FAT: A Brief Introduction

The idea that saturated fat is the primary cause of obesity and heart disease is finally changing course in the medical and health community.  Gary Taubes, an American science writer in his book “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It” hypothesizes that Carbohydrates generate insulin, which causes the body to store fat.  It’s been a long road from when Proctor & Gamble’s Crisco was invented in the early 1900’s and soon became a household name.  It was the first time Hydrogenated oils were used and because they were plant based, were thought to be a better cooking oil than it’s immediate predecessor: Lard.  Entire industries and new food-like products sprang up as a result of this newly found, supposedly “heart healthy” oil product that was cheap, easy to make and very shelf stable.

coconut_oil

Spoonful of Coconut goodness – it is liquid above 76 degrees. Solid, like in this image below 76.

Unfortunately, the data didn’t ever support this, then or now, and it’s pretty clear that diets with less saturated fat generally have a higher rate of heart disease.  That’s one of the reasons Coconut oil is “all the rage” now, and seen on every aisle and every health blog out there.  Back in the 80’s, the American Soybean Association went on a PR blitz trying to obliterate all other tropical oils to make way for their vegetable oils.  Well, it worked.  To this day, the myth of coconut oil in particular being unhealthy still lingers, because unlike most vegetable oils, it is indeed high in saturated fat…and considered downright evil.

Keep in mind that Coconut Oil has been a staple in the diets (and for endless topical uses as well) of most of the world’s tropical populations without any history of heart disease.  What the food-oil industry PR campaigns missed was that while Coconut oil is indeed saturated, there are many varying types of fats.  Coconut Oil consists mainly of medium chain fatty acids.  In laymen’s terms, this means that this kind of fat is burned immediately, as a source of energy, and not stored as fat OR converted to cholesterol (thus also punching holes in the theory that Cholesterol is fat’s evil partner as another key contributor to heart disease).  None of this news on saturated fats is to say that all saturated fats are good in endless amounts, so don’t go thinking tons of fast food burgers are suddenly okay.

What else is Coconut Oil good for?  The list is really long, and although anything that calls itself a “miracle” seems dubious to me, I do highly recommend the book by Bruce Fife titled The Coconut Oil Miracle. 

How about these for starters:

  • Overall general immune support – due to the healthy fats lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid which contain antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral properties
  • Helps manage Type 2 diabetes – by protecting against insulin resistance
  • Eases digestion, bloating and even irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Eases skin lines – keeping skin’s connective tissue strong (use topically AND ingested)
  • Helps sugar cravings – reaching for a spoonful of coconut oil instead of an afternoon sweet because a quality fat is more satisfying than carbs
  • Outstanding cooking oil – has a high smoke point, and doesn’t oxidize like most other oils.

I think the primary take away is that the KIND of oils we consume, alone with whole, minimally processed foods is critical to good health.  For example, while we need Omega-6 fats for sure, the Standard American Diet is way out of whack with regards to the proportion as compared to the Omega-3 fats.  Still eating margarine?  STOP NOW, and bring back the butter.  And Coconut Oil.  And Olive Oil (best when eaten raw, as in a salad dressing).

Some other oils to consider are avocado and hemp.  Steer clear of run of the mill vegetable oils, especially soy, cottonseed or even canola.  Yes, Canola is another great PR campaign gone awry…..while most oils are named for the fruit or source they come from, ever hear of a canola plant?  It doesn’t (really) exist.

Keep quality fats, and ample portions of them in your diet as a means to radiant health.  In our house, we’re trying hard to get at least tsp/day into the kids.  Give it a try….prices are way down on bulk sizes of quality, minimally processed, organic and extra virgin Coconut oil.

As a side note, give Jackson’s Honest Chips chips a try.  They’re delicious…organic potatoes, 100% coconut oil and sea salt!

REAL FATS ARE GOOD- “….even the maligned saturated fats and its corollary, INDUSTRIAL FATS ARE BAD. It’s not complicated. Eat real fats and avoid industrial ones.”  Nina Planck, Real Food for Mother and Baby.

“America Needs An Oil Change” – Quote from the side of the Nutiva Coconut Oil Container in our kitchen. 

References:

The Atlantic

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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