have abundant omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids proven to improve health in a wide variety of ways according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Harvard Medical School advises omega-6 fatty acids have also been linked to protection against heart disease. Foods rich in linoleic acid and other omega-6 fatty acids include reasonable consumption of unrefined, cold-extracted vegetable oils such as safflower, grapeseed, soybean, sunflower, walnut, and corn oils. However, our American diet is omega-6 heavy as it is used in many popular heavily processed snack foods. The ratio of omega 3 to 6 should be 1:1. In the processed American diet, it’s more like 25:1 and this disproportionate ratio causes disease-generating inflammation.
These good essential fats boost energy levels, mental clarity, curb cravings, and support immune response. In addition to reducing blood pressure, raising HDL, and lowering triglycerides, polyunsaturated fats may help prevent lethal heart rhythms. Evidence also suggests omega-3 may help reduce the need for corticosteroid medications in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Studies also link omega 3 to reducing risk of dementia.
Regarding omega-3 supplements: a 2019 NY Times article suggests, “Omega-3 in fish oil is said to improve arthritis and reduce the likelihood of heart attacks. But the science suggests: Maybe just eat a fish once in a while.”
Avocado oil has been shown to help decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. The most abundant fatty acid in avocado oil is oleic acid that provides numerous health-creating and sustaining benefits. According to the USDA, one whole raw avocado contains 4.16 milligrams of alpha-tocopherol one of the several forms of vitamin E. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, vitamin E boosts the immune system and reduces inflammation in the body and plays helps reduce risk for cataracts and prevent cognitive decline.
Fatphobes… don’t be a Jack Sprat. It’s never too late in life to eat needed fat to bolster mental, physical health and energy. Just ditch industrial-strength bad fats and embrace good fats from nature.