Module 3: Fats
The lack of fat is one of the primary reasons “diets don’t work.”
People who go on standard “eat six small meals a day” diets typically also eat foods they don’t like because they don’t have much fat.
And then people wonder why they feel miserable. Why they’re hungry all the time. Fat in foods helps us feel full and satisfied. Satiated.
Fats give taste to food. And they are high in calories. Protein and carbohydrates have four calories per gram. Fat contains nine calories per gram.
Fats are probably the most controversial of the three macronutrients.
Everyone agrees we need adequate protein. Almost (though not all) everyone agrees we need some carbohydrates.
We do need certain fats, called essential fatty acids. But how much?
I’ve seen a raw food vegan freak out at consuming the fat contained in one single avocado.
And yet the current trendy diet is ketogenic. With carbohydrates and protein limited to (at most) 20% of calories, that leaves people consuming 80% of their calories as fat.
That’s a lot.
What is the best ratio for human health? Nobody truly knows.
Lots of people claim they do, but they’re all fighting about it.
If one has cancer, I believe fasting to achieve ketogenesis and starve the cancer of sugar is no doubt a good idea.
And eating a high-healthy-fat diet to stay in ketogenesis may also be a good idea, as long as we eat healthy protein and healthy carbohydrates as well.
If we do not have cancer (or epilepsy or another neuro-degenerative disease), The ketogenic is not the best diet for us.
And it would be difficult to eat substantial amounts of the many whole plant foods covered in this book. Which do have scientific studies documenting their efficacy in preventing and fighting cancer.
Therefore, this book comes out in favor of a whole plant food based diet, with adequate protein and fat consumption from the healthiest possible sources.
For years the dialogue has gone to extremes on all sides.
Around the 1960s, various doctors, experts, and commercial food interests attacked animal fat and dietary cholesterol as a source of heart disease, with a great deal of justification.
However, their solutions included substituting vegetable oils or margarine for animal fat.
We now know those are highly inflammatory, and more dangerous than animal fats.
And the food industry removed fat from food products. However, when they did so, the food tasted flat. So, to make it enjoyable to eat, they added sugar.
Americans began eating less fat, but a lot more carbs, especially sugar. And began to get fatter.
In 1976, Dr. Robert Atkins counterattacked the carbohydrate industry. He accurately targeted refined carbs and sugar as dietary villains. But his original diet (no matter how modified or covered up later) was no-carbs, eat all the protein and fats of any kind we want to eat.
One did lose weight but at the expense of their heart and blood vessels. And they did not consume any antioxidants or phytonutrients. After a week or so, they developed incredible carb-cravings. Few people could tolerate it for long.
In 1995 The Zone by Dr. Barry Sears brought a lot more rationality and balance to the discussion. Sears stepped back to look at the big macronutrient picture and recommends people eat 30% fat, 30% protein and 40% carbohydrates.
And he recommends the 30% fat calories come mainly from healthy, monounsaturated fats.
Whether that’s the healthiest possible human diet, I don’t know, but we could sure do a lot worse.
And I’ve noticed over the years that when many experts and scientific studies attack fat, they use “high-fat” as a catchphrase.
Did the subjects of that study eat all saturated fats? Vegetable oils and margarine? Or ate macadamia nuts?
That could make a big difference in their health.
And sometimes “pro-fat” proponents use “high carbohydrate” as a catchphrase without specifying whether they mean a diet high in sugar or high in broccoli.
That too would make a big difference.
Here are the different kinds of fat:
All the fats we get from animals (meat, milk and egg yolks) are saturated. A few plant oils, such as coconut and palm oil, are also saturated. Most experts say they are bad because they are inflammatory.
To my mind, some degree of saturated fats must be all right because cave people certainly ate saturated fats from the animals they hunted and killed.
True, wild meat is a lot leaner than beef from contemporary factory farms, but cave people probably ate all the inside organs as well as the muscle flesh, and those brains and heart contained plenty of saturated fat.
And there is yet a study comparing the long-term results of eating saturated fats from organic, grass-fed cows (and other animals) to eating saturated fats from factory farmed animals.
Therefore, don’t be paranoid about saturated fats but don’t gorge out on them either.
On a whole plant food based diet, meat is just one added ingredient, not the main course.
The meat and dairy products we consume should be from grass-fed cows. And the eggs we eat should be from free-range chickens.
This means to avoid all commercial meat, dairy, and eggs in supermarkets and restaurants.
Here’s a good article about finding grass-fed butter:1
That’s the only kind of butter that contains Vitamin K2 and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
These are in various plants and nuts. Vegetable cooking oils are polyunsaturated.
The major current problem is that Americans have been scammed into using cheap vegetable oils for cooking, and so they eat way too many Omega-6 fatty acids.
Factory farmed animal meat, dairy and eggs are high in Omega-6s.
We need some Omega-6 to help the immune system react to infections with inflammation, coagulate the blood and stimulate cell growth.
