The Fat Story – Part 2
In part 1 of The Fat story we learned a lot, and today, we will learn even more. After reading this post, you will be armed with some serious knowledge no one has told you, even though you deserved to know. You might have a problem wrapping your head around the truth about cholesterol at first, but once you read it all, it will start to make sense. All you are going to need then are recommendations and some healthy tips which are waiting for you at the very end of The Fat story!
What About Cholesterol?
Saturated fat used to be demonized because sources of SFA are also high in cholesterol. Cholesterol is one of the most important compounds in our bodies. It is not a fat as many believe, it is a waxy steroid. The word steroid has a bad reputation as well, but don’t confuse it with something chemical or illegal. Steroids are actually building materials, like for example vitamin D, hormones, or our new friend cholesterol. Our brain contains 25% of our total body cholesterol. It is the raw material for making hormones like progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, and estrogen, but we also need it to make our own vitamin D from sunlight (a particularly important vitamin for lowering inflammation).
Cholesterol is actually produced by our liver and our body is able to self regulate the cholesterol production, so if we eat too much cholesterol in our diet (which is again NOT a bad thing), our own production decreases. Very high levels of cholesterol are a symptom of some underlying problem in the body, not the cause. If your doctors say you have high cholesterol, you might want to look into why that inflammatory marker is there, but you actually should not freak out at all. Cholesterol is a health-promoting substance, and we want to have it in the body for sure. Dietary cholesterol (from the foods we eat) and cholesterol that is listed on the paper after our blood tests are two completely different things.
When we eat less, our body produces more; when we eat more, our body produces less. Eating more cholesterol than our body is able to make is actually beneficial, because it unloads the burden from our liver making cholesterol is not an easy task and by eating some from quality sources like egg yolks, seafood, or meat, we help our bodies to be able to focus on different tasks (like healing, if necessary). Also, cholesterol always comes in one package with vitamins and minerals we also need to build hormones, tissues, and individual cells. Our cholesterol levels increase with age, which is only logical as we get older, we need more building material and healing support and that is what cholesterol provides by nature. As we grow older (actually, not that old, the decline starts around the age of 25 or even sooner), our body starts producing less and less systemic enzymes we need to breathe, heal, grow, and digest properly. If we don’t get enough enzymes, we are more prone to injury, inflammation, all kinds of diseases, and even our healing processes get slower. So we need not only more cholesterol to fix any potential damage, but also to get enough systemic enzymes from our diet or supplements. We covered this subject in depth before, so be sure to read up on it as well.
If you read your blood work reports, you can see the LDL and HDL numbers in the cholesterol section. These are usually referred to as bad (low-density lipoprotein LDL) and good (high density lipoprotein HDL) cholesterol, but the truth is somewhere else. LDL and HDL are lipoproteins they are particles that carry cholesterol. When there is a situation in the body that requires healing, rebuilding, or cell repair, LDL takes cholesterol to the damage and HDL takes cholesterol away from it. So there is no good or bad cholesterol. They are just a bunch of guys with specific tasks assigned, doing their jobs pretty well. Lipoproteins work like an ambulance, and cholesterol is like a doctor sent to heal the inflammation, so having high cholesterol is more like a sign that you have lots of inflammation that needs lots of doctoring. The reason cholesterol and saturated fat were demonized in the past is most likely because cholesterol is ALWAYS present when inflammation is happening, so it was misunderstood.
But we do not blame firemen for starting the fire just because we see them near fires, right? Cholesterol does not CAUSE the inflammation, it always comes to heal. When the inflammation is on-going, the body sends more cholesterol to the rescue and it starts to accumulate around the artery, and eventually may clog it. It is time to fix cholesterols reputation and blame the real problem inflammation. Doctors like to prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins. What these do is basically limit (or even kill off completely) our body’s ability to naturally produce cholesterol, which basically means limiting our bodies ability to repair and create new cells! Statins also have a long list of side effects, but I hope we all agree on the fact that a drug-free, anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle is way safer, more natural, and sounds more enjoyable than popping pills with side effects for the sake of heart health. Once and for all cholesterol is our friend. Don’t throw away your bacon fat or egg yolks ever again, get rid of the Crisco. Your body will thank you!
We’ve probably all heard about Omega-3 and Omega-6, the imbalance of these fatty acids, the recommended ratios, and the fish oil hype. Omega-3 and Omega-6 are two main types of polyunsaturated (PUFA) fats, both fragile and vulnerable to damage from heat, light, and oxygen. Omega-3 fats are found in fish, seafood, and some nuts, while omega-6 fats are found in industrial oils we call vegetable. Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory fatty acids and we know three types of Omega-3: EPA, DHA, and ALA. ALA (Alpha-Linoleic Acid) is a precursor to the first two, which means that our body can manufacture EPA and DHA from consumed ALA, but it does not work the other way around. Animal sources of Omega-3s contain EPA and DHA and plant sources contain ALA.
