Good vs. Bad Oils
One of the areas of highest contention in the health and wellness industry is fat. Decades of propaganda from the sugar industry and the industrialization of food has made fat the target of many an entry level health "expert".
For instance many healthcare practitioners are still telling their patients who have heart disease or a risk factor associated with it to cut back on fat or animal products and to watch their cholesterol levels.
In this brief article I just want to point out some glaring contradictions and examples of how attempting to avoid fat is not only unhealthy but usually counterproductive to the very goal that someone following this type of advice is striving to achieve.
The Cholesterol Myth
It is important to understand that what constitutes "high" cholesterol has changed several times in previous decades. Each time that the upper limit is lowered, millions of new statin patients are created out of thin air. This is a staple of the pharmaceutical industry in its quest to consistently create new markets for drugs, in this case statins like Lipitor. Lipitor was recalled several years ago for "causing type 2 diabetes in middle-aged women".
There is a lot of conflicting information out about cholesterol, but if one looks into the studies themselves the results are inconclusive and often times show the exact opposite effect: higher cholesterol leads to longer lifespan.
This type of nonsensical nutrition advice, that meat is a primary factor in heart disease, and not the obvious culprit, massive spikes in refined sugar consumption, has been one of the primary reasons that not only does heart disease continue to lead the charge in preventable causes of death, but obesity continues its parabolic curve upward in western countries who supposedly have access to all of the latest science to extend the length and quality of life.
A quote from the above linked Japanese article keenly observes something that most people are not even aware of regarding cholesterol:
"Cholesterol is an essential component for the creation of cell membranes and hormones. It's not recommended to lower LDL figures by means of dietary intake and medication."
Cholesterol is very important for cells throughout the body, especially in the brain. Theoretically statins, by blocking cholesterol absorption, are actually causing slow and chronic brain damage by interrupting a natural pathway in the body to heal mitochondria in cells and the integrity of the cell membranes themselves which are made of phospholipid bilayers a.k.a. fats.
Different Types of Oils
First off it should be known that fats and oils are the same thing. Some fats are solid at room temperature (saturated fats) and some are liquid (oils). These different characteristics of fats help determine which ones should be used for what in regards to cooking and food processing.
Since industrialization and heavy processing of foods is now commonplace for most people, who subside primarily off of these "fake foods" (hence a slew of preventable health problems), there is a reliance on plant fats for processing because they have a very high smoking point.
The smoking point is the temperature when an oil used for cooking starts to "smoke" and break down, often into carcinogenic compounds or "rancid" trans-fats.
You can see different smoke temperatures by putting a bit of the cooking oil or fat on a skillet at a certain heat. Olive oil for instance has a lower smoke temperature meaning that it is more susceptible to breakdown when given heat. Canola and corn oils have a much higher smoke point, and this is why these are common ingredients in ultra-processed foods. You will never see olive oil as a congealing agent in processed foods.
So as a cooking sidenote it is much better to use olive oil directly as a drizzle, perhaps over a salad or a caprese or as a flavor additive. It is not advised to cook high temperature meals with olive oil. Butter would work much better for this as the smoke temperature is higher.
It should be fairly obvious to someone that knows a little about the makeup of food that plants, with the exception of nuts, are generally not eaten for their fat content, which is close to zero. You don't eat corn for the oil, or soybeans. That doesn't mean either of these foods is bad, and they can both have health benefits, but it is unnatural to concentrate the plant oils and consume them.
Even the industry supporting NCBI has a hard time denying the link between vegetable oils and diseases of varying sorts.
That being said not all plant oils are bad, in fact quite the opposite in many cases. Some of the best healthy fats that fight inflammation and provide clean fuel for your body are olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil.
The Importance of Dietary Fat
One of the guidelines I give my health and nutrition clients is fairly simple, and I will repeat it over and over until hopefully it is no longer true: whatever the government generally says about health and wellness, do the exact opposite.
This is certainly true with fats (and sodium but that's another matter).
