I read a great book last summer (August 2012) called Eat Fat, Lose Fat: The Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats. It is written by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, co-founders of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Mary Enig’s research on fats and her pushing for improved labeling regarding trans fats led to our US nutrition labels now including trans fat info. I’d like to share with you some of the things I highlighted as I was reading this book. It may feel a little disjointed as I jump from one idea to the next, but work with me
The concepts in this book totally go against what our government agencies say about saturated fats in our diet. The government tells us that saturated fats are bad and will lead to heart disease and other serious health conditions. This book argues that certain saturated fats are good for you and can actually protect you against those health conditions: “Healthy fats include omega-3 fatty acids (found in cod-liver oil, egg yolks, and flax oil), medium-chain fats (found in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and butter), and long-chain saturated fats (found mostly in meat and dairy products). They’ll help you lose weight, increase your energy, boost your immunity to illness, and optimize your digestion.”
Look at the French population for example…a people known for their rich food, notably butter and all kinds of cheeses. Yet, the obesity rate in France is only 9.4% compared to the United States at 30.6%. Hmm….
This quote really stood out to me: “Although most people don’t realize it, obesity is actually a symptom of nutritional deficiencies. …The higher the nutrient content of your food, the less you need to eat to satisfy your basic nutritional needs.” For example, if you’re not getting enough healthy fats in your diet, guess what? You crave fatty foods, which leads to snacking on junk food. Of course, junk food doesn’t supply what your body needs, so you’re still left craving more…even though you just packed away several hundred empty calories (not to mention all the chemical additives and preservatives).
One of the big points the authors made (hence the book title) was that eating the right kinds of fats will help you lose excess weight. Specifically, the body burns medium chain fatty acids (examples mentioned above), rather than storing them. Burning fat sounds much better than storing fat on your tummy and thighs, doesn’t it??? Sounds good to me! For additional references to support this concept, check out the Wikipedia entry on medium-chain triglyceride, specifically sources #2-7.
My body tends toward hypoglycemia — low blood sugar. This book says, ”People with dry skin are often hypoglycemic and crave sugar because they are eating a diet that’s high in carbohydrates but deficient in good-quality fat.” I used to crave carbohydrates and sugar as my body was constantly trying to get my blood sugar up. Eating smaller meals more often helped to regulate my blood sugar, but I would still have problems here and there (getting shaky, lightheaded, breaking out in a sweat). Having enough healthy fat in my diet has really helped regulate my blood sugar.
After my daughter was born (April 2011), I was REALLY having a lot of problems with my blood sugar. During my pregnancy, I was determined to gain no more than 25 pounds (and I didn’t). After she was born, I was determined to lose the baby weight more quickly than I had with baby #1. I was breastfeeding, eating a low-fat diet and trying to jog off the baby weight. My blood sugar went CRAZY. It was constantly falling too low, leaving me feeling shaky and on the verge of passing out. I even gained a few pounds. What?!? I therefore reluctantly gave up jogging. More than a year later, I read this book and gained so much hindsight into what was really going on with my body at that time. I just wasn’t getting enough fat in my diet to support my own body’s needs, milk production and heavy exercising.
Eat Fat, Lose Fat includes the following summary of how to eat a healthy diet. Other books I’ve read (such as Nourishing Traditions and The Maker’s Diet) support these same ideas (with a few disagreements on things like pork and shellfish):
Eat whole, unprocessed foods. Eat beef, lamb, game, organ meats, poultry, and eggs from pasture-fed animals. Eat wild (not farm-raised) fish, shellfish, and fish roe from unpolluted waters. Eat full-fat milk products from pasture-fed cows, preferably raw and/ or fermented, such as raw milk, whole yogurt, kefir, cultured butter, whole raw cheeses, and fresh and sour cream. Use animal fats, especially butter, liberally. Use traditional vegetable oils only—extra-virgin olive oil, expeller-expressed sesame oil, small amounts of expeller-expressed flax oil, and the tropical oils—coconut oil and palm oil. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables—preferably organic—in salads and soups, or lightly steamed with butter. Use whole grains, legumes, and nuts that have been prepared by soaking, sprouting, or sour leavening. Include enzyme-enhanced lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages, and condiments in your diet on a regular basis. Prepare homemade meat stocks from the bones of chicken, beef, lamb, and fish and use liberally in soups, stews, and sauces. Use filtered water for cooking and drinking. Use unrefined salt and a variety of herbs and spices for food interest and appetite stimulation. Make your own salad dressing using raw vinegar and natural, traditional oils. Use natural sweeteners in moderation, such as raw honey, maple syrup, date sugar, coconut sugar, dehydrated cane sugar juice (sold as Rapadura or sucanat), and stevia powder. If you drink alcohol, use only unpasteurized wine or beer very moderately with meals. Cook only in stainless-steel, cast-iron, glass, or good-quality enamel—don’t use aluminum cookware. Do not use a microwave oven.
The authors bring up an important point about processed foods. They’re bad for you for numerous reasons, but misleading labeling can make you think the product is healthier than it actually is. For example, “Nearly all [processed food] contains MSG, even though the label may not say so. In fact, if the label lists ‘spices,’ ‘flavorings,’ ‘natural flavorings,’ citric acid, or anything ‘hydrolyzed’ or ‘autolyzed,’ the food probably contains MSG.”
Since a family member of mine recently had a medical test result that showed reason for potential concern about her liver (it turned out to be nothing), I picked up on these statements regarding the liver: “Fructose in fruit juices and anything sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup are very damaging to the liver because all fructose must be processed in the liver. …Animal studies carried out during the 1990s at the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that animals fed diets high in fructose suffered damage to their livers similar to that produced by diets high in alcohol. Anyone with an autoimmune disease (or any condition associated with poor liver function) should avoid these substances. (By contrast, saturated fats support liver function.)”
Anyway….a good read. Check it out.