FAT Is Your Friend, Pt. 3

Note: This is part 3 (of 3) in the “FAT Is Your Friend” series.

Let’s now talk about actual foods that contain fat that is beneficial to your body.  Don’t cut the fat off your beef, don’t use low-fat yogurt and buy lots and lots of butter!

Butter: High in vitamins A and D which is valuable in respect to growth, healthy bones, proper development of the brain and nervous systems, and normal sexual development.  Many studies have shown the importance of butterfat for reproduction; substitutes based on vegetable oils have led to infertility.

As butter consumption in America has declined, sterility rates have increased. Although long demonized by the vegetable oil industry, butter is one of the healthiest fats on the planet. It has a perfect fatty acid profile. Most of the fats in butter are saturated or monounsaturated, making it very stable. You can saute foods in butter, even at relatively high temperatures, and it will not break down. Butter contains medium-chain fatty acids, although in lower amounts. Uniquely, butter contains short-chain fatty acids with immune-stimulating and antimicrobial properties. Butter also contains the right amount and the perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Feel free to spread butter (ideally organic and grass-fed) to vegetables. Spread it on sprouted whole-grain bread or crackers. Add it to meat dishes and sauces. This will help ensure proper assimilation of the minerals and water-soluble vitamins in the vegetables, grains, and meat you eat–and also make your food satisfying and great tasting!

Whole Milk: Glycosphingolipids, fats that protect against gastrointestinal infections, especially in the very young and the elderly, are found in whole milk. Diarrhea occurs at rates 3-5x greater than children who drink whole milk. Real milk–full-fat, unprocessed, and from pastured cows–is a fully “self-sufficient” food, containing numerous enzymes that, when exposed to the specific pH of the intestinal tract, become active and assimilate the milk’s various components, making it easy for you to digest.

Eggs: Contain every nutrient the body needs except vitamin C. The whites provide the highest=quality protein of any food, and the yolks provide special fatty acids necessary for nerve function and if raised on pasture, provide generous amounts of vitamin D and A. Also supply choline and long-chain fatty acid DHA, both important for nerve function.

Since eggs contain high levels of cholesterol, various authorities promulgated the hypothesis that eating eggs raises cholesterol levels and thus contributes to heart disease. However, during the period when egg consumption in the US went into decline, rates of heart disease and other chronic diseases soared.

Contains lecithin, which assist in the proper assimilation and metabolization of cholesterol and other fat constituents and trace minerals.

The common denominator  among Eggs, Beef and Lamb, and Butter is cholesterol, which the body needs to produce a variety of steroids that protect against cancer, heart disease, and mental illness. It is the precursor to the sex hormones, stress hormones, bile salts, and vitamin D. Mother’s milk is high in cholesterol because it is essential for growth and the development of the brain and nervous system. No research has ever shown that cholesterol in natural foods causes heart disease. 

Oxidized cholesterol, on the other hand, can cause arterial damage. Heat and oxygen can damage cholesterol just as they do fats. Damaged, or “oxidized” cholesterol can injure arterial walls and lead to a pathological plaque buildup in the arteries. Both of these changes can results in heart disease. AVOID foods that contain damaged cholesterol, such as powdered eggs and powdered milk (which manufacturers add to reduced fat-milk, yogurt, and other dairy products to give them body– without stating this fact on the label.) Ironically, when you choose reduced-fat milks in order to avoid heart disease, you consume the very form of cholesterol that can cause heart disease.
Other very healthy fats:

Coconut Oil: Queen of saturated fats. High in lauric acid (antifungal agent that is also found in mothers milk), high in EFAs!

Cod Liver Oil: Critical for redressing the widespread deficiencies in vitamins A and D in the modern diet. Unless you have access to whole dairy products from pastured cows and also eat liver several times per week, you will not be getting the levels of fat-soluble vitamins that you need.

Beef and Lamb: Omega-6 and omega-3 EFAs occur in nearly equal amounts in the fat. The fat of pasture-fed beef and lamb, as well as butter made from pasture-fed cows, contain something called CLA which has strong anti-cancer properties. IT also encourages buildup of muscle and prevents weight gain. CLA disappears when cows are fed even small amounts of grain or processed feed.

Nuts: An extremely nutrient-dense food, supplying high levels of minerals, as well as B vitamins, some protein and lots of fat. The fat content of nuts ranges from 40-70%, most of it monounsaturated. A few varieties, particularly walnuts, are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. They are very satisfying and make a great snack food, but be warned: they are calorie-dense and their monounsaturated fats can contribute to weight gain. Nuts are great if you lead an active life or don’t need to lose weight (or even need to gain weight), but they’re not for you if you need to take pounds off. Note: nuts need to be prepared correctly in order to be the most nutritious and to get rid of toxins. Soak raw nuts in salt water for 6-8 hours, then drain and dehydrate in a warm oven or dehydrator until completely dry and crisp.

