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Fat does not make you fat

Posted on Tuesday 1 May 2018

By Diana Earnshaw, Volunteer Contributor

You could be forgiven for believing that fats and oils were unhealthy. Nothing could be further from the truth – they contain nutrients essential for health that cannot be found (in a useable or bio-available form) elsewhere. Essential fatty acids; when the term essential is used in nutrition, it means that the body is unable to create it for use so it must be included as a part of our diet. Fats also contain the fat-soluble vitamins – A, D3, E and K2. The amounts depend on the type of fat and their source.

Oils

The Omegas

Starting with the Omegas – 3, 6 and 9; these are the essential fatty acids I referred to in the previous paragraph. Our bodies need them all but – and there is a big but, we must have them in a certain ratio. I am usually opposed to supplementation because it is so easy to get it wrong. If we eat a diet similar to that we evolved with, we will obtain all the fatty acids in the correct ratios. Meat bought from True Food will do very nicely!

  • Omega 3 – this is a polyunsaturated fat that is found in oily fish and grass-fed meats, egg yolks and full-fat dairy products. Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory and benefits us in many ways. It helps protect against heart disease, mental health conditions (even possibly dementia) and preventing asthma. Omega 3 is best obtained from animal sources. (Vegetarians/vegans can obtain similar fatty acids from flax seeds/oil.)
  • Omega 6 – also a polyunsaturated fat and can be used for energy. Its main function in the body is its pro-inflammatory action. We need the inflammatory response if we have contracted an infection or for an open wound – inflammation brings blood (and therefore nutrients and blood cells) to an area which has been invaded or damaged. When the problem subsides, Omega 3 kicks in to reduce inflammation. Omega 6 being pro-inflammatory is a double-edged sword as in the Western World, we obtain far too much of it in our Nutsmodern diets (from eating too many processed foods!) and our bodies can be in a state of permanent inflammation. The body hates long-term inflammation and chronic illness can be the result. Omega 6 is best obtained from nuts and seeds, but the seed oils should only be used sparingly.
  • Omega 9 – not strictly “essential” as the body can make Omega 9, but still beneficial to health. Studies have shown that using this type of fat can reduce insulin sensitivity (the first stage of type 2 diabetes) and can regulate blood fats – important for cholesterol levels. They are mono-unsaturated fatty acids and found in foods such as avocados, olives and olive oil and nuts such as almonds and cashews.

The vitamins

The fat soluble vitamins are all available in fish/animal fats and work together. The level of each changes depending on how the animal was reared, or how the cheese was made etc. Vitamin E is also easily obtained from nuts and seeds. A, D3 and K2 are all best from animal sources as they are in exactly the right form for us to absorb. Analogues of the vitamins are also found in plants but need to be converted by the body for use which the elderly, chronically ill people and children may have difficulty with.

  • Vitamin A is needed for eye health, immune system, reproduction and correct bone growth in children. 
  • Vitamin D3 is primarily obtained by exposure to the sun, but is also in animal fats. D3 is vital for bone maintenance and immunity - however, in recent years it has been shown that it is essential in the fight against cancers, heart disease and also auto-immune conditions.
  • Vitamin E is needed for healthy skin and is also a powerful antioxidant. 
  • Vitamin K2 (not to be confused with K1 which is freely available in leafy greens and is concerned with blood clotting) is a “new kid on the block”. Well, relatively new. I was not taught about it when I was training as a nurse in the 1970s! If Vitamin D3 helps us to absorb bone/tooth minerals, K2 directs them to the bones and teeth instead of them just staying in the blood stream – where they can do damage! The best sources of vitamin K2 are cheeses – especially Brie types, blue and Dutch, but are available in animal fats that have lived on good pasture. Duck fat, butter and egg yolks are good and vegans need to eat fermented soya products to obtain this vitamin.

Other healthy oils

Even though they are not especially good sources of vitamins and essential fatty acids, coconut and olive oils are worthy of mention. They contain other important substances. 

  • Olive oil is a mainly monounsaturated oil and has been deemed heart healthy. Partly because it doesn’t contain too much polyunsaturated fatty acids, but also as it has good antioxidant properties. The oil contains helpful oleocanthal which is anti-inflammatory and the substances squalene and lignans have been shown to fight cancer cells.  Buy organic and extra-virgin oils as they will have the best effect. 
  • Coconut oil is a very saturated fat – which chemically means it is stable in the body and unlikely to oxidise Biona coconut oiland cause inflammation. It provides almost instant energy as it is metabolised differently to other fats. Whilst coconut oil doesn’t contain appreciable amounts of vitamins, it has several very useful fatty acids which have medicinal properties. Lauric acid (and monolaurin which is created in the body when coconut oil is eaten) kill harmful pathogens in the body such as candida and other yeasts/funguses, bacteria and viruses. Coconut oil is being tested on people with epilepsy and dementia and the results are looking very promising. 

 

In case you are wondering, fat does not make you fat – there is no mechanism in the body to store fat as fat. Being overweight is very much due to eating too many processed foods and eating out of balance!

Try these two great oil and fat based recipes:

Ghee

GheeAs many people are sensitive to lactose, I thought I would include instructions to make ghee. All the wonderful benefits of butter but without the lactose. It tastes fab too! Thanks to Maunika Gowardhan for the recipe.

 

 

Olive Oil DipOlive oil dip

And a gorgeous Olive Oil Dip for True Food’s Olive bread! Recipe courtesy of Kitchme.com

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