It is about time to end the low-fat myth. Do you know that the low-fat, high-carb diet that has been so popular in the last few decades actually promotes diabetes for most people? Diabetes is a silent disease that may lead to grave consequences. It raises your risk for heart disease and stroke, blindness and eye problems, kidney failure, lower-limb amputations, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
If you want to age gracefully into your later years with a clear and functional brain, one of your key objectives is to maintain healthy blood sugar balance. Unlike carbohydrates, healthy fats have no appreciable effect on blood sugar levels. In addition, they are essential for the absorption of vital fat-soluble nutrients, including vitamins A, D, E, and K. Your brain is also made of about 60 percent fat. That is why the fats you eat will strongly influence your brain size and function.
However, not all types of fats are good. The following are three types of beneficial fats that will help optimize your blood sugar levels, achieve a healthy weight, and reduce inflammation that causes numerous degenerative diseases.
1. Omega-3 Fats
- Brain function and behavioral health (including ADHD, bipolar disorder, dementia, depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease).
- Cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate.
- Crohn’s disease
- Heart health
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Throughout 4 to 5 million years of human evolution, diets had always been abundant in seafood and other sources of omega-3 fats but relatively low in omega-6 vegetable and seed oils. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed omega-6 and omega-3 fats in the ratio of roughly 1:1.
At the onset of the modern vegetable oil industry in the mid 1900s, we started consuming more and more omega-6 fats at the expense of omega-3 fats. We also started using cereal grains (such as corn and soy) as feed for domestic livestock, which altered the fatty acid profile of meats that we eat. Nowadays, it is estimated that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in the American diet is around 10:1 to 20:1, with some individuals as high as 25:1.
The following lists the omega-6 and omega-3 content of various vegetable oils and foods:
Oil______Omega-6 Content____Omega-3 Content
In America, 80 percent of the fats consumed are omega-6, derived primarily from vegetable and seed oils like corn, soybean, and cottonseed. These oils are widely used in fast foods, restaurants, processed foods, snack foods, cookies, crackers, and sweets.
Consuming too much omega-6 fats have been found to increase inflammation and other key markers of degenerative diseases. This largely explains why 1 in 4 people who die in the U.S. each year die of heart disease. However, you can neutralize the potential inflammatory damage done by the omega-6 fats by eating more omega-3 fats, because both omega-6 and omega-3 fats compete for the same conversion enzymes.
As a matter of fact, the way over-the-counter and prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.) work is by reducing the formation of inflammatory compounds such as those derived from omega-6 fats. Drug companies never tell you that the same effect can be achieved without the side effects of their drugs – by limiting the intake of omega-6 fats and increasing omega-3 fats.
One last point to mention is that many people prefer to choose vegetarian sources, such as flaxseed, chia, and hemp, for the benefits of omega-3 fats, not realizing that the conversion of such plant foods to EPA and DHA (both omega-3 derivatives) is extremely poor in the general population. In other words, you may be taking a lot of flax oil but your body is only converting a small percentage to EPA and DHA. As a result, you are not getting all the omega-3 benefits that you set out to get.
Sources of animal-based omega-3 fats:
- Wild-caught fish (not farmed due to contaminants and harmful feed) from clean pristine waters, such as Alaskan salmon and very small fish like sardines, anchovies, and herrings.
- Wild shrimp and scallops
- Calamari or squid
- Grass-fed meats
- Or alternatively, take a high quality fish oil supplement with a high-fat meal to improve absorption. Do not buy into the marketing hype that you need a supplement that gives you a “balance” of omega-3, 6, and 9. The only supplement you need to take is omega-3.
2. Monounsaturated Fats (AKA Oleic Acid or Omega-9 Fats)
- Decrease risk for breast cancer
- Reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol
- Lower risk for heart disease and stroke
- Less severe pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis
- Reduce blood sugar and insulin levels
- Reduce belly fat
Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and may become solid when chilled. One characteristic of monounsaturated fats is that they remain relatively stable at higher temperatures, therefore, these fats are less likely to hydrogenate and are better for cooking than the vegetable and seed oils.
Sources of monounsaturated fats:
- The most commonly recognized sources of monounsaturated fats are olive oil, avocados, almonds, macadamia nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, and pecans.
- Some other excellent sources include chicken fat, duck fat, and lard (pork fat). Chicken fat is 42 percent monounsaturated, while duck fat is 46% and lard is 45%. However, do bear in mind that you are only as healthy as the animals you eat. Therefore, choose only free-range/organic chicken and ducks and pastured pork to avoid the antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides used in factory-farmed animals.
3. CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acids)
- Protect from cancers of the breast, colon, lung, skin, and stomach.
- Reduce incidence of asthma
- Prevent certain types of heart disease, such as atherosclerosis by averting the deposition of plaque and fats in arteries.
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol and triglycerides
- Prevent osteoporosis
- Prevent diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity
- Reduce inflammation due to its powerful antioxidant properties
- Reduce belly fat and increase lean body mass
The biological activity of CLA was only first discovered in 1987 by a team of researchers who showed that it could help fight cancer in mice. Later, other researchers discovered that it could also reduce body fat levels.
Nowadays, CLA is one of the most popular weight loss supplements in the world. However, keep in mind that the CLA you find in supplements is not derived from natural foods. It is made by chemically altering safflower and sunflower oils, which are unhealthy seed oils. For this reason, CLA taken in supplement form does not have the same health benefits as CLA acquired from foods.
Sources of CLA:
- CLA is found exclusively in the meat and dairy products of grass-fed, ruminant animals that chew their cud, such as cattle, bison, lamb, sheep, goat, elk, and deer. The total amount of CLA varies greatly depending on what the animals eat. For example, the CLA content is 300-500% higher in beef and dairy from grass-fed cows, compared to grain-fed or corn-fed cows.