Let’s examine the other dietary fats and oils to determine their usefulness and appropriateness in food preparation:

  • Duck and Goose Fat: Semi-solid at room temp. 35% saturated, 52% monounsaturated, 13% polyunsaturated. Omega-6 to Omega-3 proportion depends on what the birds have eaten. Stable and able to be used for frying.
  • Chicken Fat: 31% saturated, 49% monounsaturated, 20% polyunsaturated, most of which is omega-6 linoleic acid, although the amount of omega-3 can be raised by feeding chickens flax or fish meal, or allowing them to range free and eat insects. Inferior to duck and goose fat, but may be used for frying.
  • Lard: 40% saturated, 48% monounsaturated, 12% polyunsaturated. Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio will vary according to the diet of the pics. In the tropics, lard may also be a source of lauric acid if the pigs have eaten coconuts. Stable and a preferred fat for frying. Widely used in America at the turn of the century. Excellent source of vitamin D. (side note: Some researchers believe that pork products should be avoided because they may contribute to cancer. Others suggest that only pork meat presents a problem and that pig fat in the form of lard is safe and healthy. Investigation into the effects of pork consumption on blood chemistry has revealed serious changes for several hours after pork is consumed. The pork used was organic, free of trichinosis, so the changes that occurred in the blood were due to some other factor, possibly a protein unique to pork. In the laboratory, pork is one of the best mediums for feeding the growth of cancer cells. The prohibition against pork found in the Bible thus may derive from something other than a concern for parasite contamination or Jewish spiritual separation. However in fairness it must be noted that many groups noted for longevity, such as the people of Soviet Georgie and Okinawa consume pork meat and lard in their diet on a daily basis.)
  • Beef and Mutton Tallows: 50-55% saturated, about 40% monounsaturated and contain small amounts of polyunsaturates, usually less than 3%. Suet, which is the fat from  the cavity of the animal is 70-80% saturated. Suet and tallow are very stable and can be used for frying. Good source of antimicrobial palmitoleic acid.
  • Olive Oil: 75% oleic acid, the stable monounsaturated fat, along with 13% saturated, 10% omega-6 linoleic acid and 2% omega-3 linolenic acid. The high percentage of oleic acid makes olive oil ideal for salads and for cooking at moderate temperatures. Extra virgin olive oil is also rich in antioxidants. It should be cloudy, indicating that it has not been filtered, and have a golden-yellow color, indicating that it is made from fully ripened olives. Olive oil has withstood the test of time; it is the safest vegetable oil you can use, but don’t overdo it. The longer chain fatty acids found in olive oil are more likely to contribute to the buildup of body fat than the short- and medium-chain fatty acids founds in butter and coconut oil.
  • Flax Seed Oil: 9% saturated, 18% oleic acid, 16% omega-6 and 57% omega-3. Flax seed provides a remedy for the omega-6/omega-3 imbalance so prevalent in America today. New extraction and bottling methods have minimized rancidity problems. It should always be kept refrigerated, never heated, and consumed in small amounts in salad dressings and spreads.
  • Tropical Oils: More saturated than other vegetable oils. Lauric acid, found in large quantities in both coconut oil and in mother’s milk, has strong anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties. Stable and can be kept at room temp for many months without becoming rancid. Highly saturated tropical oils do not contribute to heart disease but have nourished healthy populations for millennia.
  • Peanut Oil: 45% oleic acid, 18% saturated fat and 34% omega-6 linoleic acid. Like olive oil, peanut oil is relatively stable and therefore appropriate for stir-frys on occasion. But the high percentage of omega-6 presents a potential danger, so use of peanut oil should be strictly limited.
  • Sesame Oil: 42% oleic acid, 15% saturated fat, 43% omega-6 linoleic acid. Similar in composition to peanut oil. It can be used for frying because it contains unique antioxidants that are not destroyed by heat. However, the high percentage of Omega-6 militates against exclusive use.
  • Safflower, Corn, Sunflower, Soybean and Cottonseed Oils: All contain over 50% omega-6 and, except for soybean oil, only minimal amounts of omega-3. Safflower oil contains almost 80% omega-6. Research continues to accumulate on the dangers of excess omega-6 oils in the diet, whether rancid or not. Use of these oils should be strictly limited. They should never be consumed after being heated, as in cooking, frying, or baking. High oleic safflower and sunflower oils, produced from hybrid plants, have a composition similar to olive oil and are more stable than traditional varieties.  However, it is difficult to find truly cold-pressed versions of these oils.
  • Canola Oil: 5% saturated fat, 57% oleic acid, 23% omega-6 and 10-15% omega-3. The newest oil on the market, canola oil was developed from the rape seed, a member of the mustard family. Rape seed is considered unsuited to human consumption because it contains a long-chain fatty acid called erucic acid, which under some circumstances is associated with fibrotic heart lesions. Canola oil was bred to contain little if any erucic acid and has drawn the attention of nutritionists because of its high oleic-acid content. But there are some indications that canola oil presents dangers of its own. It has a high sulphur content and goes rancid easily. Baked goods made with canola oil develop mold very quickly. During the deodorizing process, the omega-3 fatty acids of processed canola oil are transformed into trans fatty acids, similar to those in margarine and possibly more dangerous. A recent study indicates that “heart healthy” canola oil actually creates a deficiency of vitamin E, a vitamin required for a healthy cardiovascular system. Other studies indicate that even low-erucic acid canola oil causes heart lesions, particularly when the diet is also low in saturated fat.

