Why Natural Fats Are Crucial For Your Health

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Why Natural Fats Are Crucial For Your Health

Article Summary:

  • ALL foods are made of only 3 different kinds of macro (big) nutrients: Proteins, Fats, and Carbohydrates. The human body needs all three in healthy forms.
  • Good Fats do NOT include chemically altered, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, vegetable shortening and spreads, margarine, and most vegetable oils. Fats from commercial animals are often highly contaminated with a variety of chemicals and hormones, fat from pastured or wild animals is by far more preferable.
  • Natural fats include plant based fats such as coconut and avocado oil but also animal fats from animals raised in a caring and natural environment, both types are a vital and important.

Why Natural Fats Are Crucial For Your Health

Conventional medical authorities say that consumption of saturated animal fats is bad for you and causes heart disease. But a hundred years ago, fewer than one in one hundred Americans were obese, and coronary heart disease was unknown.

Crisco was introduced to the public in 1911. It was an era when wives stayed home and cooked with plenty of butter and lard. The challenge for Crisco was to convince the stay-at-home housewife about the merits of this imitation food. Proctor &Gamble’s first ad campaign introduced the all-vegetable shortening as “a healthier alternative to cooking with animal fats. . . and more economical than butter.” With one sentence, P&G had taken on its two closest competitors—lard and butter and started marketing Crisco as a new kind of food -- the first commercially marketed trans-fat.

Believe it or not, Crisco was originally used to make candles and soap, but mindful that electrification was forcing the candle business into decline, P&G looked for other markets for their new product. Since hydrogenated cottonseed oil resembled lard, why not sell it as a food?  They decided to promote the fat as a “healthier” all-vegetable-derived shortening. P&G’s next step was a stroke of genius—they published and gave away a cookbook. The Story of Crisco looked like most other cookbooks of the era, but there was a difference. All of its 615 recipes, everything from lobster bisque to  pound cake, contained—you guessed it—Crisco.   The Story of Crisco is recognized as a classic in the subtle art of persuasion. Its language and contextual variety are “representative of the pre-WWI social milieu and reflect the urbanization, domestication, commercialization, education (or lack thereof) and simple sophistication of the times.” Crisco is presented as healthier, more digestible, cleaner, more economical, more enlightened and more modern than lard. Women who use Crisco are portrayed as good wives and mothers, their houses are free of strong cooking odors and their children grow up with good characters. 

P&G also had the brilliant idea of presenting Crisco to the Jewish housewife as a kosher food, one that behaved like butter but could be used with meats. Because it made kosher cooking easier, Jews adopted Crisco and margarine—imitation lard and imitation butter—more quickly than other groups, with unforeseen consequences.  

I would bet that many of you, like myself, can remember switching from lard and butter to Crisco, perhaps to make pie crust or fry chicken, and then, in a flash, the blue can of Crisco became a staple in your and every other pantry in America. That was the overt addition to the diet. But what most of us didn’t know was that Crisco and its cousins were being covertly added to countless food items.  We also didn’t know that the partially hydrogenated oils in Crisco—the trans-fatty acids—were bad for us. Fortunately, the truth is finally starting to come out, after 100 years, the truth about the dangers of trans-fatty acids in foods is finally emerging.

So why are “good fats” good for you, and “bad fats” bad for you? How can different types of fat affect our health so dramatically?

Why Fats Are Needed
To start with, we need to understand that ALL foods are made of only 3 different kinds of macro (big) nutrients: Proteins, Fats, and Carbohydrates. Fats are made up of glycerol and individual molecules called fatty acids, and are essential because they perform life-supporting functions in every human cell in the body. Fats support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and memory and nervous system operations, and in the manufacture and utilization of the sterol hormones. The human body needs the essential fatty acids to manufacture and repair cell membranes, enabling the cells to obtain optimum nutrition and expel harmful waste products. A primary function of good fats is the production of prostaglandins, which regulate body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood clotting, fertility, conception, and play a role in immune function by regulating inflammation and encouraging the body to fight infection.

Fats are also required for healthy skin, the transport and absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and the regulation of cholesterol metabolism. Essential Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA) are also needed for proper growth in children, particularly for neural development and maturation of sensory systems, with male children having higher needs than females. Fetuses and breast-fed infants also require an adequate supply of essential fatty acids through the mother's dietary intake. Fats, even stored fats, are in a constant, dynamic state of metabolism. So essential to body function are fats that even after starvation, fats are still found in tissues.