There is a growing trend to do exactly what I'm saying with the emergence of low carbohydrate and high fat / high protein diets that deliver consistent results. There is the idea of ketosis which means burning fat primarily for fuel instead of sugar which is what most people thrive on.
There is the predator diet high in animal organs and viscera and all of the fats and cholesterol that are contained therein. This diet is said to provide phenomenal anti-inflammatory responses system-wide.
If you look at the healthiest populations on earth, with few exceptions there is a diet which contains lower than usual carbohydrates and increases in fat. I will hone in on the Mediterranean diet here as an example because it is the one that I follow closely myself as a template, and the people that this diet originated with, those in the Mediterranean global region, are among the healthiest I've ever seen. They tend to be very fit and also of note is the amazing skin complexion, hair and teeth health. All three of these factors are helped in part by healthy omega-3 fats, which should be the focus for most people with regards to dietary fat intake.
The Mediterranean diet consists of ample amounts of olive oil and healthy, fresh seafood. Both of these provide phenomenal sources of omega-3 anti-inflammatory fats. After all they are called fish oils for a reason, they come from fatty fish.
Now transition to the American diet and we have a totally different story. Most people are not consuming fish regularly and if they are it is low quality farmed franken-fish fed "food pellets" and "with color added" to make it look like real fish. But like most fake-food in America, it looks and smells like the real thing, but you don't get any of the health benefits and in fact it often becomes detrimental, a double whammy to our health.
The fats we consume here are, again, generally very high processed vegetable oils. Worse yet are the shortenings and trans fats. Instead of "I can't believe its not butter!" it should be called "I can't believe I now have heart disease!" because that's exactly what these bad fats are doing.
To add insult to injury many of these processed foods are slapped with the "Heart Healthy" label from our neighborhood American Heart Association a.k.a. American Sugar Association.
One of the key takeaways from this article should be this and I haven't specified it yet: Generally there are omega-3 fats and omega-6 fats, and these are what make up the membranes and nerve tissues in the body (myelin sheaths). We need both of them to some degree but it is far better to consume omega-3 fatty acids in the form of olive oil and fish oils than it is to consume omega-6s which become inflammatory. Generally we should consume about a 2:1 ratio of omega-3: omega-6 fats in our diet. Currently it is estimated that many people consume the opposite ratio of as high as 20:1 or even 40:1. This means people are eating 20-40 times more omega-6 fats than they should be and this is one reason why chronic inflammation is such a problem in this country.
Remember, every cell in your body has a membrane made up of fats and what makes up these membranes depends heavily on what types of fats we consume. Consuming inflammatory and unhealthy fats means your cell walls will be constructed from inflammatory and unhealthy fats. This creates massive problems chronically.
Also, our brains are mainly fat, so what you eat also determines in part what your brain is made of. And most people are consuming massive quantities of bad fats. Could this be one reason why people are seemingly getting dumber and dumber by the day and in general are slower and less cognitively functional? Imagine the impact this type of diet has on mental disorders which are also on the rise...things like depression and anxiety.
The last idea I'll touch briefly on is that your body uses the most abundant fuel it has for energy. For most people in America this means that it is using sugar because that is a large part of the American diet. Sugar gives quick energy, but it also creates a lot of metabolic waste and wreaks havoc all over the body. When one consumes more of a high healthy fat diet they can ease into what is known as ketosis which is when ketones can be detected in the blood. This means the body is using fat as a fuel. Fat yields more calories per gram and also has almost zero impact on insulin levels. When you're consuming these healthy fats and cutting out sugar your body will start to burn off bodyfat more readily. Partly this is because cells are less insulin resistant (diabetes) so they are more likely to yield their contents for fuel.
There are many different benefits of healthy fats for nutrition and weight loss as well as a higher functioning brain. Strive to add in omega-3 fats and reduce sugar to start reaping these benefits today. Consider it one more tool in the arsenal to combat the plague of obesity and disease and sickness that we see unfolding before our very eyes.