“Fat Is Your Friend” Pt. 2: Cholesterol and Heart Disease

This is Post 2 in our “Fat is Your Friend” series. 

This post contains valuable information and may turn everything you once thought you knew about diet on its head. If you think you know about cholesterol, read this. If you know nothing, read this. If you have been educated about it by schooling or your Dr. or any vegan, vegetarian, or low-fat book on nutrition, read this!!! This is long, but well worth it… trust me.

First, a history on cholesterol:

The theory– called the lipid hypothesis– that there is a direct relationship between the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet and the incidence of coronary heart disease was proposed by a researcher named Ancel Keys in the 1950’s. Numerous subsequent researchers have pointed out the flaws in his data and conclusions, but the experts assure us that the lipid hypothesis is backed by scientific proof. Most people would be surprised to learn that there is, in fact, very little evidence to support the contention that a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat actually reduces death from heart disease or in any way increases one’s life span. Consider the following:

  • Before 1920 coronary heart disease was rare in America; so rare that when a young internist named Paul Dudley White introduced the German electrocardiograph to his colleagues at Harvard University, they advised him to concentrate on a more profitable branch of medicine. The new machine revealed the presence of arterial blockages, thus permitting early diagnosis of coronary heart disease. But in those days clogged arteries were a medical rarity, and White had to search for patients who could benefit from his new technology. During the next 40 years, however, the incidence of coronary heart disease rose dramatically, so much so that by the mid-1950’s heart disease was the leading cause of death among Americans. Today, heart disease causes at least 40% of all US deaths. If, as we have been told, heart disease is cause by consumption of saturated fats, one would expect to find a corresponding increase in animal fat in the American diet. Actually, the reverse is true. During the 60 year period from 1910 to 1970 the proportion of tradition animal fat in the American diet declined from 83% to 62%, and butter consumption plummeted from 18 pounds per year to 4. During the past 80 years, dietary cholesterol intake has increased only 1%. During the same period the percentage of dietary vegetable oils in the form of margarine, shortening and refined oils increased about 400% while the consumption of sugar and processed foods increased about 60%.
  • The Framingham Heart Study is often cited as proof of the lipid hypothesis. This study began in 1948 and involved about 6,000 people from the town of Framingham, Mass. Two groups were compared at 5-year intervals– those who consumed little cholesterol and saturated fat and those who consumed large amounts. After 40 years, the director of this study had to admit: “In Framingham, Mass., the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person’s serum cholesterol… we found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories, weighed the least and were the most physically active.” The study did show that those who weighed more and had abnormally high blood cholesterol levels were slightly more at risk for future heart disease, but weight gain and cholesterol levels had an inverse correlation with fat and cholesterol intake in the diet.
  • In a multi-year British study involving several thousand men, half were asked to reduce saturated fat and cholesterol in their diets, to stop smoking and to increase consumption of unsaturated oils such as margarine and vegetable oils. After 1 year, those on the “good” diet had 100% more deaths than those on the “bad” diet, in spite of the fact that those on the “bad” diet continued to smoke!!! But in describing the study, the author ignored these results in favor of a politically correct conclusion: “The implication for public health policy in the UK is that a preventive programme such as we evaluated in this trial is probably effective…”
  • While it is true that researchers have induced heart disease in some animals by giving them extremely large doses of oxidized or rancid cholesterol — amounts 10 times that found in the ordinary human diet– several population studies squarely contradict the cholesterol-heart disease connection. A survey of 1700 patients with hardening of the arteries, conducted by the famous heart surgeon Michael DeBakey, found no relationship between the level of cholesterol in the blood and the incidence of atherosclerosis. A survey of South Carolina adults found no correlation of blood cholesterol levels with “bad” dietary habits, such as use of red meat, animal fat, fried foods, butter, eggs, whole milk, bacon, sausage and cheese.
  • Mother’s milk provides a higher proportion of cholesterol than almost any other food. It also contains over 50% of its calories as fat, much of it saturated fat. Both cholesterol and saturated fat are essential for growth in babies and children, especially the development of the brain. Yet, the American Heart Association has recommended a low-cholesterol, low fat diet for children!

Numerous surveys of traditional populations show that the lipid-hypothesis is just NOT TRUE. Of course, none of these studies are mentioned by those urging restriction of saturated fats:

