A FOUR PART SERIES
Healthy Fats & Oils and the consequences of a 'low fat diet'.
Hands up if you’ve tried them all- diets that is. It seems that with the explosion that is electronic and social media has come an equally contagious rash of diet regimes. ‘Lose weight fast’ diets, ‘teen’ diets, ‘very low carb’ diets, ‘primal’, ‘paleo’, ‘vegan’, ‘raw food’ diets, ‘detox’, ‘ketogenic’, ‘two five’ diet, not mention plain old fashioned ‘I’m seriously starving- low calorie’ diets. It hasn’t always been this way you know- if Great Grandma or the original Australians could only see us all now- what would they have to say about our multi-billion dollar diet industry that for many of us can consume our every waking moment and drive us to depression or at the least total despondency.
This four part series sets out to bring back traditional and nourishing foods which are not so much a diet plan as simply a way of life. Imagine for a moment friends and family coming together (by way of the farmers markets) over home prepared, delicious and varied foods which insure your health and happiness for many years to come. Include food from these four food groups as traditional people did and you will be embarking on a potentially life changing journey. There is one caveat as you will see and that is food ‘quality’.
FAT! Take a moment to analyse how you feel about dietary fat. For most there remains a negative connotation associated with dietary fats, and its no surprise considering the many billions of dollars poured into the demonisation of fats for around 5o years (1). Based upon our governments’ recommendations we as a nation gave ‘low fat’ a good go and unfortunately it has backfired convincingly with more obesity, diabetes and associated degenerative diseases. (14)
‘Oils ain’t oils’- here is a quick primer on the different kinds of fats available from foods. No doubt you’ve heard of saturated fat (SFA)- if our health officials are to be believed- nature wasn’t thinking straight when she came up with this one! (5) It occurs in animal fats, coconut oil and palm oil and is essential to good health (3). Then there’s monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA)- which have had a load of good press. It’s found in animal fats, olive oil, seeds and nuts and has been credited to the Mediterraneans’ robust health and longevity (2). Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) you’ll find mostly in fish, seafoods, seeds and nuts, processed seed oils, processed foods, poultry and meat fats (4). Health officialdom says that these are the truly essential healthful fats which should replace saturated fats- however there is more to the picture. Since we have replaced saturated/ animal fats with PUFAs in our processed foods, cafe fare and take away meals our weight and disease rates have increased comparatively. (6)
The following tables look at the breakdown and properties of these fats under pressure- like frying or processing from a traditional perspective. (7)
It turns out that natural, saturated fats (non-hydrogenated) are protective when it comes to cooking or indeed food processing. (8) There is just one more fatty acid I would like to introduce you to and that is Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). Now this is where the qualitative approach comes into its own- as this precious health promoting fatty acid is lost when animals are fed grains rather than their natural diet of grass. So have we thrown the baby out with the bath water when we avoid the (so called) demon animal fat? When in fact grass-fed meat fat is protective due to higher levels of both omega 3 and CLA fatty acids. (9)
Putting the modern research perspective aside for a moment and looking to our forefathers for some clues- did they suffer disease as a result of consuming animal fats, butter and coconut oil? Quite the opposite was apparent to researcher Weston A Price in his extensive evaluation of so called ‘primitive’ groups around the globe. All commonly valued fats in the diet including grass-fed animal fats. (13)
As a Clinical Nutritionist there are three basic tenets which apply in relation to fats for health-
The information in this article is not intended to take the place of a professional health care practitioner. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. Discuss this information with your own healthcare provider to determine what is right for you. Readers are urged to conduct their own reading and research to find what is appropriate for them together with a registered healthcare provider.