Having knocked out a few basic definitions about fats yesterday, I’d like to keep the conversation going by breaking down dietary fats by type—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Here’s everything you need to know…
In my view, saturated fats get a really bad rap—not only in medical literature but in mainstream nutrition circles as well.
These fats are found in meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, margarine, and some tropical oils (including coconut oil). And they take the fall for everything that ails us: Heart disease, cancer, you name it.
But as I’m always telling you, there are a lot of health benefits if the fat has not been tampered with by man. That means the fish has to be wild-caught, the poultry pastured, and the meats grass-fed and -finished.
Because then, saturated fat actually becomes the star of your diet. (There’s no healthier food than a grass-finished piece of beef, a wild-caught piece of salmon, or a pasture-raised piece of chicken!)
And let’s not forget that some saturated fats in and of themselves have health properties, such as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which have a reputation for burning fat. (That’s why many people put this in their coffee as a metabolism booster.)
Plus, some tropical oils (coconut oil, in particular) contain high levels of anti-viral components such as lauric acid, too… which help fight pathogens. (This is also found in breastmilk.)
Butter is mostly saturated fat, which is why it has a bad reputation among mainstream nutritionists. However, just like the saturated fat found in naturally raised beef, poultry, and fish, butter is also a health food IF it comes from grass-fed and -finished cows that have not been fed hormones or antibiotics.
And, despite popular misconceptions, it’s a far superior choice to margarine—which is basically a big lump of trans fat—or any other butter substitute, for that matter.
Corn, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils are the most common examples of polyunsaturated fats. They pervade our food supply and are found in every processed food and most restaurant foods.
I can only assume the reason why they have a good reputation is because they are cheap—and are used extensively in packaged food. But the fact is, they lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol and are associated with higher cancer rates.
Omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids are actually in a subcategory of polyunsaturated fats. But these fats have quite different properties…
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to good health. Two of the most popular forms are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)—found in fatty fish.
EPA is anti-inflammatory, lowers triglycerides, improves depression, and reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack and some cancers. It has also been linked to the prevention of Alzheimer’s and premature births.
And DHA ensures normal eyesight and brain development. Plus, some research shows it may even be effective in killing cancer cells.
Omega-6 fatty acids
Omega-6 is another essential fatty acid. However, it’s largely pro-inflammatory and can worsen conditions like asthma, arthritis, heart disease, and insulin resistance.
The problem with this essential fatty acid is that the Standard American Diet (SAD) contains high amounts of omega-6s… and they overpower the beneficial omega-3s. (Keep in mind that our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate a rather precise balance of omega-3s to omega-6s.)
In fact, following the SAD brings this ratio to about 20:1, inflammatory to anti-inflammatory. (Is it any wonder why disease plagues so many of us?)
To help keep your intake of omega-6 fatty acids down, just say no to junk food—and yes to healthy, whole foods that are naturally high in these acids, like walnuts and pumpkin seeds.
These are neutral, heart-healthy fats. And they’ve become greatly appreciated because of the Mediterranean diet. (Olive oil is a rich source.)
But it’s not hard to understand why…
Monounsaturated fats lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol, improve insulin resistance and metabolism, and are associated with a lower breast cancer risk. They also help cell membranes incorporate the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, which keep those membranes flexible and more effective.
P.S. As today’s discussion reveals, it’s important to pay attention to the type of oils you’re consuming. We’ll dive deeper into why during out next discussion. Stay tuned!
P.P.S. Regulating chronic inflammation is the best way to help prevent and turn the tide on illness. That’s why, this Sunday, September 19th at 3:00 p.m. (EDT), I’ll be hosting my Combat Your Inflammation Summit. To reserve your spot to this exclusive event, click here now!