  • A study comparing Jews when they lived in Yemen, whose diets contained fats solely of animal origin, to Yemenite Jews living in Israel, whose diets contained margarine and vegetable oils, revealed little heart disease or diabetes in the former group but high levels of both diseases in the latter. (The study also noted that the Yemenite Jews consumed no sugar but those in Israel consumed sugar in amounts equaling 25-30% of total carbohydrate intake.)
  • People in northern India consume 17 times more animal fat but have an incidence of coronary heart disease 7 times lower than people in southern India.
  • The Masai and kindred African tribes subsist largely on milk, blood and beef. They are free from heart disease and have low cholesterol levels.
  • Eskimos eat liberally of animal fats from fish and marine animals. On their native diet they are free of disease and exceptionally hardy.
  • An extensive study of diet and disease patterns in China found that the region in which the populace consumes large amounts of whole milk had half the rate of heart disease as several districts in which only small amounts of animal products are consumed.
  • Several Mediterranean societies have low rates of heart disease even though fat– including highly saturated fat from lamb, sausage and goat cheese– comprise up to 70% of their caloric intake. (Why isn’t anyone on THIS Mediterranean diet?)
  • In Okinawa, where the average lifespan for women is 84 years– longer than in Japan– the inhabitants eat generous amounts of pork and seafood and do all their cooking in lard.
  • The good health of the Japanese, who have the longest life span of any nation in the world, is generally attributed to a low fat diet. Although the Japanese eat few dairy fats, the notion that their diet is low in fat is a myth; rather, it contains moderate amounts of animal fats from eggs, pork, chicken, beef, seafood and organ meats. With their fondness for shellfish and fish broth, eaten on a daily basis, the Japanese probably consume more cholesterol than most Americans. What they do NOT consume a lot of is vegetable oil, white flour or processed food (although they do eat white rice). Also, those who point to the Japanese statistics to promote the low fat diet, fail to mention that the Swiss live almost as long on one of the fattiest diets in the world. Tied for 3rd in the longevity stakes are Austria and Greece– both with high fat diets.
  • As a final example, consider the French. The French diet is notorious for their saturated fats in the form of butter, eggs, cheese, cream, liver, meats and rich pates. Yet, the French have a lower rate of coronary heart disease than many other western countries. In the US, 315 of every 100,000 middle-aged men die of heart attacks each year; in France the rate is 145 per 100,000. In the Gascony region, where goose and duck liver form a staple of the diet, this rate is a remarkably low 80 per 100,000. This “phenomenon” has been dubbed the “French Paradox”. (The French do suffer from many degenerative diseases, however. They eat large amounts of sugar and white flour and in recent years have succumbed to processed foods.)
Most fat in our bodies and in the food we eat is in the form of triglycerides. Elevated triglycerides in the blood have been positively linked to proneness to heart disease, but these triglycerides do not come directly from dietary fats; they are made in the liver from any excess sugars that have not been used for energy. The source of these excess sugars is any food containing carbohydrates, particularly refined sugar and white flour.

Our blood vessels can become damaged in a number of ways– through irritations caused by free radicals or viruses, or because they are structurally weak– and when this happens, the body’s natural healing substance steps in to repair the damage. That substance is cholesterol. Cholesterol is a high-molecular weight alcohol that is manufactured in our own liver and in more human cells. Like saturated fats, the cholesterol we make and consume plays many vital roles:

  • along with saturated fats, cholesterol in the cell membrane gives our cells necessary stiffness and stability. When the diet contains an excess of polyunsaturated fatty acids, these replace saturated fatty acids in the cell membrane, so that the cell walls actually become flabby. When this happens, cholesterol from the blood is “driven” into the tissues to give them structural integrity. This is why serum cholesterol levels may go down temporarily when we replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated oils in the diet.
  • acts as a precursor to hormones that help us deal with stress and protect the body against heart disease and cancer; and to the sex hormones like androgen, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.
  • is a precursor to vitamin D, a vital fat-soluble vitamin needed for healthy bones and nervous system, proper growth, mineral metabolism, muscle tone, insulin production, reproduction and immune system function.
  • Bile salts are made from cholesterol. Bile is vital for digestion and assimilation of dietary fats.
  • acts as an antioxidant. This is the likely explanation for the fact that cholesterol levels go up with age. As an antioxidant, cholesterol protects us against free radical damage that leads to heart disease and cancer.
  • needed for proper function of serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is the body’s natural “feel-good” chemical.
  • maintains the health of the intestinal wall. Low-cholesterol vegetarian diets can lead to leaky gut syndrome and other intestinal disorders.
Cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease but rather a potent antioxidant weapon against free radicals in the blood, and a repair substance that helps heal arterial damage (although the arterial plaques themselves contain very little cholesterol). However, like fats, cholesterol may be damaged by exposure to heat and oxygen. This damaged or oxidized cholesterol seems to promote both injury to the arterial cells as well as buildup of plaque in the arteries. Damaged cholesterol is found in powdered eggs, powdered milk (added to reduced-fat milks to give them body… not to mention so many packaged foods) and in meats and fats that hae been heated to high temperatures in frying and other high-temperature processes.
High serum cholesterol levels often indicates that the body needs cholesterol to protect itself from high levels of altered, free radical-containing fats. Just as a large police force is needed where crime occurs frequently, so cholesterol is needed in a poorly nourished body to protect the individual from a tendency to heart disease and cancer. Blaming heart disease on cholesterol is like blaming the police for murder in a high crime area.
The scientific evidence, honestly evaluated, does not support the assertion that “artery-clogging” saturated fats cause heart disease. Actually, evaluation of the fat in artery clogs reveals that only about 26% is saturated. The rest is unsaturated, of which more than half is polyunsaturated.
So what is the probable cause of heart disease?? I will tell you what has not caused it: animal fats and cholesterol! Rather, a number of factors inherent in our modern diets, including excess consumption of vegetable oils and hydrogenated fats; excess consumption of refined carbohydrates in the form of sugar and white flour; mineral deficiencies (especially low levels of protective magnesium and iodine); deficiencies of vitamins, particularly of vitamin A, C and D, needed for the integrity of the blood vessel walls, and of antioxidants like selenium and vitamin E, which protect us from free radicals; and finally, the disappearance of antimicrobial fats from the food supply, namely, animal fats and tropical oils. These once protected us against the kinds of viruses and bacteria that have been associated with the onset of the plaque that leads to heart disease.

