Blog: Healthy Eating = Healthy Living - Lose weight the right wa...
by OntheBorder

8. Good fats vs Bad fats

How to speed up fat loss and boost metabolism.

Date:   4/9/2009 12:00:21 PM   ( 10 y ) ... viewed 1754 times

Fats made simple

Most books on nutrition give a long discussion on the chemistry of fatty acids. They are filled with charts of fat molecules and talk of hydrogen, carbon, bonds, double bonds, methyl groups and carboxyl groups.

I've always found that any time I started discussing this complicated scientific stuff in detail with anyone, they started dozing off or they just sat there, jaw agape, face expressionless in a blank stare like a deer caught in headlights.

During the 80s and early 90s, the magazines, television and nearly all the media pounded the message into our brains that fat was bad. No distinction was made between types of fats - the message was black and white; "Fat is unhealthy and fat makes you fat."

This spawned an entire industry of fat-free foods such as cakes, cookies, candy, ice cream, yogurt, frozen dinners, lunch meats and nearly every other food you can think of. This was the age of the fat-free Snack well cookies and Entenmanns cakes, and almost all of us partook of these deliciously sweet and seemingly guilt-free goodies. We ate them without fear because we believed it was okay since the label said "FAT FREE!"

Even though the consumption of dietary fat decreased dramatically over the past two decades, a very strange thing happened: The incidence of obesity and health problems continued to rise through the 80s into the 90s and it still hasn't stopped.

If collectively, we all cut the fat out of our diets in the 80s and 90s, then how could it be that we continued to get fatter and our health deteriorated? Part of the answer is so glaringly obvious it's almost embarrassing:


What's happened over the past two decades is that many people cut out the fat, and simply replaced it with refined sugar. Even foods that always were fat free all of a sudden started sporting new labels that proudly proclaimed "NO FAT!" A food can say "fat free" on the label and be 100% sugar! If you eat a lot of sugar or if you eat more calories than you burn, it doesn't matter how little dietary fat you eat - you're still going to get fat!

Why you should always eat a little "good fat"

Fat phobia has been so deeply ingrained into the consciousnesses of most people, it's important that the reasons why you should eat a little good fat are clearly explained.

1. A zero fat or very low fat diet puts you into the starvation zone

Low calories and skipping meals aren't the only things that send you into "survival mode." When dietary fat intake is reduced to less than 1 0% of total daily calories, this also sets off the starvation alarm.

2. A zero fat or very low fat diet causes large fluctuations in blood sugar

Fat slows down the release of carbohydrates into the bloodstream. When large amounts of simple and refined carbohydrates are eaten alone, they shoot rapidly into the bloodstream, creating a large spike in blood sugar.

3. A zero fat or very low fat diet causes greater insulin release

When your blood sugar spikes, your pancreas releases a lot of insulin to bring blood sugar back down to normal. Moderate amounts of insulin are necessary (and anabolic). Large amounts or insulin are lipogenic (cause fat storage) and anti-lipolyic (prevent fat release).

4. A zero fat or very low fat diet causes hormonally related hunger and cravings

You can have more willpower than a celibate monk in the Playboy mansion, but if you get hormonally induced hunger, you won't to be able to fight it. Whenever there's an unusually large blood sugar spike, it's a law of nature that there must be an equal or greater valley. This blood sugar valley, known as hypoglycemia, is the cause of those intense, almost irresistible cravings that send you frantically to the nearest Baskin Robbins or Krispy Kreme store.

5. A zero or very low fat diet reduces testosterone

Low dietary fat levels are correlated with low testosterone levels. For someone trying to become leaner and more muscular, this spells disaster.

6. A zero or very low fat diet can be deficient in essential fatty acids

Clinical fatty acid deficiencies are rare, but if you intentionally try to remove most of the fat from your diet, you could come up short of the "optimal" levels. Essential fatty acid (EF A) deficiency can impair fat burning, reduce your energy and cause a whole host of other problems.

Ignore the high fat diet "cult"

It's easy to overlook the fundamentals and disregard common sense in our quest for some esoteric magical formula. Frankly, there are some really stupid things being said about nutrition these days and eating high fats (especially saturated and processed fats) is one of them. The high fat diet is totally without scientific or practical basis. It's a marketing scheme.

The high fat diet cult will try to convert you with arguments that sound very convincing. They'll cite scientific studies. They'll say it's the reason the Bulgarian weightlifters achieved world dominance in Olympic lifting. They'll say the metabolic state of ketosis is the #1 secret to fat loss. They'll even say top bodybuilders are using it to get more ripped than ever, and surely, some pro bodybuilder will accept money to have his picture used in the ad -even though he's never even tried a high fat diet!

Proponents of high fat diets such as the Atkins Diet claim that saturated fats are not bad for you. They frequently cite the Eskimos as an example. Eskimos, living in an arctic climate, do not have ready access to fresh fruits, vegetables and grains, so their diet is composed mostly of meat and fat - about 60% fat to be exact - yet they are perfectly healthy.

