|Good Fat : Some Good Fat Chat
Good Fat and Your Kids
Because they eat so many snack foods, kids get a huge dose of trans fats (see below), which predispose them to obesity. Some common sources include:
- cookies - virtually all commercial cookies and crackers are full of trans fats, especially low-fat varieties. Of all the foods researcher Dr. Mary Enig tested, the highest trans fat levels were found in sandwich cookies, animal crackers, and honey graham crackers. Homemade cookies are fine, though, as long as they're made with good natural fats.
- milk is great for kids, though they drink less and less of it. Skip the skim milk and low-fat milk and anything made of powdered milk (which is added to low-fat milks to bulk them up); these contain oxidized cholesterol, the one kind of cholesterol that's truly dangerous. What's good about milk is the fat, where all the nutrients are. Even chocolate milk is good, because of all the antioxidants (which work against damage from oxidized fat) chocolate has the most of any food tested so far, many times more than spinach and blueberries.
- most kids love tuna; the one to choose is chunk light tuna packed in olive oil, which has only half as much mercury as albacore and more omega-3, the brain-building essential fat.
- read labels carefully (see Avoiding Trans Fats) and cut out processed foods as much as possible, especially energy bars and breakfast cereals. Nuts and fruit are a great snack.
- treats: homemade is best when it comes to baked goods. If you're indulging in potato chips, get old-fashioned chips fried in lard; they won't have any trans fats, and they absorb only half the fat chips cooked in oil do. Choose full-fat premium ice cream and pass by the soft-serve stuff, which is full of oxidized fat and high-fructose corn syrup, a bad sugar.
Avoiding Trans Fats
This year the National Academy of Science delivered the verdict: NO amount of trans fat is safe. Sometime in 2004 we'll have trans fat labelling; in the meantime, you need to know how to avoid these very dangerous fats, which have increased more than 2500% in the American diet in the last 75 years - more than any other element, even sugar.
How bad are trans fats? Very very bad. They're implicated in cancer and heart disease, they make us overproduce insulin (which leads to diabetes and obesity), they raise bad cholesterol and lower HDL, the good one.
You can't taste a trans fat or see it, but there are some clues on food labels: add up all the fats listed and subtract them from the total fat; most of the resulting number is trans fat. In Triscuits, for instance, about half the fat is trans. If you see the words "partially hydrogenated" or "fractionated" on a label, that's trans fat. If it's one of the first three ingredients, that food is loaded with trans.
Since 90% of the American food dollar is spent on processed food, and virtually all processed food contains trans fat, we're all eating a huge amount of it. That's everything from saltines to frozen food to salad dressing to energy bars.
Trans fats are partially hydrogenated polyunsaturated fats, the very ones we've been told are so healthy for us. Prime offenders are vegetable oil, soy oil (at least 40% trans) and canola (up to 50% trans.) These are the altered fats, super-heated and chemically treated, that have been substituted for natural saturated fats, but in fact they're much more deadly. Doesn't anything protect us from trans fats? Yes, of all things, it's saturated fats that have a protective effect against trans fats in the body. Regular old canola oil at the supermarket will contain somewhere between 2-5% trans fat (or more in some cases.) Ironically, it's the very healthy omega-3 content in canola that turns into trans in the deoderizing process - so not only is the good fat lost, the bad fat is gained.
There's just one GOOD trans fat: CLA, which is in meat and dairy products. It has anticancer effects, promotes heart health and stimulates weight loss.
Good Fats and Your Brain
Since your brain is over 60% fat itself, it needs a good supply of fat to perform well, to think dynamically and retain memory. In particular it needs an essential fat called omega-3, found in fatty fish, leafy greens and flax seed - and very few of us get enough of it. Your entire nervous system is coated with fat, as are your 60 trillion cells and the membranes inside them and they need good fat to function properly. Your visual acuity depends on getting enough DHA, one part of omega-3; EPA, the other part, is heart-protective.
You can take flax oil, but it has to be converted in the body to the useable EPA/DHA form, and that's a complicated process and far from inevitable. Flax oil is also very fragile and easily turns rancid, in which case it's a bad fat.
The best omega-3 sources are pharmaceutical-grade fish oil and fatty fish, especially salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and tuna. Wild fish have the most omega-3 - surprisingly, all canned fish are wild.
Meat has omega-3 too: lamb has the most, and grass-fed meat tops the list.
The omega-3 enriched eggs are a great idea; the chicken's done all the work of converting the fat to the useable form. (And eggs are off the cholesterol hook now; it turns out no actual eggs were ever tested in all those studies, and only the dangerous oxidized cholesterol - much easier to control in the lab - produced those frightening numbers that scared us all away from eggs so long.)
What's Really Wrong with Fast Food?
People think it has too much fat, but that's not the problem at all: it's bad fat. The burger isn't the culprit, it's the fat the fries are fried in. Since Macdonald's served its first meal, the trans fat content has gone up from 2.4 grams per meal to a whopping 19.2 grams in 1992. Beef tallow, the original very tasty fat, was actually a healthy fat, because saturated fats are stable and don't break down easily at high temperatures, as the supposedly healthy polyunsaturated oils do. A huge campaign from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and other groups forced the chain to drop the good fat and adopt the bad fat, exponentially increasing the trans fats. These bad oils also increase by 50% the amount of fat the food absorbs, so the calorie load is increased as well - and that's extra TRANS fat, not just half again as many calories.
According to Joseph Hibbeln, a National Insitutes of Health researcher, virtually all fries in America today are fried in soy oil, which has not only trans but way too much omega-6 fat, which is associated with both agression and depression.
Milkshakes are full of powdered milk (oxidized fat) and bad-sugar high fructose corn syrup (as are the sodas, which are now delivered in huge calorie-laden portions).
When you remember that trans fats increase insulin problems and predispose to diabetes and obesity, it's easy to see how so many of us have become Whoppers.