Prevention of heart disease will not be achieved with the current focus on lowering cholesterol– either by drugs or by the diet they recommend– but by consuming a diet that provides animal foods rich in protective fats and vitamins B6 and B12; by improving thyroid function through daily use of natural sea salt (good source: Real Salt), a good source of usable iodine; by avoiding vitamin and mineral deficiencies that make the artery walls more prone to ruptures and the buildup of plaque; b including antimicrobial fats in the diet; and by eliminating processed foods containing refined carbohydrates, oxidized cholesterol and free-radical-containing vegetable oils that cause the body to need constant repair.

“Fat Is Your Friend” Pt. 1: [Saturated] Fats Are Good For You

This post is Part 1 in the “Fat is Your Friend” series. 

I have heard so many say, “fats are good for you, you just have to eat the RIGHT kinds of fats.” When they say this, they are most of the time referring Olive Oil and nuts and avocados, but they are almost NEVER referring to Saturated Fats.

Well, I am here to say: Nevermind popular opinion… Saturated fats are good for you!” Good for you and your heart! Do your own homework and you, too, can find the same conclusion. Here is my homework in a nutshell: (most of this is taken from the book, Nourishing Traditions and the book, Eat Fat, Lose Fat.)

Fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet; they also provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances. Fats as part of a meal slow down nutrient absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry. In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Dietary fats are needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption and for a host of other processes.

There are three types of fatty acids:

  1. Saturated- These do not normally go rancid, even when heated for cooking purposes. They form a solid or semi-solid fat at room temperature. Found mostly in animal fats and tropical oils. Your body also makes them from carbohydrates.
  2. Monounsaturated- Your body makes these from saturated fatty acids and uses them in many ways. Tend to be liquid at room temperature. Like saturated fats, they are relatively stable, do not go rancid easily and hence can be used in cooking. The monounsaturated fatty acid most commonly found in our food is oleic acid, the main component of olive oil as well as the oils from almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts and avocados.
  3. Polyunsaturated- The two most frequently found in our foods are omega-6 and omega-3. Your body cannot make these fatty acids and hence they are called “essential.” We must obtain our essential fatty acids or EFAs from the foods we eat. These remain liquid, even when refrigerated. They are highly reactive, go rancid easily (particularly omega-3 linolenic acid) and must be treated with care. They should never be heated or used in cooking.

Politically Correct Nutrition is based on the assumption that we should reduce our intake of fats, particularly saturated fats from animal sources. Fats from animal sources also contain… da da dum… cholesterol, presented as the twin villain of the civilized diet. (I will talk about cholesterol in a later post… for now… FAT!)

The politically correct guys tell us that polyunsaturated oils are the ones we want- the ones that are the best for us- and that saturated fats cause cancer and disease. This misinformation has caused profound changes in western eating habits. At the turn of the century, most of the fatty acids in the diet were either saturated or monounsaturated, primarily from butter, lard, tallow, coconut oil, and small amounts of olive oil. Today, however, most of the fats in the diet are polyunsaturated, primarily from vegetable oils derived from soy, as well as from corn, safflower and canola. Bad, bad, bad. But do you notice that you still hear about heart attacks ALL THE TIME? Usage of animal fats and saturated fats in general has gone down, but heart disease has increased. So does it make sense that they keep blaming saturated fats? Let’s use our brains (and start nourishing them with healthy saturated fats!).

Excess consumption of polyunsaturates has been shown to contribute to a large number of disease conditions including increased cancer and heart disease, immune system dysfunction, damage to the liver, reproductive organs and lungs, digestive disorders, depressed learning ability, impaired growth, and weight gain. One reason they cause all of these problems is that they tend to become oxidized or rancid when subjected to heat, oxygen and moisture as in cooking and processing (extraction, hydrogenation, homogenization).

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that most polyunsaturates in commercial vegetable oils are in the form of omega-6 with very little omega-3.  Deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with asthma, heart disease and learning deficiencies. For the optimal production and balance of prostaglandins (hormones that act locally, within the cells), you need a good balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, with no more than 2-3 times more omega-6 than omega-3. In the modern diet, the ration is more like 20 to 1, as a result of the high consumption of vegetable oils containing mostly omega-6 fatty acids. (Good sources of Omega-3’s: Wild Salmon, egg yolks (from pastured chickens) and flax oil in small amounts.)

But back to saturated fats, which Americans are always trying to avoid. They are not the cause of our modern diseases. In fact, they play many important parts in body chemistry.

Fats and Your Brain

60% of the brain is composed of fat. Phospholipids (which contain about 50% saturated fats) help make up the brain cell membranes. They contain 2 fatty acids and one protein-like component. Thus you nourish your brain cells when you eat saturated fats, and when you don’t eat enough saturated fats, the chemistry of your brain may be compromised. In a recent study, rats given vegetable oils low in saturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids had more strokes and shorter life spans.

