Your body is begging for fat

Your body is begging for fat

The average person needs a diet of 30 percent fat, 30 percent protein and 40 percent healthy carbs (mostly vegetables).

The average person needs a diet of 30 percent fat, 30 percent protein and 40 percent healthy carbs (mostly vegetables).

by Mary Budinger — 

A little secret that doctors do not often tell their patients is that the body’s preferred fuel is fat, not sugar. We have some 100 trillion or so cells in our bodies, and they want to run on fat — good fat. In other words, bring on the coconut oil, nuts, avocados, eggs with yolks, grass-fed meats, butter and real cream. Ditch the processed vegetable oils and fried foods. Ditch the low-fat and non-fat foods that do not seem to fill you up anyway. But, “Oh no,” you say, “eating fat makes you fat.” Wrong.

Look at the old family photo albums, the pictures of people before, say, 1950. You do not see many triple chins, man boobs and big beer bellies. Grocery store aisles were not stocked with fat-free foods back then. So how did the populous stay thin?

The people in those old photos ate traditional fats and did not experience an epidemic of heart disease. The medical textbooks of the early 1900s did not even cover the subject of heart attacks because they were seen so infrequently. But for the last several decades, groups like the USDA and the American Heart Association, plus a slew of “expert” diet books, have demonized natural fats and preached a low-fat diet. Vegetables were not so tasty, so we gobbled starchy carbs — remember those popular pasta machines and high-carb diet cookbooks?

Yet we were still eating fat. Cream was supposedly bad for us, so we bought substitutes made with chemically altered vegetable oils. Nature’s avocado was supposedly bad, so we bought avocado dips made mostly with altered vegetable oils. Fast food restaurants switched from cooking French fries with lard to frying with vegetable oil. Margarine became a tub of lethal trans fats.

When food manufacturers struggled to make low-fat peanut butter and low-fat salad dressings taste good, they added sugar, which sent our insulin levels zinging. Between the low-fat foods that did not make us feel full and the sugar bombs that put our blood sugar on a roller coaster ride, we felt hungry and we ate more. Supersized meals became popular.

The switch from nature’s natural fats to hydrogenated manmade fats is arguably the biggest dietary change in the last 50 years. How did that work for us? Not too well, judging from the current rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

It is clear now that hydrogenated oils accelerate heart disease. Doctors are finally speaking out that it is time to bust the myth of the low-fat diet and the role of saturated fat in heart disease. “Cholesterol leaves our body through bile, and high-fat foods cause bile secretion,” said Dr. James Hays, a Delaware endocrinologist who counsels diabetics. The assumption that saturated fat is unhealthy is being overturned by newer scientific evidence that refined carbohydrates and sugar, in particular, are actually the culprits.

If our bodies could speak, we would hear quite a long wish list for good fats, especially saturated fat. When those 100 trillion cells in the body do not get the fat they need, they are malnourished. Cells want their walls to be structurally sound, and that means a little stiff. Vegetable oils make the cells too “floppy;” saturated fats give cells the stiffness they need to work well. Every cell membrane is made up of about 50 percent saturated fat.

If you are worried about osteoporosis, ditch the vegetable-oil margarine and eat real butter. Saturated fats help the body get calcium into our bones. If you are worried about your memory, it is the same thing. The brain is 60 percent fat and wants to be nourished with saturated fat. Myelin, the fatty coating of the neurons and brain cells, is 75 percent fat.

We see increasing numbers of people with all manner of cognitive issues today. Their brains are trying to send neurological impulses via neurons created from hydrogenated oils that are not chemically equivalent to the fats found in whole foods, with inefficient results. The preferred food for the heart, lungs and kidneys is saturated fat. Good fats nourish nerves throughout the body, keep the immune system robust and make a slew of hormones that orchestrate metabolic actions the body must perform every minute of every day to keep us running.

When you cut down on the starchy carbs in the diet, you need to fill the void with more good fat. And the body says, “Yes! Now I can access fat for energy. I compromised when I had to keep you running on all those carbs you fed me, but now I will switch back to the way it is supposed to be.” Fats are a more efficient — longer burning — form of energy than sugar. Think of fats as a large log on the fire and carbs as the kindling. At nine calories per gram, fat is the densest source of energy. Carbs and proteins have four calories per gram. In other words, fats put more gas in the tank with less content. Eating good fats is like putting 91 octane fuel in the car.

Egg yolks (fat) are one of the richest sources of choline, a B vitamin our liver needs to function well. Grass-fed butter (fat) and fermented foods, like natto and sauerkraut, are great sources of vitamin K, which are good to have on board for prostate cancer prevention and to maintain healthy arteries, skin, bones and brain function. Cod liver oil (fat) is a great source of vitamin D, in which most people are deficient. Good fats also include extra-virgin olive oil; expeller pressed sesame, peanut and flax oils; almond and cashew butters; duck and goose lard; and fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel. Fats are life-giving.

Some experts counsel against consuming fats because animals accumulate toxins in their fat that we do not need to ingest. Vegetarians face a similar dilemma because pesticides are so widely used on produce, and the majority of the soy and corn grown now is genetically modified. We need to seek out organic produce, meats and butter from pasture-fed animals. The human body’s mechanism for removing toxins involves numerous enzyme systems that are mostly supported by nutrients found in animal foods. Too expensive to buy organic and at the local farmers’ market, you say? Well, consider the wise old saying that you pay the farmer now or pay the doctor later.

The average person needs a diet of 30 percent fat, 30 percent protein and 40 percent healthy carbs (mostly vegetables). Keep in mind that in today’s melting pot, ancestral and lifestyle differences add up to bio-individuality. So there is some flexibility in that ratio. But the commonality is whole, properly prepared foods the way nature intended to make them.

 

Mary Budinger is an Emmy award-winning journalist who writes about nutrition and integrative medicine. 602-494-1999.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 33, Number 1, February/March 2014.

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