Fats For Heart Health

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Fats for Heart Health
Fats for Heart Health

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Introduction

When we think of major food types, we think of protein, carbohydrates and fat. For over half a century the general population has been coached to believe that protein was good (needed for tissue growth and repair), carbohydrates were excellent (needed to supply ‘energy’) and fat was just plain evil (who wants to be fat).

Thanks to better dissemination of information, due largely to the internet, there is an increasing awareness that the old understanding is at best, simplistic, and even wrong.

Decades of over-consumption of carbohydrates, especially simple carbs, and ‘fat-free’ and ‘low-fat’ (usually highly processed) foods has not seen a betterment of human health. It certainly hasn’t led to a slimming of the population at large – obesity rates are soaring.

Now, we are more aware that dietary fat and body fat are two very different things. Dietary fat is a safer and better supply of energy than are simple carbs, delivering that energy at a steady rate, without spiking glucose levels.

Also, fats can’t all be dumped into one box marked good or bad. There are many different types. Some are not good for health, especially in excess, but some are absolutely essential to well-being.

This report discusses the importance of fat in our diet, the difference between good and bad fats, and dietary sources. It contains very useful knowledge about omega 3 fatty acids, an essential fat that is too often deficient in many diets.

Fats for Heart Health
Fats for Heart Health

Healthy Fats – It’s Important To Include Fats In Your Diet

You probably know that fat is bad for you, right? You should avoid fat in your diet. Eating fat makes you fat, and everyone knows that.

Except that the latest research shows that those claims are totally wrong.

A quick look around, at health statistics, as well as the health and physiques of those who have pursued a fat-free or low-fat regime, confirms it. Years of choosing and consuming products labelled “97% fat-free!”  hasn’t provided the promised health benefits.

Actually, if you eat according to those 3 opening statements, not only will you not give yourself the chance to be as healthy as possible, but you could do some real damage to your quality of life, and trim several years off the back end of your lifespan.

Misinformation – Follow the Money

Fat has been fighting an uphill battle since the 1960s to improve its reputation. A report published in the JAMA Internal Medicine Journal shows internal documents of a food industry group called the Sugar Research Foundation which intentionally downplayed the very serious risks of sugar.

They also incorrectly painted a picture of all fats being linked to heart disease, overweight, obesity and other less than desirable health conditions.

The Sugar Research Foundation paid Harvard researchers to investigate the negative health properties of fat as well as sugar. The unbiased researchers did exactly that.

However, when the SRF published the findings of the Harvard scientists, they left out any mention of sugar as a serious health concern. The Harvard researchers found sugar to be much more dangerous for human consumption than fat, but the SRF simply left out that part of the report.

Unfortunately, big money behind the sugar industry got the intentionally misleading report published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967. They made no mention of the disastrous effect even small amounts of sugar can have on the human body.

If you can get a literature review published in a respected medical journal, whatever you print is almost immediately and without question taken as fact.

So for the past 4 or 5 decades, people around the world have been led to believe that cutting fat out of their diet is the best way to eliminate or reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Unfortunately, that simply is not the truth.

Fats are Essential to Health

The truth is, some fats are needed by the human body. Dietary fat is not the same as body fat. Dietary fat is com plex in structure and is broken down slowly by the digestive system. The rate at which it is metabolised means it is most likely used by the body as a sustained, usable energy source. This also means it won’t cause rampant blood glucose spikes.

Conversely, simple carbs are metabolised very quickly, at a rate the body cannot utilise, so the excess is swept up and begins its conversion to body fat.

The Good Fats You Need to Be Eating

Did you know that almost all natural foods, like unprocessed fruits and vegetables, nuts and berries, contain some amount of fat? You probably know that eating those types of foods found in nature is a great way to improve your mental, physical and even emotional health.

Fats are a very economical way for the human body to store energy you can use later. It is absolutely essential for human growth, development, movement and a limitless number of internal functions and processes. That means if you eat some of the following good-guy fats every day, you will give yourself the opportunity to be as healthy as you possibly can.