Fats in the Cells

Every cell membrane is ideally made up of about 50% saturated fat. When we eat too much polyunsaturated oil and not enough saturated fat (or carbohydrates that the body turns into saturated fat), our cells don’t function correctly. The cell membranes need to be saturated for the cell to have the necessary “stiffness” or integrity and to work properly. If they don’t get enough saturated fat, they actually become “floppy” and cannot work properly.

Fats in Your Bones

For calcium to be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure, at least 50% of dietary fats should be saturated. This is one of the reasons osteoporosis has become such a problem these days.

Fats and Your Liver

Saturated fats protect the liver from toxins like alcohol and Tylenol. Today liver problems have become more common.

Fats and Your Heart

Saturated fats provide energy to the heart in times of stress. Saturated fats are the hearts preferred food and there is a concentration of saturated fat in the tissues surrounding the heart.

Fats and Your Lungs

Lungs cannot work without adequate saturated fats in the diet. The fatty acids in the lung fluid are normally 100% saturated. When people consume a lot of partially hydrogenated fats and vegetable oils, trans fatty acids and polyunsaturated oils are put into the phospholipids where the body normally needs saturated fatty acids. As a result the lungs cannot work effectively. Notice the rise in asthma, especially in children.

Fats and Your Kidneys

Omega-3 fatty acids, saturated fats, and cholesterol all work together synergistically to maintain normal kidney function, which is critical for managing blood pressure and filtering toxins from the body.

Fats and Your Hormones

Hormones are the body’s messengers, acting on the brain, nervous system, and glands and affecting thousands of bodily functions. They require the right kinds of fats. Your body cannot make stress and sex hormones without vitamin A, provided exclusively by fatty animal foods such as liver, shellfish, and cod-liver oil. In contrast, the wrong kinds of fats (trans fatty acids, etc..) inhibit the production of stress and sex hormones, leading to problems with glucose balance, mineral metabolism, and reproduction.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the “Fat is Your Friend” series: Cholesterol and Heart Disease

FAT Is Your Friend!

Coming up, a three-part series on “FAT Is Your Friend… Why Fats Are Good For You”.

I have heard too often that we are to eat “healthy fats.” I agree, though my definition of healthy may be different than theirs. I have come across valuable information in the last few years of my personal nutritional studies and wanted to share with you the importance of knowing your fats! Some of you will not care an ounce about what fat is good and what fat is bad for our bodies… or some of you may be geeks like me!

In Part 1 we will discuss the different kinds of fats, why your body needs fats, what kinds of fats Americans consume the most of, and why saturated fats are not your enemy.

In Part 2 we will talk at length about cholesterol and heart disease.

In Part 3, we will go over why coconut oil, butter, eggs, liver (I know…), beef, and whole milk are excellent sources of healthy fats and nutrients and are DEFINITELY not your enemy… instead, they should be your best buddy!

So geeks… Stay tuned!

[photo credit]

First Foods for Babies

There is so much misguided advice out there about what we should feed first to our babies. I just purchased the “Healthy Baby Issue” of the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) journals. This topic is among the many that are in this journal. I would like to share it with you so that you can make informed decisions about what first foods to feed your baby!

Ideally, breastfeeding should be maintained for at least a year, if not more. The first year of life requires a full spectrum of nutrients, including fats, protein, cholesterol, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Once breastmilk is no longer the sole source of these nutrients, what should you do?

There are 3 concepts to keep in mind. First, make your baby a “whole foods baby” (speaking of real food, not the store!). Avoid processed and refined foods as much as possible, including many brands of baby food; they are usually devoid of nutrients and some have added undesirable ingredients. It really is best to make your own baby food so that you know the quality of the product you’re feeding your little one and you also know there isn’t anything else in it but the food itself (though, Earth’s Best Organic is a good brand if you must buy jarred baby food).

Secondly, go slowly and be observant. Every baby is different and will have an individual response to different foods. Just because something is healthy and a whole food, doesn’t mean that baby’s particular system will jive with it.

Thirdly, respect the still-developing digestive system of your infant. Babies have limited enzyme production, which is necessary for the digestion of foods. In fact, it takes up to 28 months, just around the time when molar teeth are fully developed, for the big-gun carbohydrate enzymes (namely amylase) to fully kick into gear. Foods like cereals, grains and breads are very challenging for little ones to digest. Thus, those foods should be some of the last to be introduced. (One carbohydrate enzyme a baby’s small intestine does produces is lactase, for the digestion of milk.)

Foods introduced too early can cause digestive troubles and increase the likelihood of allergies (particularly to those foods introduced). The baby’s immature digestive system allows large particles of food to be absorbed. If these particles reach the bloodstream, the immune system mounts a response that leads to an allergic reaction. Six months is the typical age when solids should be introduced.

Babies do produce functional enzymes (pepsin and proteolytic enzymes) and digestive juices (hydrochloric acid in the stomach) that work on proteins and fats. This makes perfect sense since the milk from a healthy mother is 50-60%  fat, which is critical for growth, energy and development.  In addition, the cholesterol in human milk supplies an infant with close to 6 times the amount most adults consume from food.

