Good Fats Gone Bad
When do good fats go bad? If we get more than one type of fat over the other, such as too many of the Poly Unsaturated fats Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3. We need to have the correct balance of these two fats, which is a 2:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3. Most Americans are getting a 20:1 ratio. Learn more about the differences and benefits of these two fats by reading, Fantastic and Incredible Fats, We Need Them! How does that happen? Here are three main reasons:
- One is the big switch: When about thirty years ago Americans stopped eating butter, coconut oil and lard (check out the amazing ad!) and started eating vegetable oil and margarine. The switch was done to move away from saturated fats. However, vegetable oil and margarine have a lot of Omega 6 in them, causing inflammation.
- Something that is beyond our control is the farming methods used today. We are feeding animals grains. Cows, chickens, turkeys and even the farmed fish. Grains are high in Omega 6 so that gets passed on to the animal which gets passed on to us.
- Processed foods. Most processed foods contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Soybean oil is very high in Omega 6.
As you can see we are getting a lot of Omega 6 and very little Omega 3. In fact 20% of Americans have such a low level of Omega 3 that it is undetectable.
What happens as a result is that the Omega 6 over-produces the Omega 6 prostaglandins (see sidebar) causing inflammation in the body and everything associated with inflammation: increased blood pressure, increased water retention, and sticky blood (a contribution to plague in the arteries).
Solution To Getting a Better Balance of Omega 6 and Omega 3
As I said earlier, the perfect ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is 2:1. Most Americans are getting a 20:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3. So what can you do to change that? Add more Omega 3 enriched foods such as flax seeds, cold water fish, green algae, walnuts, Omega 3 enriched eggs. This will bring you back into balance so the Omega 3 prostaglandins are produced which will bring the inflammation down, and all the conditions associated with it will go away as well. There have been a number of studies supporting this theory.
What The Animal Eats, You Eat
It’s important to know what the animal you eat has been eating because it gets passed on.
- There has been a lot said lately about grass-fed cows being healthier, from an Omega 6, Omega 3 ratio. That is because grass has a lot of Omega 3.
- Typically eggs have a 20:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3. However, chickens fed Omega 3 enriched flax produce eggs that are a more perfect ratio of 2:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3.
- Wild salmon will also have a lot of Omega 3 because it eats fish that is high in Omega 3. Grain fed (typical with farm raised fish) will not have a lot of Omega 3, but will have a lot of Omega 6, as is very low in Omega 3.
Fat Imbalance That Is Causing Weight Gain
We are getting too much saturated fat, but here is the big “Aha!”: The saturated fat we are getting too much of isn’t coming from the saturated fat that we are eating, it’s coming from our livers. We are making it ourselves in response to processed foods. Ironically the worst offenders are the LOW and NO fat processed foods. These are the foods that cause the blood sugar spike.
There is a very informative PowerPoint presentation on my website explaining this in greater detail, but here’s the shortened version: If you eat something with a high concentrated level of sugar, like orange juice, the sugar enters the blood at a very fast rate because there is no fat, nor fiber to slow it down. This causes a blood sugar spike which is very damaging to the body.
A blood sugar spike puts your body into emergency response. It needs to remove the sugar out of the blood quickly. One of the ways the body does this is to have the liver take the extra sugar and turn it into fat. This produces the sticky saturated fat that we are trying to avoid that will get stored in the adipose tissue (for example, on our hips). Sugar is how we get fat and this is how we get too much saturated fat.
If a diet consists of mainly low fat, highly processed foods, your liver will become a saturated fat factory. Therefore pulling the fat out of the food (and replacing it with sugar) is making your body create the very fat that we are trying to avoid. When you eat whole foods with good fat in them your body knows how to work with it. It gets integrated into your body in a good, healthy way.
Remember that picture of the obese woman in the article: Fantastic and Incredible Fats, We Need Them! Now do you understand how we have become an obese nation? It isn’t the fat. It’s the lack of healthy fats and way, way, way too much sugar!
What damages oil? Exposure to heat, light and oxygen. Because the only place a fat can get damaged is at a bend in the molecule, the fats most easily damaged are the ones that contain more poly unsaturated fats (these are the ones with the most bends in the molecule). So oils that contain a lot of Poly Unsaturated fatty acids, like flax seed oil are very easily damaged.
Oils that contain a lot of saturated fat, like coconut oils, last a very long time, because they can’t get damaged as they have no bends in the molecules (read the article: Fantastic and Incredible Fats, We Need Them! to find out why bends in the oil molecules ARE SO IMPORTANT.
The Mono Unsaturated oils, like macadamia and olive oil, are relatively stable because there is only one bend in their molecules.
