Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NT in a Nutshell Part 2: Fats (2)

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet DictocratsIn Monday’s post we started our discussion about dietary fats. The discussion was a little longer than I anticipated, so I decided to cut it short and continue with another post. I also realized that I had not addressed a couple of the issues I introduced in Monday’s post, and I hope to address those issues here as well. This information is condensed from pages 1-20 of Nourishing Traditions, and is not intended as medical advice, but as an introduction to healthy eating practices.

First of all, let’s complete our discussion on dietary fats with information about the dangers of trans- fats. Trans- fats refers to fat molecules that have been changed through a chemical process from a polyunsaturated fat to an unnaturally saturated fat. As I explain what happens through the process of hydrogenation, I will be presenting information from the book as well as a little from my background as a chemist.

“Trans-" refers to the molecular structure of the fat molecule – in other words, how the individual atoms in a molecule are arranged. The normal formation (or arrangement of atoms) for these polyunsaturated fats is a “cis" structure. The process of hydrogenation changes the molecules through the use of very reactive metal catalysts and exposure to hydrogen gas. The result is an unappetizing, smelly mixture that must be treated with bleaches to change the color and to which artificial flavorings must be added (like butter flavor to margarine) to make it palatable.

Now, let me make this a little more relatable. Imagine that the normal cis- formation is like your right foot. The trans- formation is like your left foot. The two formations are very, very similar, with only slight differences, so close in fact, that it is very difficult for our bodies to tell the difference. However, the difference is as significant as trying to wear your right shoe on your left foot! However, our bodies will still try to use these trans- molecules as it would normally use cis- molecules. From page 15:
“Instead of eliminating [the trans- fats], your body incorporates trans- fats into the cell membranes as though they were cis- fats – your cells actually become partially hydrogenated! Once in place, trans- fatty acids wreak havoc with cell metabolism because chemical reactions can take place only when electrons in the cell membranes are in certain arrangements or patterns, which the hydrogenation process has disturbed…
“…Altered partially hydrogenated fats made from vegetable oils actually block utilization of essential fatty acids, causing many deleterious effects including sexual dysfunction, increased blood cholesterol and paralysis of the immune system. Consumptions of hydrogenated fats is associated with a host of other serious diseases, not only cancer but also atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity, immune system dysfunction, low-birth-weight babies, birth defects, decreased visual acuity, sterility, difficulty in lactation and problems with bones and tendons. Yet hydrogenated fats continue to be promoted as health foods. The popularity of margarine and shortening over butter represents a triumph of advertising duplicity over common sense. Your best defense is to avoid them like the plague.”

As you can tell from the information provided above, consuming fats is important to good health because fats are not just a source of energy that all too often gets stored around our waistlines! Fats are important in the processes in each and every cell in the body; in fact, a diet that is very low in fat may cause behavioral and personality changes. I learned more about the dangers of low-fat diet in another of Sally Fallon’s and Mary Enig’s books called Eat Fat, Lose Fat. If you are intrigued by the information here, I highly recommend it.

A couple of facts about saturated fats from page 11 that you should know (there are others presented also, but these really caught my attention):
“Saturated fatty acids constitute at least 50 percent of the cell membranes, giving them necessary stiffness and integrity so they can function properly…
“They play a vital role in the health of our bones. For calcium to be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure, at least 50 percent of the dietary fats should be saturated…
“Saturated 18-carbon stearic acid and 16-carbon palmitic acid [fatty acids found in saturated tropical oils like coconut oil and palm kernel oil] are the preferred foods for the heart, which is why the fat around the heart muscle is highly saturated. The heart draws on this reserve of fat in times of stress.”
I’ll bet you’ve never heard this information from your doctor?

Fat consumption is also important because of the fat-soluble vitamins that are so important to our bodies, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin K and vitamin E. Many of these are best adsorbed from animal sources that are known to contain high amounts of these naturally, especially butter from grass-fed cows and “fish, shellfish, fish eggs, organ meats...” (page 16) The benefits in consuming fats from animal sources are too numerous to list here, so for further info please consult pages 15-20 in Nourishing Traditions.

As a final word on fats, please consider this information from page 11:
“The scientific evidence, honestly evaluated, does not support the assertion that ‘artery-clogging’ saturated fats cause heart disease. Actually, evaluation of the fat in artery clogs reveals that only about 26 percent is saturated. The rest is unsaturated, of which more than half is polyunsaturated.”
That’s not what you normally hear, is it?

There is one more topic we need to cover from this section of the introduction to Nourishing Traditions: cholesterol and its function in the body, and why it is a necessary and helpful compound that your body produces. We’ll take up our discussion again tomorrow with this enlightening information.

There is joy on this journey, on my way home to my Father’s house,
Cindy <><


  1. Cindy,

    This book sounds excellent! It sounds like it is fuly packed with wonderful information in regards to nutrition. I'm going to have to get me a copy at some point in the near future.

    Also, I like your "Coming Soon" section that's listed at the top of your side bar on your blog. You sound like a very organized woman. :)


    -Lady Rose

  2. Lady Rose,
    Thank you for your kind comment! I would like to take credit for being organized (well, I'm a little OCD and tend to spend more time organizing than acomplishing it seems), but the "Coming Soon" section helps keep me focused on what I need to be working on so I can prepare some posts in advance. It's kinda like my blog-to-do-list. :)
    Thanks again for stopping by,
    Cindy <><


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