What the high fat advocates fail to mention is that a very large portion of the fats eaten by the Eskimos come from fish, whale blubber and other unprocessed fats. The omega 3 fatty acids probably had a cardio-protective effect, which prevented the Eskimos from having a high incidence of disease. This is nothing like the high fat diets of modern Americans, which allow processed fatty meats, hydrogenated oils, baked goods, fried foods, supermarket oils and other highly processed fats.

The link between saturated fat and disease is very well documented. However, eating the right amounts of cardio-protective EFAs seems to counter balance some of the negative effects of saturated fats. If you optimize your intake of the good omega 3 and omega 6 fats, then you can use moderate amounts of saturated fats without fear. Leaving small amounts of saturated fats in your diet, such as some lean red meat (preferably grass. fed) and/or one or two egg yolks per day (instead of throwing all the yolks away), is not only permissible, it can actually be beneficial. Still, it's not wise to eat a lot of saturated fat, nor should you eat a large portion of your total calories from fat - especially if you're eating a mixed diet that also contains ample amounts of carbohydrates.

Why a high fat diet is no good

Even though there are major differences in the various types of fats, you should almost always keep your overall fat intake relatively low (30% or less, preferably closer to 20%). There are eight primary reasons why:

1. Fat is more calorie dense than any other source of calories.
2. Fats have the lowest thermic effect of all foods.
3. Saturated and processed fats (Trans fatty acids) cause serious health problems
4. A high fat diet doesn't leave room for enough protein or carbohydrates
5. Saturated fats reduce insulin sensitivity
6. Dietary fat gets stored more easily as fat than any other nutrient
7. Dietary fat is not an efficient fuel source for high intensity muscular work
8. Large amounts of dietary fat do not assist muscle growth

Good fats have a different molecular structure than bad fats

So now you know why the two extreme approaches - very high fat or very low fat are not effective. You're now ready to start learning exactly which types of fats you should be eating, and which you should avoid. To choose your fats properly, you need to understand the differences between them.

There are three types of fatty acids, some helpful, some harmful. Every fat or oil consists of a combination of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Saturated fats in general are harmful and raise blood cholesterol. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, on the other hand, tend to lower levels of blood cholesterol and contain healthy essential fatty acids (EFA's) such as omega 3’s and omega 6's.
Fats are made up of chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms linked together. A fatty acid molecule is made of a carbon backbone, like this:

C – C – C – C

Now, attached to the carbon backbone are hydrogen atoms, like this:

| | |
H – C – C – C – C – H
| | |

How saturated a fat is depends on whether there are any spaces left on the carbon chain. If all the carbons have hydrogen attached to them, the fat is saturated. If there are any carbons that aren't hitched up to Hydrogen, then the fat is unsaturated.

| |
H – C – C = C – C – H
| | | |

(these drawings of the carbon and hydrogen are not showing up right.)

The reason I bother with this basic chemistry is because you need to realize that not all fats are the same chemically. Depending on the molecular structure, each fat can have totally different properties. The molecular structure of saturated fats makes them "sticky," which makes you more prone to heart attacks and strokes. They also interfere with insulin function, which is important when you want to lose fat.

The unsaturated fats have benefits and protective effects. They can improve insulin function, counteract some of the negative effects of saturated fats (as in the Eskimo example), increase your energy and help you lose body fat.

1. Saturated fat

Saturated fats are the most harmful, leading to increased levels of cholesterol in the blood. They also lack the essential fatty acids you're looking for. Butter, cheese, chocolate, egg yolk, meat fat, dairy fat, shortening, palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil are all saturated fats. With the exception of the tropical oils (palm, palm kernel and coconut), saturated fats are primarily animal fats and for the most part, they tend to be solid at room temperature.

2. Unsaturated fat (Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated)

Vegetable fats are mostly poly or mono unsaturated. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats tend to lower levels of blood cholesterol and contain the healthy essential fatty acids (BFA's) such as omega 3's and omega 6's. Polyunsaturated fats include fish, walnuts, pecans, almonds, flax, some salad dressings, soybean oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil. Monounsaturated fats include avocados, cashews, peanuts, pecans, natural peanut butter, olives and olive oil.

Essential fatty acids (EFA's)

Like other "essential" nutrients such as "essential" amino acids, an essential fatty acid is one that the body cannot make and must be supplied through the diet. The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats contain the essential fats - these are the good guys. Essential fatty acids are found in all the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats

The two EFA's are
Omega 6 - (linoleic acid or LA)
Omega 3 - (alpha linolenic or LNA)

The amazing benefits of good fats (EFA's)

Most people aren't getting optimal amounts of Omega 3 essential fatty acids. The classic symptom of EFA deficiency is dry, flaky skin. Omega 3's can be provided by food or with an EFA supplement. Smooth, velvety skin is just one of many benefits of EFA's. There are at least eleven important function of EFA's in your diet:

√ EFA's improve insulin sensitivity
√ EFA's are required for absorption of fat soluble vitamins
√ EFA's are essential for joint health
√ EFA's are required for energy production
√ EFA's are required for Oxygen transfer
√ EFA's maintain cell membrane integrity
√ EFA's suppress cortisol production
√ EFA's improve skin texture (dry skin is a classic symptom of EFA deficiency)
√ EFA's are growth promoting
√ EFA's increase metabolic rate
√ EFA's help burn fat

Avoid saturated fats as much as possible

There's never any good reason to include large amounts of saturated fats in your diet. The only saturated fats you should take in is the small amount that comes in your chicken breasts and poultry and the small amounts you'll get in the occasional cut of lean red meat and egg yolk or two.