Oils need to be protected. Nature packages oils in such a way that keep light and oxygen out. Look at the dark shell of an avocado, or the hard shell around nuts. Almonds are not only enclosed in the skin, but a shell and a husk to keep light and oxygen out. Not only do they have the protective shell but they also contain anti-oxidants to keep the oils from going rancid. The avocado is loaded with the anti-oxidant vitamin E. Nature's packaging is so superior to anything we can come up with in plastic containers.
I’ve said it before; the closer a food is to nature the better it is for you. Getting your oil right out of the natural packaging of whole food is absolutely the best. Getting oil any other way is going to involve processing. Anytime processing is involved there is going to be damage. If you can keep the processing to a minimum you can reduce the damage.
- Take the whole olive and mash it into a meal and then extract the oil out using chemicals or squeeze it out mechanically (called expeller pressed). Expelling is the most natural way to get the oil out. At this point the oil still has life and energy and vitality from the whole food. About 2 percent of the oil is rich in nutrients, and these nutrients make everything else work in the oil and gives it healing characteristics. For instance, there is a substance in olive oil (squalene) that is known to lower cholesterol. So the oil at this stage is at its most natural state: a little cloudy.
- However, this is not the oil we typically get in the stores because manufacturers are interested in two things: shelf life and consistency. So when they mass produce oils they put them through a series of processes to increase shelf life and make the oil look consistently clear. These processes use incredibly high heat and chemicals. One of the worst processes is called deodorizing to take out the smell and the taste—it uses extremely high heat. So each one of these "overprocessing" processes not only wipe out the nutrients but slowly and surely takes the life out of the oil so the oil goes from something vibrant and alive to something that is colorless odorless, tasteless and dead.
- High heat processing gives the manufacturer the consistency they wanted; you can’t tell if it came from an almond or an olive as it is void of any taste and smell. And they got the shelf life they wanted; they added preservatives. But that is not all they added. All the high heat and chemicals used for processing has damaged the fatty acids, creating free radicals, toxins and trans fats.
Remember that the more bends in the fatty acid molecules, the more damage to the oil. That damage is how free radicals and trans fats are formed.
Shelf Life is Very Important–Here Comes Hydrogenation!
The more shelf life a product has the happier manufacturers are. So to improve shelf life, manufacturers discovered how to use hydrogenation.
Hydrogenation is when the oil is pumped full of hydrogen using really high heat and chemicals. The hydrogen takes all the mono unsaturated and poly unsaturated fatty acids and straightens them out turning them into saturated fatty acid. This is fully hydrogenated. That is where the word saturated comes from it means it is completely saturated with hydrogen. Why do you want a saturated oil? The oil will never become rancid, ever. You could leave it out in an open container in the sun for years and it won’t go bad. Great shelf life! The problem is when you have an oil that becomes completely saturated that you would never see in nature, it becomes this hard, waxy and unusable substance that certainly can’t compete with butter. So what the manufacturers do when they hydrogenate an oil is they wait for the oil to get to the desired consistency and then they stop the process part way so the oil only gets partially hydrogenated. Stopping the process part way is a problem because all the fatty acids that haven’t turned into saturated fat become damaged, creating even more toxins, free radicals and trans fats
A trans fat is a normal fat molecule that got twisted and deformed from the high heat. It goes from the beautiful vibrant substance to something that is toxic and unnatural to the body.The problem with ingesting the trans fat is the body will use the trans fats instead of good, healthy fat if there isn’t a sufficient amount of good fat.
How well do you think the brain is going to work, if it is using twisted deformed toxic molecules instead of the vibrant, and alive fats that it needs? Or the heart? It’s like putting dirty gas in your car and expecting it to run perfectly. How will the lungs function if the surfactant is made of up twisted, deformed molecules. What about hormones? Trans fats inhibit hormone production, specifically the production of the omega 3 prostaglandins. And trans fats cause weight gain because your body doesn’t want to use them so it stores them away. Cell membranes are probably the worst casualties of trans fats. Trying to build a cell membrane out of trans fats is like a brick layer trying to build a brick wall where every other brick is made out of Styrofoam. As a result, substances can go in and out of cells that aren’t supposed to. Trans fats have been implicated in:
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol, to name a few.
So you can see that no amount of trans fats are healthy. The FDA has finally caught on and has required labels to list trans fats. However, if the trans fat is under .5 grams there is no requirement to show it on the label.
Manufacturers are getting around this labeling requirement by reducing the serving size. For example a serving size of 18 crackers contains 2 grams of trans fats. But if you reduce the serving size, say to 3 crackers, the level of trans fat is less than 0.5 grams. The FDA then allows the food to be labeled as 0 Trans fats.
So to be a smarter shopper, you need to look in the ingredients list. If you see partially hydrogenated in the list of ingredients put it back on the shelf! To your right you'll see a label where it is very easy to see that this product has trans fats. However, look at the cracker label below. No trans fats listed but the ingredients list show partially hydrogenated cotton seed oil. It has trans fat in it.
