Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Saturated Fat - Not Really the Devil?

Strong scientific evidence is now arriving which indicates that the much maligned saturated fat we have all been told to avoid for more than 50 years is really not that bad for you all. As a matter of fat, some saturated fat is required for health and cellular construction. That said, this is not a green flag to begin eating foods containing lots of fats because as it turns out, saturated fats are a close neighbor to the real culprits in destruction of our health.

The main reason for the association between cardiovascular disease and saturated fat is back in the 1950's, researchers began to notice that those individuals with the highest sat fat intake also seemed to exhibit the highest incidences of heart attacks and related cardio problems. But a true analysis into the problem was never fully undertaken, that is to really determine if sat fat was the actual cause by eliminating any other factors. Western diets at this time were moving away from he traditional foods that 'Grandma' would cook, and more toward the quick convenience foods and fast foods which quickly gained popularity with many of today's 'baby-boomers'. It was an easy stretch to make the association between the higher amounts of saturated fats in the diet with the rapidly rising incidence of heart disease.

The food elements which were never taken into account are the highly refined carbohydrates and trans fats which were mixing with the saturated fats in an ever increasing proportion in our food supply. Convenience foods needed to have longer shelf lives, and synthetic trans fats were the inexpensive means to allow that Twinkie to sit on the shelf for very long periods of time. Also, trans fats were being introduced into the diet in a much higher proportion by the cooking process associated with fast food production, namely frying and charred cooking of meats. Our diets had switched from mostly home-cooked to the extremely atherogenic convenience-food lifestyle. Heart attacks by 1970 were increasing at an exponential rate, especially in the vulnerable male population... and then things got worse.

In the early 1970's came the introduction of high fructose corn syrup. It was an easy, 'natural' method of sweetening almost everything, and has ended up in virtually every processed food in today's grocery store. Interesting is that the incidence of diabetes has also increased two to three fold during the same time frame. Science is showing that this foreign substance (it is artificially created, and not seen as a natural food substance by the body) is not processed by the liver, does not register as calories by the body, and is quickly converted in to fat for storage when consumed as excess calories (which is almost always the case). Today we see an epidemic of obese pre-teens who are either diabetic or pre-diabetic.

So we can now see that saturated fats are really not the enemy, but an innocent bystander for the most part. They actually provide us with immune benefits, proper fuel for the heart muscle, lower cholesterol and provide genetic stability. The problem occurs in that for the vast majority, they are always consumed with the real villains, as trans-fats (through high heat cooking which converts fats into trans fats) or in the presence of highly refined carbohydrates and high fructose corn syrup. Read the label of virtually any processed food and you will likely find one of these villains lurking under an assumed name of some sort.

For this reason, it is essential to consume 80 - 90 % (or more) of your diet as unrefined: raw vegetables, lean protein and meats, un-roasted nuts, seeds, legumes and minimal fruits (they still contain fructose which many people do not properly digest). Eliminate the quick convenience and fast foods, anything which comes in a box, can or jar. You will find that your body is quickly able to 'remodel' it's cellular matrix, and after eliminating sweet food sources for two weeks, you won't miss them at all. In fact, you'll wonder how you every enjoyed anything so sweet!

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