Reduce your total fat intake in general

Keep in mind that every fat or oil gets 100% of its calories from fat. Olive oil for example, is more healthful than partially hydrogenated oil, but one tablespoon still derives 100% of its calories from fat. Regardless of whether an oil or fat is healthy or not, it's still high in calories. A tablespoon of any oil will set you back about 130 calories and 14 grams of fat.

Hydrogenation, partial hydrogenation and Trans fatty acids, the "phantom fat"

Oils are by nature, extremely unstable substances that go rancid very quickly upon exposure to light and air. "Hydrogenation" and "partial hydrogenation" are processes that food manufacturers use to prolong the shelf life of their products and to make cheap spreadable products such as margarine.

Unfortunately, the process of hydrogenation makes an unsaturated fat such as vegetable oil take on the dangerous properties of saturated fats. Hydrogenated oils are "processed fats" the same way that white flour is a "processed carbohydrate."

Partially hydrogenated oils contain large amounts of chemically altered fats known as Trans fatty acids. Some nutritionists like to call them "funny foods." Partial hydrogenation is what turns oils into spreadable margarines and makes the oils more stable. They also make baked goods moist and flaky.

What foods contain Trans fatty acids?

Hydrogenated oils and Trans fatty acids are primarily found in margarines and spreads, baked goods and fried foods. Food manufacturers get real sneaky when it comes to Trans fats, because they aren't required to list them on their labels. They can say things like "no cholesterol," or "low saturated fat" yet their product is loaded with harmful Trans fats. Many people switched from butter to margarine thinking they were doing well by avoiding the saturated fat in the butter. What they missed was that the margarine was full of the "phantom" Trans fats! Here is a partial list of foods to watch out for:

√ Fried foods (Fried chicken, French fries, fried onion rings, tater tots, etc)
√ Cookies
√ Crackers
√ Biscuits
√ Frostings
√ Pastries
√ Donuts
√ Corn chips
√ Taco shells
√ Shortening
√ Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils
√ Refined vegetable oils
√ Baked goods (Croutons, crackers, cookies, cakes,
√ Margarine
√ Pies
√ Frostings

Flaxseed oil - one of the few supplements you can't go wrong with

Many people believe that fish is the richest source of EFA's. However, Flax has about twice as many Omega 3's as fish. Fresh Flaxseed oil is one of the best ways you can ensure that you meet your EFA requirements. You can get Flaxseed oil from any good health food store. One tablespoon a day is a fantastic way to get your EFA's although some people use as many as 3-5 tablespoons per day, depending on their caloric needs and the amount of carbohydrates they use in their diet.

The only disadvantage of using pure flaxseed oil is that the ratio of Omega 3 fatty acids to Omega 6 fatty acids is 4 to 1. Most people's diets are low in Omega 3 and high in Omega 6. Exclusive use of flaxseed oil over the long term can actually cause a deficiency in Omega 6.

Practical suggestions for fat intake

let's talk about some practical, real-world suggestions for managing the fat in your diet.

Reduce fats in general; Always eat a low fat diet.

Don't cut your fat too low and avoid diets that call for zero fat or very low fat (10% or less).

Include a minimum 15-20% of total calories from fat.

Experiment with higher fat: (20 to 30% "good" fats) when your carbs are low to moderate (30-40% carbs or less). Never raise your fats when your carbs are high because this is a fat-storing combination.

Don't be afraid of fatty fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, eel or herring.
Eating salmon at least twice a week is highly recommended.

Don't be afraid of nuts, seeds, avocados, olives or natural peanut butter provided you stay within your calorie limits.

Avoid Trans fats like the plague - recognize the Trans fats by avoiding foods with "partially hydrogenated," or vegetable shortening on the labels. Also stay away from margarine and deep fried foods and high fat baked goods.
If anyone tells you a very high fat diet improves athletic performance, helps you
get leaner or helps you gain more muscle, just ignore them - it's a gimmick!

Avoid most supermarket oils. These are to fats what refined white flour is to carbohydrates (Empty, processed junk food calories). The exception is extra virgin olive oil, an unprocessed, monounsaturated fat.

Salad dressings with Olive oil or canola oil are ok within your calorie limits.

Avoid any type of fried food. Fried foods are on the BANNED list of foods you should never, ever eat!

Avoid margarine completely (Trans fats)
Small amounts of the right fats are good for your health, they help you gain muscle and they help you lose fat more easily. Zero fat or very low fat is not the answer.

High fat diets (over 30%) are not the answer either (that rules out the Atkins diet, and an) other diets that promote ketosis for weight loss).

The optimal dietary fat intake is probably between 15% and 25% of total calories. If your fat intake falls somewhere in this range, and you're eating the right kinds of fats, you'll be in good shape.

Anyone wanting clarification on anythong here let me know and I will gladly go more in-depth.

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