Some very common sources of partially hydrogenated foods are:
- Fast foods made with partially hydrogenated oils (this would be almost all fast foods)
- Doughnuts (35-40% trans fats)
- Processed foods with partially hydrogenated oils
Sadly, the largest part of the population hit with all these trans fats is the kids under 5 because of all the processed snack food they eat.
Eating Healthy Fats
Simply, go back to nature. Get your oils from a whole food source. Whole, unprocessed foods are the best way. Here are some other suggestions:
- Eat nuts is right out of the shell, unroasted. Roasting damages the fatty acids.
- Use cold pressed and virgin oils.
- Be diligent in balancing out the Omega 3 and Omega 6.
- Don’t worry about “getting fat” from eating good fat. Good fat in the diet will actually help you to eat less because you will feel full faster and it will last longer.
Limit Damaged Fats
Processed foods and damaged fats will cause weight gain and disease. Here’s what you should watch out for when it comes to highly heated fats:
- Restaurants: Deep fried foods are cooked in highly heated fats. Even if you know they are using a “good” oil, it’s still heated beyond the point where it remains healthy for you.
- Fast Foods: Lots of fast foods are deep fried in oils that aren’t so good for you. Add to that the oils are then highly heated; the chances are greater that you are eating some bad oils.
- Home Cooking: So you decide to cook at home and be healthier. Be aware of the oils you use with certain types of cooking. The best oil to cook with at high heat is a high saturated fat oil like coconut or palm kernel oils. You can heat these saturated oils and not damage it.
Poly Unsaturated oils, which include vegetable oils like corn, soy, safflower and canola, are the worst oils to cook with because of the trans-fatty acids introduced during the hydrogenation process.
Mono Unsaturated oils, such as olive oil are more stable; however they still should not be over-heated while cooking.
So in summary, only cook with oils that are either high in Mono Unsaturated or Saturated fatty acids so the least amount of damage is done.
My Thoughts On Animal Fat
I get the question about eating bacon quite a bit. Here is what I think: Animals like humans store toxins that the liver can’t get to in the fat cells. So the highest concentration of toxins in any animal is going to be in the fat cells. This is why if you can only afford to eat organic in one area, make it dairy because you don’t want to be eating fat that is highly concentrated with these toxins. So if you are going to eat animal fat make it organic. The other issue that I have is nitrates and nitrites. They are not good for you and a lot of bacon is processed that way. If you eat bacon, make it organic and processed without nitrates and nitrites.
Fats are fabulous and essential to having proper body function and good health. Eating the right fats is important, eating a low-fat diet or eating damaged fats can cause health problems.
If you haven't read it yet, read: Fantastic and Incredible Fats, We Need Them! This article is the companion article to the one you are reading. It will change your mind about NOT eating fat. Our body needs fat to function. Find out how and why. Learn about all the different types of fat that you should be eating.
Also read Fat Dietary Guidelines. Here's a summary of "eat this, not that" on fat.
I want to acknowledge all the research and instruction provided by Mary Toscano, a certified nutrition educator and Weston A. Price Foundation. All the information presented here was taken from these great resources.
What are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are the chemical form in which fat moves through the bloodstream to your body's tissues. They are derived directly from fats in your diet and are also made in the body from other energy sources such as carbohydrates. A Triglyceride is basically three fatty acids attached to a Glycerol molecule (an alcohol substance). When calories you consume are not used immediately, they are converted to triglycerides, sent through the blood stream and then stored in fat cells. Hormones are used to regulate the release of these stored fats to meet energy needs. Although they contribute to the calculation of total cholesterol, triglycerides themselves are neither bad nor good. They’re either too high or they’re not.
High triglyceride levels can be genetic, and may be related to obesity or untreated diabetes; however your diet plays a huge role in their levels. Carbohydrates in the diet are the main factor affecting triglyceride levels in the blood, especially quick-digesting ones such as processed foods. In many people, these foods elevate insulin levels, (Insulin is the substance that regulates the sugar in the blood. The higher the sugar in the blood the more insulin is needed to regulate it.) and insulin affects triglyceride production and the storage of fat. High triglyceride levels usually accompany low HDL cholesterol and often accompany tendencies toward high blood pressure and belly fat. These are the conditions that increase the risk of developing insulin resistance, a very common disorder underlying obesity and increased risks of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
In my opinion, the conventional medical recommendation for a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet to lower triglycerides and bring down cholesterol is dead wrong. Instead you want to be eating a healthy combination of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
Links to other articles about eating the right types and ratios of food:
- Lower-Carb Mediterranean-Type Diet
- Eat Your Protein! Stay Healthy!
- Nutritional Challenges of Vegetarianism
- Soy is Not Your Friend
- What's Wrong With Eating Sugar?