The Skinny on Fats
“Heart disease and stroke can be prevented through healthy diet, regular physical activity
and avoiding tobacco smoke. Individuals can reduce their risk of CVDs [cardiovascular diseases] by engaging in regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco use and second-hand tobacco smoke, choosing a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and avoiding foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt, and maintaining a healthy body weight and avoiding the harmful use of alcohol.”
The World Health Organization (www.who.int), 2013
The World Health Organization notes that heart disease and strokes are the first leading cause of deaths worldwide. We all know – from advertising, our doctors, media articles and “common sense” – that fat, sugar and salt are the primary culprits in heart disease, high blood pressure, elevated “bad” cholesterol, diabetes and obesity: in short, America’s primary health concerns.
And this is where the major marketing engine revs up.
The term low-fat is now ubiquitous in America. We have low-fat versions of virtually every food and drink imaginable, from milk and soda to cookies, crackers, desserts, salad dressings, meat products and even baby foods. This is because marketers have capitalized on certain vague – and unproven – claims about the connection between a high-fat diet and heart disease.
As a result, it’s now common knowledge that if you want to be healthy and live longer, you have to reduce the fat in your diet. And there are thousands of products readily available in every grocery store to help you do just that.
The great English poet Alexander Pope wrote, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Modern advertising relies almost exclusively on providing a very little knowledge and convincing you that it’s all you need to know to make the best decisions about what to buy.
Hence, our current health crisis.
It’s a huge issue, but we start unraveling it by setting the record straight about fats in our food.
Going back thousands of years, humans have derived fats mainly from animals. Butter comes from milk (cow, goat, sheep); tallow and suet from beef and lamb; lard from pigs; rendered fats from fowl like chicken, geese and ducks; and occasionally fats from plants like palms, coconuts, olives or avocados. Most of these are saturated fats (solid at room temperature).
We’ve been told these saturated fats are the main cause of heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and other problems. On the other hand, many studies over the years have consistently suggested that processed liquid vegetable oils – corn, soy, sunflower, safflower, canola and others – that are processed at high heat are packed with free radicals.
Free radicals are to the human body what water is to iron. You’ve seen rusted metal. Free radicals produce the same results in your body, prematurely ageing and breaking down your internal organs and connective tissue.
Then, these liquid oils are treated with artificially hardened vegetable oil – called trans-fat – that turns out to be the actual cause of all those health conditions we don’t want. Natural saturated fats, it turns out, are actually good for you, whereas the oils we’ve been told are better for us are causing all kinds of problems with our physiology.
Saturated fats are extremely important to our body chemistry. Our cardiovascular system prefers them and can use them to maintain heart and circulatory health. They strengthen the immune system and improve inter-cellular communication. That means they help prevent various cancer states. They boost cell membrane receptors, including those for insulin, which helps to prevent diabetes. They keep the lungs healthy, which is why children who consume butter and full-fat milk have fewer issues with asthma. Saturated fats are also a key component to kidney function and hormone production and contribute enormously to nervous system function and brain health. They also contain significant amounts of vitamins A, D and K2, which we all need to avoid contagious diseases.
This has been the common state of human health for thousands of years.
Today, however, we have trans fats and partially hydrogenated and fully hydrogenated oils, and the cooking oil section of your local grocery store is stocked entirely with liquid plant-based oils. These artificial, unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are relatively new to the human experience. The results have not been awesome.
Polyunsaturated fats, for instance, in more than very small amounts, are known to contribute to cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases – like arthritis, lupus, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and many others – learning disabilities, intestinal problems of all sorts and, of course, premature ageing.
Hydrogenated oils of any origin – including Crisco and margarines – are revealing themselves to be unsafe for human consumption in any amount. In fact, they’re only one molecule away from plastic. This thickened and highly processed oil product, being very dense, actually causes your blood to thicken and makes it much harder for the heart to pump it through your system. This is one of the major ways that hydrogenated oils contribute to high blood pressure.
The thicker blood also has a tendency to stick to arterial walls and can build up as arterial plaque. This can happen quickly, within minutes of eating any food that contains this artificial ingredient. Scarring of the arterial walls can contribute to high cholesterol because the body uses cholesterol to repair arterial damage. More damage means the body produces more cholesterol. Adding to the scarring is the trace metals used as part of the hydrogenation process – metals like nickel, platinum or even aluminum, which is particularly toxic to human physiology.
Furthermore, thickened blood cannot circulate as freely as it needs to in the brain.
Hydrogenated oils slow this micro-circulation and can lead to various emotional and physical imbalances like Alzheimer’s Parkinson’s, ADHD and depression.
Do a quick tally in your head of all the money we’ve thus far accounted for annually just in the United States: diabetes medications, high blood pressure medications, statin drugs for high cholesterol, blood thinners, surgeries, rehabilitation efforts following heart attack or stroke. The list goes on and on and accounts for many billions of dollars in revenue for our “health care” industry every year.
Incidentally, the same few major corporate entities that produce our food also control our “health care”, advertising and pharmaceutical industries. Now there’s a coincidence. Is it an accident that the “food” we’re eating is actually making us terribly sick? Consider that the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. is overwhelming medical bills.
So, what can you do about this?
First of all, read ingredients labels. That’s why they’re there. You have a right to know what’s in the food you spend your money on. (Ideally, you’ll grow your own food. We’ll talk about that in a future article.)
If you see “partially hydrogenated” or “fully hydrogenated” oil of any kind as an ingredient, return that item to the shelf and move on. You don’t want it, no matter how tasty it might be. These oils are unsafe at any level of consumption. And you may be startled to notice how many products on the store shelves contain this particular poison. (Poison: a substance with an inherent property that tends to destroy life or impair health.) You’re likely to find better results with off-brands. Most heavily-advertised major name brands are virtually inedible.
If the product you’re looking at contains a vegetable-based oil – such as cottonseed, canola, safflower, sunflower, peanut, etc. – consider putting it back. These are almost entirely unsaturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated oils that are the prime instigators of long-term debilitating conditions – including cancer. You’ve been told they’re “heart healthy” options. Again, consider the source of this message.
If you’re just and feel the need to drive-through a fast-food place, ask yourself this question: how much is this food going to cost me? Did you know that fast food is a major cause – not only of all the serious conditions we’ve already mentioned – but also of depression, anxiety, and such extreme imbalances as bipolar disorder? It’s true. The sky-rocketing numbers of people on anti-anxiety medications alone is proof of this. The world isn’t really more stressful than ever before; it’s simply more poisoned.
So what’s left to eat?
Locally-grown organic fruits and vegetables. Pasture-fed beef. Free-range chicken. Wild, ocean-caught fish. Anything you’re grown yourself (of course). Olive oil and virgin cold-pressed coconut oil. Home-made sourdough bread (which is totally easy to make; I’ll give you the recipe and instructions). Home-made salsa and guacamole (raw foods). So many things, actually.
Modern conveniences are threatening to kill us all, slowly and painfully. Do you really want that? Do you have enough time in your day to choose foods that won’t kill you? Can you disconnect your TV, or at least vow to avoid any product you see advertised on it? That would be a great start.
There’s always hope for health, long life, and happiness. It starts with more-than-a-little-knowledge. It starts with making decisions for your own true wellness and ignoring the marketing machine you see all around you. Let that engine run out of gas.
You’re worth it.