Thus, a baby’s earliest solid foods should be mostly animal foods since his digestive system, although immature, is better equipped to supply enzymes for digestion of fats and proteins rather than carbohydrates. This explains why current research is pointing to meat (including nutrient dense organ meat) as being a nourishing early food.

So is cereal the best first food? Remember the amount of breast milk decreases when solid foods are introduced. This decrease may open the door for inefficiencies in a number of nutrients critical for baby’s normal growth and development. The nutrients that are often in short supply when introducing food include protein, zinc, iron and B-vitamins. One food group that has these nutrients in ample amounts is meat.

Unfortunately, cereal is the most often recommended early weaning food. According to a swedish study, when infants consume substantial amounts of rice cereal, they could suffer from low concentrations of zinc and reduced calcium absorption.

There was a study done that found breastfed infants who received pureed or strained meat as a primary weaning food beginning at 4-5 months grew at a slightly faster rate. The study suggests that inadequate protein or zinc from common first foods may limit the growth of some breastfed infants. More importantly, both protein and zinc levels were consistently higher in the diets of the infants who received meats. Thus, the custom of providing large amounts of cereals and excluding meats before 7 months of age may short-change the nutritional requirements of the infant.

Meat is also an excellent source of iron. Heme iron (the iron found in meat) is better absorbed than iron from plant sources (non-heme). Additionally, the protein in meat helps the baby more easily absorb iron from other foods. Meat also contains a much greater amount of zinc than cereals, which means more is absorbed. Traditional peoples, uninfluenced by western diets, gave meat–usually liver–as the first weaning food. Also, the incidence of allergic reactions to meat is minimal.

Don’t fear fats! Milk and animal fats give energy and also help children build muscle and bone. In addition, the animal fats provide vitamins A & D necessary for protein and mineral assimilation, normal growth and hormone production.  Choose a variety of foods so your child gets a range of fats, but emphasize stable saturated fats (yes, that’s right… more on saturated fats in another post), found in butter, meat and coconut oil, and monounsaturated fats, found in avocados and olive oil.

Foods by Age

4-6 Months

(I personally don’t introduce these foods until 6 months or later, but I know some do introduce food earlier)

Egg yolk (if tolerated. Preferably from pastured or cage-free chickens)

Rich in choline, cholesterol and other brain-nourishing substances. If baby reacts poorly, try again one month later. The white is the part that most often causes allergic reactions, so don’t give egg whites until after your child turns one. Don’t neglect to put a pinch of salt on the egg yolk, which is actually critical for digestion as well as for brain development. Use unrefined salt to supply a variety of trace minerals. Boil an egg for 3-4 minutes (longer at high-altitudes), peel, discard the white, and mash up yolk with a little unrefined sea salt. (The yolk should be soft and warm, not runny). Small amounts of grated, raw organic liver (which has been frozen 14 days) may be added to the egg yolk after 6 months.

Banana– mashed, for babies who are very mature and seem hungry

Great food for babies because it contains amylase enzymes to digest carbohydrates.

Cod Liver Oil– 1/4 teaspoon high vitamin or 1/2 teaspoon regular, given with an eye dropper. Doubled around 8 months.

Excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA (also important for brain development) as well as vitamins A & D. Use an eye dropper at first; later baby can take it mixed with a little water or fresh orange juice.

6-8 Months

Organic Liver— grated and frozen and added to egg yolk

Pureed meats– lamb, turkey, beef, chicken, liver and fish

Cook meat gently in water or homemade stock until completely tender, or use meat from stews, etc… Make sure the meat is cold and it is no bigger than 1-2 inch chunks when you puree. Grind up the meat first, then add water or breastmilk or the natural cooking juices as the liquid.

Soup broth– (chicken, beef, lamb, fish) added to pureed meats and vegetables, or offered as a drink

Fermented foods— small amounts of yogurt, kefir, sweet potato, taro, if desired.

Raw mashed fruits– banana, melon, mangoes, papaya, avocado

Cooked, pureed fruits– organic apricot, peaches, pears, apples, cherries, berries

High pectin fruits like the ones mentioned above should be cooked to break down the pectin which can be very irritating to the digestive tract.

Cooked (steamed) vegetables– zucchini, squash, sweet potato, carrots, beets, with butter or coconut oil (fat provides nutrition to aid in digestion)

 

8-12 Months

Continue to add variety and increase thickness and lumpiness of the foods already given from 4-8 months

Creamed Vegetable Soups

Homemade Stews– all ingredients cut small or mashed

Dairy– cottage cheese, mild harder raw cheese, cream, custards

Finger foods– when baby can grab and adequately chew, such as lightly steamed veggie sticks, milk cheese, avocado chunks, pieces of banana

Cod Liver Oil– increase to 1/2 teaspoon high vitamin or 1 teaspoon regular dose

 

Over 1 Year

Grains and legumes– properly soaked and cooked

Should be the last food given to babies. This food category has the most potential for causing digestive disturbances or allergies. Babies do not produce the needed enzymes to handle cereals, especially gluten-containing grains like wheat, before the age of one year. Even then, it is a common traditional practice to soak the grains. This process jump-starts the enzymatic activity in the food and begins breaking down some of the harder-to-digest components.) The easiest grains to digest are those without gluten like brown rice. When grains are introduced they should be soaked for at least 24 hours and cooked with plenty of water for a long time. This will make a slightly sour, very thin porridge that can be mixed with other foods.

