Fat - Decreasing Fats
Fats, or lipids, are essential to good health. Fats serve as a concentrated source of energy. Each gram of fat supplies 9 calories, whereas protein and carbohydrate supplies 4 calories each per gram. Fatty tissue in the body helps to hold the organs and nerves in place and protects them against traumatic injury. The layer of fat just below the skin insulates the body and maintains a steady temperature. Fats allow for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). In the stomach, fats depress enzymatic activity thus slowing the emptying of the stomach after a meal and providing the felling of fullness (satiety) after eating. Fats are also terrific carriers of flavor, so add to the good taste of foods. Having said all that, Americans tend to consume way more fat calories than is necessary for optimal health. Most of the increase in fat consumption in America over the past 25 years represents an increase in the consumption of salad dressing and fried foods. The average American diet consists of 40% fat, 30% protein and 30% carbohydrate. A better ratio for good health would be 10-15% fat, 20-30% protein and 55-70% carbohydrate.
The principal foods contributing fat to the diet are butter, margarine, lard, vegetable oil, salad dressing, the visible fat of meat, the skin of chicken and the invisible fat found in cream, milk, milk products, egg yolk, meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, olives, avocados and whole-grain cereals. In general "soft" fats, which stay liquid at room temperature, are more readily digestible and useful for the body. This includes most vegetable oils and fish fat. Fat which is solid at room temperature, such as lard, margarine, butter, cheese, and the "marbling" in meats, is considered "saturated," is less useful for the body, and tends to become accumulated under the skin or in the abdominal cavity around the organs. "Saturated" means that the carbon backbone of the fatty acid chain is fully loaded with hydrogen molecules. In "poly-unsaturated" fats, many of the carbon molecules are double bonded, which means there are fewer places available for hydrogen to hook in. Double bonds provide energy when broken apart in the digestive system, therefore the body can use polyunsaturated fats more readily as a source of energy than the hydrogen-laden saturated fats. In plain English this means avoid fats that are solid at room temperature, and go easy on the rest.
In general, the best way to avoid excess fat is to avoid red meat and dairy products (except NON-fat items), peel the skin off your chicken (please eat organic chicken only -- toxins preferentially accumulate in fat because there is so little blood flow there) and read labels if you must eat processed food. Any food item with more than 4 grams of fat per serving is NOT low-fat. The best and easiest way to cut down on fat calories is to QUIT EATING CHEESE and ICE-CREAM. Anybody who has not yet been convinced about how disgusting dairy products really are should watch John Robbins' video or read the book "Diet for a New America" which describes the dairy industry in gruesome detail. Also, go easy on nuts and seeds; use them as condiments, not snacks. Experiment with flavored vinegars for spicing up your salads and steamed greens. Drink more water (at least 8 glasses daily) but never drink liquids with a meal; this will slow the digestion down by diluting enzymes and give the excess food more chance to linger in the gut where it will be absorbed for storage rather than burned for immediate energy needs. The most important trick is not to eat late; you should fast for 12 hours every day.
Emily Kane ND practices in Juneau, Alaska and can be reached at: (907)586-3655