Do you still worry about too much fat in your diet?
After decades of “too much fat” being the one and only diet concern in America, we’ve finally evolved to a more nuanced conversation.
While there are still people out there who believe all fats are bad for you, and on the other side there are people who believe that all fats are good for you, the reality – backed up by scientific research – lies somewhere in between.
The reality is there are fats that HEAL, and fats that KILL.
We actually need fat in our diet. In fact, it’s essential for good health. If that’s surprising to you, it’s understandable. It’s important that you know that it’s NOT your fault that you feel confused and like you’ve been lied to. You have.
The food industry – and even the medical establishment for far too long – sold us on the lie that all dietary fat was harmful. It was demonized as the problem behind obesity, heart disease, and diabetes – 3 of the top killers in the US.
Finally, science has come around to support the facts that some of us have known for a long time, which is that people who consumed more fats (and saturated fats in particular) had a lower incidence of heart disease and diabetes than those who ate less fat.
All along, SUGAR has been the real culprit that is really making us sicker and fatter as a nation. Not coincidentally, after the fat scare went out and the low fat diet craze took hold, rates of heart disease, obesity, elevated cholesterol, and Alzheimer’s skyrocketed – as did the amounts of sugar in food.
But with that said, sugar is not the ONLY culprit killing Americans. Unhealthy, inflammatory fats have also been used more and more as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s rates have soared.
So today, we’re going to talk about which types of fats to avoid because they are making you fatter and sicker, and which to use instead, because they will heal your body and help you live disease-free.
Fats That Kill & Healthy Fats to Swap
1. Vegetable Oils
Vegetable oils are among the highest sources of omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory fats.
Studies of patients in mental hospitals and young adults at ultra-high risk for mental illness have found the average ratio of omega-6:omega-3 fatty acids to be 70:1, which means they are severely deficient in healthy fats and have an over-abundance of inflammatory fats.
The average American has 19 times more pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats than anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in their system at any given time. In many cases, it’s even 25 times more omega-6, and I’ve seen 50 times more, and even 88:1!
This ratio needs to be ideally 1:1, and no more than 3:1 in order to avoid chronic inflammation within your body and brain that leads to issues as simple as a little brain fog or forgetfulness, or much more serious like Alzheimer’s, depression, or heart disease.
Look at ingredient lists and labels for these words for vegetable oils to help keep the amount of omega-6 foods you eat in check:
Healing Fat Swap: Because these oils are primarily used for cooking, the best swap is coconut oil. What is great about coconut oil is that it has a high smoke point, so you can cook with it even at high temperatures. If you typically use these oils in salad dressings and other raw uses, keep reading the sections below.
Coconut oil contains Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), which are the “good for you” kind of saturated fat versus the “artery-clogging” fats you’ll find in cheese, steak, and the types of food you typically think of as saturated fat.
MCTs are good for us due to the fact that they are easily digestible. Our body sends these types of fats straight to the liver where they can be easily converted into energy or something called ketone bodies. The ketone bodies are actually great for the brain, and they’ve been proven to even have therapeutic impact on brain disorders like Alzheimer’s.
2. Seed Oils
Like vegetable oils, these oils are also high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. In fact, you may be surprised to know that grapeseed oil has the worst omega-6:omega-3 ratio out of any food or oil.
Look at ingredient lists and labels for these other names for seed oils:
- Sunflower oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Rapeseed oil
- Sesame oil
Healing Fat Swap: If you’re using these oils for cooking, read the section above for swaps. But for raw purposes like salad dressings and sauces, the best swaps are avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil.
Buyer beware though – look at the sources of your extra virgin olive oil and always opt for good quality. Many of the oils that claim to be 100% extra virgin olive oil actually swap cheaper vegetable oils without labeling as such. So look for brands that press their oils from only olives grown in Australia, Chile, California, or European countries that have been certified.
Chicken is one of the big culprits behind the disastrous levels of inflammatory fats Americans commonly consume today because chicken is so high in ARA (read: pro-inflammatory) omega-6 fatty acids.
In fact, chicken is more than 3 times worse than beef for this pro-inflammatory fat!
These types of meat are the highest in omega-6 fatty acids:
- Cold cuts
- Processed meats like beef jerky and sausage
- Eggs – if you are going to eat eggs, eat the yolks, which contain DHA omega-3 fatty acids
- Farmed fish (including salmon)
Healing Fat Swap: The first thing you can do is minimize the amount of meat you are eating in general so that it’s the side show and not the main event. Just make sure you are swapping vegetables for meat rather than processed carbs (read #4 below).
If and when you do eat meat, it’s all about the source. Organic, free-range chicken is fed less of the grains that are high in unhealthy fats, and as a result, the chicken on your plate has 50% more omega-3 DHA fatty acids than conventional, grain fed poultry (and 40% LESS pro-inflammatory ARA omega-6 fatty acids). The same goes for other meats as well. Opt for grass-fed, free range, and wild-caught rather than farmed.
4. Processed Foods
Most processed foods also contain high amounts of inflammatory fats and low amounts of anti-inflammatory fats, including:
For your all-around health, wellness, and weight, you want to avoid all foods in these categories as much as possible. Remember, it’s about progress, not perfection. So do what you can to minimize these packaged and processed foods in favor whole, nutrient-dense foods.
Healing Fat Swap: You want to opt for foods that are in as close to their natural state as possible. Here are my favorite swaps:
- Swap for cereal → Choose a smoothie for breakfast instead, or if you are craving cereal, make yourself some Alkaline Granola
- Swap for crackers → Try this recipe for flax seed crackers, or Flackers. These do contain a moderate amount of omega-6 fats, so eat in moderation.
- Swap for bread → Ezekiel bread does not contain inflammatory oils like most other store-bought breads.
- Swap for chips → Make your own Kale Chips, Sweet Potato Chips, Zucchini Chips.
- Swap for pastries → Slather your Ezekiel bread with raw almond butter and raw Manuka honey, avocado and lime juice, or grass-fed butter.
- Swap for pasta → Spiralized zucchini or other veggies is the best option. Gluten-free chickpea pasta is better than regular pasta.
- Swap for Mayonnaise → Make your own avocado mayo spread using avocado oil, lemon juice, egg yolks, and salt. Or better yet, just spread avocado where you would use mayo!
- Swap for Margarine → Coconut butter and cacao butter are two great options if you want a vegan spread. Grass-fed butter is a healthier fat than margarine, but it is still mildly acidic.
5. Some Nuts and Seeds
You know nuts and seeds are one of the healthiest types of foods you can eat. But it’s important to know that certain nuts and seeds do contain high amounts of unhealthy fats.
That does not mean you have to avoid them entirely because they do have plenty of health benefits. But eat these nuts and seeds in moderation (1-2 servings a week):
- Pine nuts
- Flax seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Safflower seeds
- Sesame seeds
Healing Fat Swap: Where possible, make swaps like chia seeds, seeds, pumpkin seeds, pecans, Brazil nuts, or macadamia nuts that contain healing fats. Because you don’t need to avoid this category entirely, the other option you can do is balance them out with healthy fats. So if your salad is topped with sesame seeds, add avocado slices too.
The best healthy fat you can consume is a good omega-3 supplement every day. It’s very difficult to eat a diet rich enough in omega-3, and unless you eat salmon 3 meals a day, you are deficient without a supplement.
And omega-3 is not just good for you – it’s necessary for everyone in your family, from your kids right on up. If you have aging adults in your life, make sure they are taking omega-3 supplements to keep their brains sharp. And of course, by taking them yourself, you’re staving off aging and disease while possibly adding quality years to your life.
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