Nut Butters (peanut, almond, etc…)

Leafy green vegetables– cooked, with butter

Raw salad vegetables– cucumber, tomatoes, etc.

Citrus fruits– fresh, organic

Whole egg– cooked

Further reading resources:

Real Food for Mother and Baby

Wise Traditions Healthy Baby Issue

Nourishing Traditions

[photo credit]

There’s WHAT in my wheat??

Phytic acid.

Actually, its in almost all grains and nuts and seeds. Whole grains and nuts and seeds, I should say. So you think you’re doing something good by eating Whole Wheat bread on your sandwich. And you are, because even with phytic acid, it is better than refined and bleached white flour. But it can also be a little dangerous. You like to live on the edge, I know.

In the bran or the hull of the grain, nut, or seed is phosphorus. This phosphorus is tied up in the bran by phytic acid. Phytic acid combines in the intestinal tract with micronutrients like iron, copper and zinc and even macro nutrtients like calcium and magnesium and blocks their absorption into your body. This makes them an “anti-nutrient”. We’re all about getting more nutrients in our food, but we’re unknowingly ingesting ANTI nutrients every time we eat oatmeal, pasta, etc… Phytic acid also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion. (That’s what this whole popular raw-foods diet is all about… enzymes… and we’re inhibiting them with our improperly prepared.. or un-prepared grains.)

So when phytic acid binds with its strong binding power to these important minerals, the mineral is no longer bio-available to our bodies for use. It is now non-absorbable to the intestines. This could be a very big deal to vegetarians who count on grains, nuts and seeds for some of their minerals that they don’t get from meat and animal products and also to third-world countries who depend heavily on these cheap and available foods to sustain and nourish them. Zinc deficiency is a real problem, causing fertility issues among other things. Calcium mal-absorption has obviously become quite an epidemic in our country with bone-loss and osteoporosis. There are myriads of problems that can occur because of the lack of these very important minerals.

Phytic acid is also in: Sesame seeds, brazil nuts, almonds, tofu, oatmeal, beans, soybeans, corn, peanuts, wheat, wheat germ, brown rice, chickpeas, lentils…. and I’m sure there are others.

But there is a solution: soaking, sprouting or fermenting! When you see “sprouted whole wheat bread” at the store, this is why. A seed or grain that has been “sprouted” or germinated no longer has the phytic acid inhibiting mineral absorption. Traditional societies (with opposite diets of us Westerners) soak (in an acid medium) or ferment their grains before eating them. This sort of pre-digests the grains so that all the nutrients are more available. Soaking and lacto-fermenting can also accomplish this.

Many people who are allergic to particular grains may tolerate them well when prepared with one of these methods. An added bonus: this type of preparation also helps to break down complex sugars, making them more digestible.

So, how do you soak?

1. With an Acid Medium. 12-24 hours (depending on the grain) before you are going to make a recipe, prepare to soak. If the recipe calls for liquid, mix the grain with the liquid and an acid medium. If the mix is too dry, add the other liquid ingredients the recipe calls for (honey, oil). Use warm water to start the breakdown of the phytic acid.

Acid mediums to use: – lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, cultured buttermilk, cultured yogurt, whey, milk kefir, coconut kefir, water kefir. (For dairy, you must use a cultured product for it to have an effect and for it to be safe to sit out at room temperature.)

This doesn’t really belong here, but Soy is high in phytic acid, so any soy product needs to be fermented to avoid the mineral blocking effect in the body. (think miso and tempeh… more on Tofu and sprouting and fermenting later.) Soy protein isolate, in particular (as commonly found in… everything… like popular protein shakes, etc…), are very high in mineral-blocking phytates (and thyroid-depressing phytoestrogens and enzyme inhibitors that depress growth and can cause cancer.) Although you can’t really soak soy (I don’t think?), soybeans are able to be fermented. Like I said, more on fermentation later. That’s a post… or two or three… in and of itself.

Brown Rice, Millet, and Buckwheat are fairly low in Phytic Acid, therefore only need to be soaked for 7-8 hours. This is also the reason I use Brown Rice pasta (mostly) instead of whole wheat pasta.

Oats are extremely high in phytic acid, so a 24 hour soak is necessary!

All other grains, 12-24 hours.

Beans Cover with warm water and leave in a warm place for 12-24 hours. For black beans, stir in whey or lemon juice.

2. Let sit at room temperature and cover with plastic wrap (or towel, plate, etc…) to keep from drying out.

3. After soaking, add the rest of the ingredients (if any) and proceed with recipe as written.

Here are resources for further reading:

Phytic Acid and Mineral Loss in Grains & Legumes

Phytic Acid e-course

Be Kind to Your Grains by Sally Fallon

Also read: Nourishing Traditions (where most of the information above was gleaned from)