If you eat enough seeds and nuts, your body can certainly create some EPA and DHA, but the conversion rate is very low and it was also proven that it is even less efficient in people who consume a lot of Omega-6s. All three Omega3 types have their own benefits, so we really should reach for consuming all of them. It is not very clear what the right ratio of Omega-6:Omega-3 should be, and people tend to really stress about it, focusing more on the ratio than the actual amount or sources. We don’t need highly processed crop oils to get our omega oils, no matter what the colorful label on the clear bottle says. Just consuming less vegetable oils, going easy on nuts and seeds, using more saturated fats for cooking, and eating more wild fatty fish is the way to go here. Omega-3s are also prone to oxidation, so it is always a better option to eat fish than popping some fish oil capsules that have been exposed to light and heat.
What To Eat Then?
Unhealthy fats will never make healthy cells, and unhealthy cells will never build a healthy body. There are three major concerns when it comes to oils and fats in your diet the amount of processing, stability, and nutrient density of the fat source. The more its processed, the more harmful for the body it can be. The less stable the oil, the more damage in can do within our very cells. And the best part natural, quality fats come with precious nutrients, are delicious and nourishing, and will give you a healthy heart, brain, and skin. Nature created perfect food for us and we are meant to eat them in their natural state there is no factory required in the process. Your health is a product of your nutrition, not any food or drug manufacturing. You don’t have to be perfect, just make educated decisions. If you still don’t feel particularly well after a breakfast rich in fat, the reason might be that your body doesn’t work well with fatty option being your first meal of the day. Different people react differently to the same meal what energizes one can make other sleepy.
Even though we are all humans, there is a certain individuality in our nutritional and metabolic needs. The Metabolic Typing method will help you determine your own needs very easily. Once you know when to eat your fats, you can move on to a great selection of available fats. Choose stable fats that are delicious and full of nutrients. Choose meat from properly raised animals, and don’t fear the fatty parts. Eat your bacon, chicken skin, and pork chops. Lard, tallow, ghee or clarified butter are perfect and stable for high temperature cooking, and coconut oil is perfect if you absolutely don’t agree with consuming animal products. Olive or sesame oils, when cold pressed and unprocessed are full of antioxidants. Avocado is a fruit that contains 77% fat, and most of it very healthy fat. Make that guacamole tonight! Nuts and fish bring your omega fats in their purest form, so eat them whole. And eat the whole egg, both yolk and white. Or even better make your own healthy homemade mayonnaise! There are plenty of recipes out there, here is my personal favorite.
Listing all the benefits of each individual seed oil available would be a question for another whole post, but we should talk about the best ones. The line of oils made by Activation Products are pure, carefully pressed seed oils, mostly from European sources, meaning that no seeds used are genetically modified to ensure the best quality and that they will be the healthiest source of fatty acids for our bodies. Their flagship product is called Panaseeda Oil Blend and it is a blend of sunflower, flax, sesame, coriander, and pumpkin seed oil that is an amazing tool for healing your body from within, helping with inflammation, feeding you with vitamins and essential fatty acids, and even improving your complexion. It has a delicious nutty aroma and flavor and you can simply pour it over your salad (or of course take a spoonful of it at a time straight from the bottle) to get all the benefits from these carefully crafted oils. All products are sold in high quality dark glass bottles that ensure no sunlight exposure, preventing these precious oils from oxidation. Activation Products also offer individual oils, like high quality Black Cumin Oil or Amaranth Oil. All their oils can be either ingested or used topically and they should play a major role in the daily routine of those concerned about peak health and well being.
Supplementing with real food supplements is not a bad idea, especially if you are unable to get really quality fat from your diet. Sometimes you can try very hard, but it can be challenging to find a decent quality source. If you can’t get a good quality fish to nourish your body with Omega-3 fats, you can opt for something like Flax-Borage Oil capsules, a blend of Omega-3 and Omega-6 with 9 essential fatty acids provides the necessary nutrients in the proper balance. Fresh pressed flax and borage oils come along with a few milligrams of vitamin E added to protect against rancidity of the oils. There were absolutely no chemicals used in the processing, so this blend supports our rule of minimal processing.
There is also a lot of recommended reading you can do! Books like Eat the Yolks by Liz Wolfe or Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz are great sources of information available to everyone, Cholesterol Clarity by Jimmy Moore is a fun but geeky read focused on cholesterol and for even more geeky readers out there, I would recommend the work of Chris Masterjohn or Mary G. Enig. Now let’s say the word again. FAT. Sounds better, right?