FATS – Not a 4 letter word!
Okay, it is a 4 letter word but not the way you think. I find that many people do not have a clear understanding of the role fats play in our diet. I don’t blame you. It is so confusing with the terms they use and what kind of fat you are eating. Some fat is essential for our health and many people don’t eat enough! Not to worry. As always this article will make it “PaleoSimplified”.
First let’s look at the kinds of fat.
Okay, so let’s put one baby to bed. It’s not the necessarily amount of fat that you eat that is bad for you – it is the kind of fat that you eat. (yes, there are calories).
Fat is necessary for energy, helps our body to make hormones, makes you feel satiated after you eat, helps our bodies to absorb certain vitamins, cushion our organs, some very important fats actually increase our metabolism and make us lose weight! Fats are important for our skin, hair, and blood and crucial for proper brain function.
Omega 3 for example, I have talked many times about the importance of this most essential fatty acid is a PUFA – Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid. We get that that from eating things like salmon or as I have recommended a fish oil supplement.
There are three types of dietary fats: saturated fats, trans fats and unsaturated fats.
Saturated fat – We are told that saturated fats increase cholesterol levels. Here is a very important fact I want you to get. Like most every thing, the information out there is broad and general. People write information based on old studies or they just cut and paste. Are you ready NOT ALL SATURATED FAT IS BAD FOR YOU!!! I think you heard that.
Like everything else you need to consider the source. I am speaking here specifically of coconut in every form. Coconut is the best superfood on the planet. It is a saturated fat. The benefits of coconut are countless (see my article – http://paleosimplified.com/put-lime-coconut-better). Coconut is a MCFA – medium chain fatty acid and is a saturated fat and promotes the production of HDL. (that’s the good cholesterol). It is good for your brain, your heart, skin, helps you lose weight and much more and it is a saturated fat. You must read the source. If it is a long chain fatty acid, that is the saturated fat to avoid. That is why it is recommended to buy lean meats.
I am going to confuse you just a tad more. I eat the fat from organic grass fed beef, pastured chicken and of course wild fish. (in moderation) They contain very important nutrients for my body. I do not look for a lean protein when I am eating these. (and just for giggles most grass fed beef is already lean).
Trans fat – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires food manufacturers to list trans fat (i.e., trans fatty acids) on Nutrition Facts and some Supplement Facts panels. Scientific evidence shows that consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, and dietary cholesterol raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol levels that increase the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). 2 They should be avoided. Vegetable shortenings, some margarine, crackers, cookies, snack foods, and other foods made with partially hydrogenated oils – aka – trans fat. Please read your labels!
Here is another important fact - **When the declared label value for trans fat is 0.5 g or less per serving the FDA may not require the manufacturer to put “trans-fat” on the label. This can be a serious issue if you are eating more than the recommended serving. I mean come on, who can eat just one??? So there is no trans-fat listed on the package – you see the big fat goose egg but you see partially hydrogenated oil – you just better know that they are in there! Whew, had to get that out.
Oh, and that margarine your eating to be heart healthy – please read the label – yikes! This is from a popular margarine label –
Serving Size: 1 tbsp.
Calories 100 Calories from Fat 100
Total Fat 11 g 17% (17% from 1 tbsp.) – oh yeah, that’s real healthy.
Trans Fat 2.5 g Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 105 mg
It’s nice that they didn’t add any more cholesterol just the fats that will promote you to make your own.
Unsaturated fat – which come from oils, fatty fish and avocados, to name a few, do not raise blood cholesterol. It is recommended that the majority of fats consumed come from unsaturated fats.
“Low-fat,” “reduced fat,” or “fat-free” processed foods are not necessarily “healthy,” nor is it automatically healthier to follow a low-fat diet. One problem with a generic lower-fat diet is that it prompts most people to stop eating fats that are good for the heart along with those that are bad for it. And low-fat diets are often higher in refined carbohydrates and starches from foods like white rice, white bread, potatoes, and sugary drinks. Similarly, when food manufacturers take out fat, they often replace it with carbohydrates from sugar, refined grains, or starch. Our bodies digest these refined carbohydrates and starches very quickly, causing blood sugar and insulin levels to spike and then dip, which in turn leads to hunger, overeating, and weight gain. Over time, eating lots of “fast carbs” can raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes as much as—or more than—eating too much saturated fat. 3
Here is another just for fun: Really??
Non-Stick cooking spray. It says right on the can, “for calorie-free fat-free cooking.”
The nutrition label says there are 0 calories in a serving and of course 0 grams of fat Ingredients – liquid corn or canola oil.
Ah, but did you look at the serving size??????????? It is 1/3 of a second. Blip – nope – too long. 1/3 of a second! What a joke. You know if you spray that button for a second or longer you are no longer fat free! Or Trans fat free! It’s complete and utter deception that this to be labeled “Fat-Free.” Again, please read the label!
So let’s decipher the code. Fat labeling Terminology – what does it mean?
• Low fat: 3 grams of fat or less per normal serving. (yeah, not to sure what that means)
• Lean: Meat or poultry with less than 10 grams of fat, less than 4 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 100 grams.
• Extra lean: Meat or poultry with less than 5 grams of fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 100 grams.
• Low in calories: Cannot contain more than 40 calories per normal serving.
• Light or lite: Foods that have 1/3 fewer calories than a comparable product, or have half the fat content of a comparable product, and the label must specify which one. If the adjective light is used to describe the taste, smell or color, it must be clearly stated as to what the term refers. It can also refer to products that have 50% of the sodium of normal products, but must be clearly specified as well.
• Fat-free: Foods with 0.5 grams fat per serving and no added fat or oil.
• Reduced fat: No more than half the fat of an identified comparable food.
• Low sodium: 140 milligrams or less per serving.
• Low cholesterol: Contains no more than 20 milligrams of cholesterol per typical serving size.
• Cholesterol-free: Food with 2 milligrams or less of cholesterol per serving and less than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving.
• “Good” source: Foods can be labeled as a good source of vitamins or nutrients if they provide at least 10% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
• “High” source: Must provide at least 20% of RDA.
It’s no wonder we are confused. We are being so misled. Fight back. Be an advocate of what you eat, read labels, know what you are eating.