One of the most common pieces of nutritional misinformation that is still unfortunately being promoted (marketed) in modern America is that FAT makes you fat- a fallacy that has resulted in a tremendous rise in heart disease, diabetes, obesity, ADD, autoimmune disorders and a host of other chronic conditions. Fats and fatty acids are once again considered key nutrients affecting early growth and development, as well as nutrition-related chronic diseases later in life. Not only are fats are a critical part of healthy dietary intake, but they are also allow you to feel satiated, balance your blood sugar levels (balances the “ups and downs” and cravings that happen from consuming refined carbohydrates and sugars), and provide you with long lasting energy. And according to LewRockwell.com: “Feeding high doses of fat and cholesterol to omnivores, like rats and dogs, does not produce atherosclerotic lesions in them ... In fact, it turns out that people who have highest percentage of saturated fat in their diets have the lowest risk of heart disease ...

“GOOD” Fats Are Absolutely Essential To Health
In addition to being the body’s most efficient source of energy, “good” fats are critical for a wide variety of metabolic processes. Two essential fatty acids are omega-6 and omega-3. Omega-6 fatty acids are everywhere: corn oil, sunflower oil and soybean oil all contain them, and they are known to create inflammation in the body and are common in refined foods. Omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation, are found in natural, whole foods, like dark green veggies, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts, wild-caught salmon, trout and tuna, as well as meat, eggs, and dairy products from pastured animals. Current thinking is that these two fats need to be balanced in the diet at a ratio like 1-to-1 or 2-to-1, rather than the inflammation producing ratio of 20 (Omega-6) to 1 (Omega-3) seen in most Western diets. When we eat more whole foods, unaltered and unprocessed the way Nature intended, we can begin to get closer to the proper ratio of omega-3 fats in our diets, but I also recommend increasing one’s ratio with a high quality, high potency omega-3 supplement.

Good Fats do NOT include chemically altered, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, vegetable shortening and spreads, margarine, and most vegetable oils. Fats from commercial animals are highly contaminated with a variety of chemicals and hormones, are nutrient deficient, and have a seriously altered fatty acid profile, fat from pastured animals is by far more preferable.  This is why butter from pastured animals, especially raw butter, is an exceptionally "good" fat and organic butter is the next best - but not optimal choice. Organic butter, unrefined organic coconut oil, or at low temperatures organic first cold pressed olive oil are the only oils that I would recommend cooking with.

Supply Your Body with Essential Nutrients
Are natural fats just “okay”—like occasional indulgences you can get away with, or do they contain essential nutrients you can’t live without? Let me make this plain: Natural fats, including not just coconut and avocado but also animal fats from animals raised in a caring and natural environment are a vital and important part of any optimal diet. I say “optimal” rather than good because you can do very well on a whole food diet that does not include these fats. However, those people who chose not to include healthy animal fats in their diet will often find benefit by turning to supplements that fill this gap. Folks are often concerned that animals raised in unhealthy conditions store manmade toxins in their fat, and they’re right. That’s just another reason to make sure, whatever animal products you get, they come from the best possible source you can afford, such as from the Farmer’s Market or directly from a local farmer.

Prevent Nutrient Loss During Cooking
Wouldn’t it be great if meats like chicken came with some sort of protective material that would help to ensure the meat does not dry out during cooking? Wouldn’t it be great if hamburger meat could include some kind of moisturizing material that would allow the meat to cook more evenly and to remain juicy when done? Not only would these meats wind up being healthier, they’d taste better too. Good news! Nature’s already come up with a solution. Ask Tom Collichio and other top chefs: Serious cooks prefer to cook meat whole, as in with the fat or fatty skin still present.

Bottom Line: Lose Your Fear of Natural Fats
Take the generalized fear of fats you’ve been lugging around and focus that energy on unnatural fat—the vegetable oils (canola, corn, soy, sunflower, cottonseed, safflower). The sooner you learn to make friends with healthy, natural fats, the sooner you can start to fall back in love with real cooking, the way it’s meant to be done. Julia Child, the true Queen of the Kitchen, knew the truth, stating “Enjoy eating saturated fats, they’re good for you!”

1. Schisgall, Oscar, Eyes on Tomorrow: The Evolution of Procter & Gamble, J.G. Ferguson Pub Co., Distributed by Doubleday, 1981.
2. Neil, Marion Harris, The Story of Crisco: 615 Tested Recipes and a “Calendar of Dinners, Procter & Gamble, 1913.
3. Pendleton, Susan C, “Man’s Most Important Food is Fat: The Use of Persuasive Techniques in Procter & Gamble’s Public Relations Campaign to Introduce Crisco, 1911-1913,” Public Relations Quarterly, March 22, 1999.
4. Enig, Mary G and Sally Fallon, “The Oiling of America,” www.westonaprice.org.