  • Monounsaturated fats
  • Polyunsaturated fats
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Omega-6 fatty acids

This means eating coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil and wild-caught fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines

Bad Fats

The classes of fats that are considered to be less desirable, or unhealthy, especially in larger amounts are saturated fats and synthetic trans fats.

Eat nuts and seeds, and avoid fast food, fried foods, most processed foods, baked goods, pastries and junk food. Read your food labels diligently and eliminate foods containing partially hydrogenated oil. Also limit your intake of saturated fats to 10 to 15 g per day or less.

The percent of the recommended daily allowance of good and bad fats in a food item should be listed on its nutrition label. So all you have to do is get more good fats into your diet, avoid bad fats, and don’t believe the sweet lie the sugar industry has been telling for decades, that all fats are evil.

what Are Saturated and Trans Fats?

Fats have received a bad rap. Not all fats are bad. Some fats are absolutely vital for human existence, for instance, omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. Those fats are called essential for a very good reason. You need them to live.

On the other hand, there are definitely some fats you can live without, those that your body doesn’t need, and that cause a long list of health conditions you would rather avoid. Two fats that give healthy fats a bad reputation are saturated and trans fats.

Saturated Fats

In the first 10 or 15 years of the 21st century, we learned a little bit more about saturated fats than we knew in the past. Previously, health professionals told us to avoid saturated fats entirely. For decades, research has shown that a diet high in saturated fats puts you at risk for a number of heart diseases, heart attack and stroke.

We now know through new research and studies that saturated fats may have been criticised a little too harshly. Saturated fats should be limited, but you don’t need to avoid them entirely to live a healthy life. If you get too much saturated fat you could raise your cholesterol to an unhealthy level.

This means if you eat a lot of foods like lamb and pork, fatty beef, poultry with the skin on, beef fat, lard, cream, butter, cheese and other dairy products made from whole milk, you are not doing your heart any favours.

Many baked goods, pastries and fried foods also have extremely high levels of saturated fats, so make sure you are reading your food labels. However, it is important to note that the American Heart Association and other health authorities believe you can eat approximately 10 to 15 g of saturated fats each day without causing any health issues.

Trans Fats

Trans fats come in two types – natural or synthetic. Naturally occurring trans fats are found in small amounts in meat and dairy products.

The real baddies are the synthetic (man-made) trans fats. On food labels they are usually named ‘partially hydrogenated oils’. They exist because they are cheap to produce and they make the food taste better. It is an inexpensive flavor enhancer, so manufacturers love pumping it into food products that are already not the healthiest.

But this comes at the cost of compromised health. Many health experts refer to synthetic trans-fat as the “worst thing you can possibly eat”. There is absolutely zero proof that the human body benefits in any way from consuming this type of unhealthy fat.

Since it is physiologically unneeded by the human body, why do we eat it? The answer is, artificial trans-fat makes food taste marvellously delicious.

Not only does man-made trans-fat not benefit human health and well-being, it has been positively proven time and again it negatively affects your health in a variety of ways.

In the nutrition industry, you can almost always find views on both sides of the fence. Concerning synthetic trans-fat, nobody in the nutrition, health or medical fields will argue that this bad fat has absolutely no place in a healthy diet.

Partially hydrogenated oils raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol level, while simultaneously lowering the amount of good (HDL) cholesterol in your body. They are found in doughnuts and other pastries, snack foods like chips and cookies, fast food and fried foods, and find their way into many packaged and processed foods in your grocery store.

Good health is supported by eating whole, natural foods (including meat and dairy, in moderation), whereas artificial and highly processed foods provide little in the way of nutrients. They are also designed to target our taste buds, so we end up eating more of what we shouldn’t, at the expense of what we should.

Again, reading your food labels is important. If you avoid trans-fats you lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders, cancer, infertility, strokes, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Sources of Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids belong to a group of polyunsaturated fats or PUFA.  Medical research has proven that people definitely need omega3s for better functioning of all systems in our body, for keeping stress hormones under control and for reduced risks of chronic diseases.

Although collectively known as omega-3, there are many different ones, three of which are considered vital to human health. Of these three, two are essential to our health, being EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid and DHA or docosahexaenoic acid.

Both of these can be obtained from animal sources such as meat, dairy, or fish.

Our bodies also have the ability to synthesize EPA and DHA from another omega 3 fatty acid, ALA or alpha linolenic acid, the simplest form of omega 3.

Humans and animals obtain ALA from plant sources to be transformed into EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). However, in humans at least, this conversion process is fairly inefficient, meaning large volumes of target plant foods must be eaten, compared to denser animal sources.

This is why food sources such as salmon and tuna, or oil derived from them, top the list of omega 3 providers.

Oily Fish

Oily fish are rich in omega 3 oil, and are usually first on the list of recommended sources. Two or three servings of it per week are usually suggested. Two of the most popular sources of omega 3 are salmon and tuna.

Due to some concerns regarding the mercury content of these seafoods some researchers suggest other safer options such as halibut, shrimp and pollock.

Meat from Pasture-Raised Animals

Most plants contain ALAs which can be converted into EPAs once ingested by humans or animals.  But, even though only 5 percent of these ALAs are successfully converted into EPAs humans still have an efficient way of obtaining these omega 3 fatty acids.

This is through the consumption of animal meat which have already synthesised the ALA.  This only applies to meat that is obtained from pasture raised animals. Meat from grain-fed animals contains higher levels of omega 6.

Recent studies indicate that our modern diet contains excessive omega 6 and insufficient omega 3 fatty acids.

Nutrient Intake

Our body’s ability to convert ALA into DHA and EPA is also dependent on other nutrients being present in the body. Nutrients which are highly important for the conversion of DHA and EPA include vitamin C, vitamin B3, B6, magnesium and zinc.

If a person’s body does not have enough of any of these nutrients it will have a hard time converting EPA and DHA. even if there is enough intake of ALA rich foods.

Plant Sources of Omega 3’s

Often-recommended plant-based sources are flaxseed, spinach and tofu. However, omega 3’s can be obtained from a variety of plant sources, including the following foods:

Wild Rice

This is actually a grass and not rice. Eating one half cup of wild rice is enough to provide 240 mg of omega 3 fatty acid. It also contains more fibre and protein than brown rice.

It also contains magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, potassium and B vitamins. Wild rice has no traces of gluten which makes it an excellent inclusion to the daily diet, especially for someone who is gluten-sensitive.

Walnuts

All kinds of nuts that are commonly eaten by people such as almonds, pistachios and pecans contain some amount of omega 3.  However, walnuts stand out from the rest because it has the highest amount alpha-linolenic acid.  Studies show that regular consumption of walnuts can help boost cardiovascular health.

This is because eating a few walnuts a day has been shown to be beneficial in reducing blood pressure. Their omega 3 fatty acids reduce LDL or bad cholesterol while increasing the production of HDL or good cholesterol.

Walnuts are also loaded with antioxidants that strengthen the immune system.  Eating walnuts will not only help you have a healthy heart but it will also reduce your risks of many diseases.

Kale

Kale’s nutritional density is claimed to be far greater than any other green leafy vegetable. Besides being rich with omega 3, it also contains healthy amounts of essential amino acids.

Another advantage of kale is that its amino acids are easier to extract than those found in meat. It is also the king of carotenoids due to its vitamin A content. Vitamin A or retinol is good for the eyes, cell growth and immune system.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is one of the cruciferous vegetables. Eating 100 grams of cauliflower will give you about 210mg of omega 3. It also contains large amounts of vitamin K that helps fight against inflammation, and fiber that cleanses your digestive tract. Cauliflower is helpful in increasing blood flow to all organs of the body while also reducing your risk of atherosclerosis.

Does Fish Oil Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides?

Fish oil is full of omega-3 essential fatty acids. This is a good fat your body craves, and cannot produce on its own. So by eating fish about 3 times a week, or taking a daily fish oil supplement, you help your overall health and well-being.

Fish Oil is Good For You In So Many Ways

The Mayo Clinic is a respected health authority with a global presence. The people at the Mayo Clinic tell us that fish oil or fish oil supplements can help you calm joint pain and stiffness.

Stress, depression and anxiety are found in lower levels in people who have higher than normal levels of omega-3s. The reverse is also true – those diagnosed with conditions relating to anxiety and depression usually have depleted reserves of omega 3’s.

The DHA in fish oil is vital for healthy mental and visual development in infants. Fish oil is also known for effectively treating the symptoms of asthma, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, memory loss linked to aging, rheumatoid arthritis, overweight and obesity, and many other health conditions.

This natural powerhouse of health your body cannot create on its own also helps lower elevated triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are a specific kind of fat found in your blood. It is naturally present, and at low levels does not pose any health risks.

However, when you have high levels of triglycerides you immediately elevate your risk of developing heart disease. If you don’t enjoy eating wild-caught fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines regularly, a fish oil supplement may be necessary.

Cholesterol is Essential for Health

Cholesterol performs a few very important functions in your body. Aside from aiding in a healthy digestive process, cholesterol also helps keep your hormones in check and is involved in the process that synthesises vitamin D.

What is important, and too often not properly addressed, is that there are different forms of cholesterol, primarily high density lipoproteins (HDL), low density lipoproteins (LDL) and triglycerides.

Many people generalise about cholesterol, and assume it always bad, as they desperately try to ‘get their cholesterol levels down’. Others, with a little more knowledge, assume that all LDL cholesterol is bad.

In actuality, LDL is not bad, and HDL is not simply always good. Both are necessary to health, in the right amounts and in the right ratios. You need both of them in your body to be healthy.

Cholesterol becomes a real issue when your LDL levels or triglyceride levels rise too high. This is the condition that creates a dramatic rise in the possibility that you will develop heart disease.

Unfortunately, our modern western diet loads our system with an excess of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. So they are only bad in the sense that most people are already pre-loaded with too much of them, which is adversely affecting their health.

They certainly don’t need any more.

Fish Oil and Cholesterol

While fish oil is really good at lowering triglyceride levels and reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease, there isn’t sufficient evidence at this time that fish oil actually lowers LDL cholesterol levels.

You can regulate healthy cholesterol levels by eating high-fiber foods, and getting more natural foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your diet, and fewer processed, fast and fried foods.

This will help maintain or restore correct cholesterol ratios, which are essential to health and wellness, and for preventing disease, especially lifestyle-related ones.

While there is no scientific evidence that fish oil supplements will lower your cholesterol, the fatty acids in fish oil are so healthy in so many other ways that they need to have a place in your diet.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this publication has provided some insight and awareness of the real place and need for fat in our diet. You may have been duped, like most, into thinking that fat would make you fat, or that fat would clog your arteries, or that for whatever reason, fat was bad for you.

Certainly, some fats are better than others. We are not advocating suddenly making fat the major part of your diet. However, fat should be part of a healthy, balanced diet. Good fats are vital to human health, well-being and longevity.

It is certainly time to question the need to look for ‘fat-free’ on nutrition labels on food packaging. Look a bit harder to see what type of fat is included, and maybe pay a little more critical attention to how much carb content, and what type, it contains.

The huge explosion in lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes, has gone hand-in-hand with the high-carb / low-fat mindset.

Eating whole foods, which contain good fat naturally, and reducing the intake of highly processed, simple carbs, can help you overcome many of the health problems that have beset you, and seem almost inevitable.

Disclaimer

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