Sometimes we need those biological processes, but only sometimes.
We don’t want to stimulate inflammation when we’re not infected. Chronic inflammation encourages lots of diseases, including cancer.
Coagulating blood moves more slowly through our arteries.
And, when we see the words “stimulate cell growth,” that should set off an alarm bell in our mind if we’re over the age of 25.
We want our cells to grow only to replace dead cells and to repair injuries.
We’re no longer a child. We don’t want to encourage more cell growth.
Cell growth in adults too easily translates into “cancer.”
That’s why the Omega-6s we eat should be balanced with Omega-3s in a 1:1 ratio. No more than 2:1.
Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats that lower inflammation, put a cap on cell growth and make the blood more fluid.
The three Omega-3 fats are:
* ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
* DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
* EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
Unfortunately, they’re harder to get in our diet.
DHA and EPA are the two forms of Omega-3s we need. They are found in nature mainly in marine animals such as fish and krill.
We can get ALA from plant sources (flax, hemp and chia seeds & walnuts), but it does not easily convert into DHA and EPA.
Meat, dairy and eggs from animals that have been raised and fed with their natural diet are much higher in Omega-3s than are factory farmed meat, dairy and eggs.
These are the ultimate good fats. They lower inflammation and our levels of the “bad” LDL cholesterol.
* Macadamia nuts
* Avocados and avocado oil
* Olives and olive oil
* Many other nuts, including almonds
* Many seeds, including pumpkin and sesame
These are the actual bad guys. All the experts agree: stay away from trans fats. They’re the worst of all worlds.
They raise our bad LDL cholesterol and lower our good HDL. They put us at higher risk for heart disease.2
They are pro-oxidative, meaning they increase damage to your cells.3
They increase our inflammation and our insulin resistance.4, 5
They’re made by food manufacturers hydrogenating vegetable oils.
However, they are common in processed, commercial and restaurant food. Look for labels containing “hydrogenated.”
In the United States, the food industry is required to get rid of trans fats in 2018.
Experts believe eliminating trans fat from the food supply will save 200,000 lives a year.6
And there are natural trans fats in the meat and dairy of some cattle, sheep, and goats. This is a disputed issue. Some claim these natural trans fats are also bad, and avoiding them is a good reason to go vegan.
Other experts claim the amounts are too small to matter, and there are not enough of them to damage our health.7
Meat and dairy should be a small, but only a small, part of our diet.
A focus on whole plant foods, then we won’t have room to eat a lot of natural trans fats.
We can’t give an exact percentage of how much fat to eat.
Nobody knows what that it is. It may be different for each individual.
And measuring such percentages gets ridiculous for those of us who don’t weigh and measure every ounce of food we eat.
We say this:
Eat a number of healthy oils that make us feel satisfied.
Eat what goes along with minimizing animal food and maximizing whole plant foods, so we do eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, and nuts.
(For example, I enjoy eating a large salad with cabbage, kale, carrots, and other greens . . . so long as I eat olive or avocado oil along with it.)
* Commercial meat, dairy, and eggs
* All processed and commercial foods with trans fats
* Commercial vegetable cooking oils
* Excessive amounts of organic, naturally fed meat, dairy, and eggs
* Moderate amounts of grass-fed beef and dairy, and eggs from free-range chickens
* Avocados & avocado oil
* Extra virgin coconut oil
* Extra virgin olive oil
* Omega-3s from fish or krill oil
Fat > Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil has become the most well-known of the healthy fats because it’s a traditional staple of Mediterranean cooking.
Research shows olive oil contains polyphenols and antioxidants that have a powerful impact on preventing cancer and killing cancer cells.
* Phenylpropionic acids
* Lignans8, 9, 10, 11
The main fatty acid in olive oil is oleic acid. Oleic acid and the polyphenols inhibit the expression of the HER2 gene which is associated with 20% of breast cancer cases.
Suppressing that gene is how a conventional breast cancer medication, Herceptin works.
If we’re already on Herceptin, consumption of olive oil may help made that medication more effective.12, 13
One controversy about olive oil pertains to whether or not we should cook with it.
We can. However, if we do so, we risk destroying some of those polyphenols.
Therefore, we advise against it. 14
Fats > Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is another controversial subject.
Low-fat vegan types say it’s no good because it’s so high in saturated fat. Even though it comes from a plant, saturated fat is evil and, therefore, coconut oil can’t be good for us.
The other side says coconut oil contains healthy medium chain triglycerides and lauric acid.
And people in undeveloped agricultural communities where coconut palm trees grow eat a lot of coconut without getting chronic diseases.15
In a recent experiment, coconut oil wiped out 93% of colon cancer cells in a petri dish.16
We can’t promise that eating extra virgin coconut will kill 93% of our cancer cells, but we don’t believe that eating a moderate amount of it will harm us.
That’s as long as the vast majority of our food comes from indisputably healthy vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds.