There are many dark and dreary stories in the annals of American history. But the one about fats has to be right up there with any of the great dramas of political machinations and sabotage. The net result of decades and decades of pumping millions of people full of unhealthy fats, misinformation and depriving them of healthy fats has resulted in a health crisis that is costing this country more than just trillions of dollars.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding good fats and bad fats; saturated versus unsaturated; omega 3, 6, 9; long chain, medium chain, short chain. It’s all a bit hard to understand.
Fortunately, there are a lot of folks that are working tirelessly to try to help us get through the quagmire of misinformation and clarify what the hell it’s all about. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon. They have a great book out called EAT FAT, LOSE FAT. Perhaps this short bit will help make sense of this issue if you’re still wondering what to do about fat. As you will see there are a number of ways of understanding this subject, but at the end of the day what matters is that your choices around food are grounded in a real understanding of what your body needs for OPTIMAL health. And by the way, in case you’re wondering…it’s not a low fat or no fat diet. Thin is in…but fat is where it’s at.
Understanding the chemistry of fats
Clearly something is wrong with the theories we read in the popular press—and used to bolster sales of lowfat concoctions and cholesterol-free foods. The notion that saturated fats per se cause heart disease as well as cancer is not only facile, it is just plain wrong. But it is true that some fats are bad for us. In order to understand which ones, we must know something about the chemistry of fats.
Fats—or lipids—are a class of organic substances that are not soluble in water. In simple terms, fatty acids are chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms filling the available bonds. Most fat in our bodies and in the food we eat is in the form of triglycerides, that is, three fatty-acid chains attached to a glycerol molecule. Elevated triglycerides in the blood have been positively linked to proneness to heart disease, but these triglycerides do not come directly from dietary fats; they are made in the liver from any excess sugars that have not been used for energy. The source of these excess sugars is any food containing carbohydrates, particularly refined sugar and white flour.
Fatty acid classifications by saturation
Fatty acids are classified in the following way:
Saturated: A fatty acid is saturated when all available carbon bonds are occupied by a hydrogen atom. They are highly stable, because all the carbon-atom linkages are filled—or saturated—with hydrogen. This means that they do not normally go rancid, even when heated for cooking purposes. They are straight in form and hence pack together easily, so that they form a solid or semisolid fat at room temperature. Your body makes saturated fatty acids from carbohydrates and they are found in animal fats and tropical oils.
Monounsaturated: Monounsaturated fatty acids have one double bond in the form of two carbon atoms double-bonded to each other and, therefore, lack two hydrogen atoms. Your body makes monounsaturated fatty acids from saturated fatty acids and uses them in a number of ways. Monounsaturated fats have a kink or bend at the position of the double bond so that they do not pack together as easily as saturated fats and, therefore, tend to be liquid at room temperature. Like saturated fats, they are relatively stable. They do not go rancid easily and hence can be used in cooking. The monounsaturated fatty acid most commonly found in our food is oleic acid, the main component of olive oil as well as the oils from almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts and avocados.
Polyunsaturated: Polyunsaturated fatty acids have two or more pairs of double bonds and, therefore, lack four or more hydrogen atoms. The two polyunsaturated fatty acids found most frequently in our foods are double unsaturated linoleic acid, with two double bonds—also called omega-6; and triple unsaturated linolenic acid, with three double bonds—also called omega-3. (The omega number indicates the position of the first double bond.) Your body cannot make these fatty acids and hence they are called “essential.” We must obtain our essential fatty acids or EFA’s from the foods we eat. The polyunsaturated fatty acids have kinks or turns at the position of the double bond and hence do not pack together easily. They are liquid, even when refrigerated. The unpaired electrons at the double bonds makes these oils highly reactive. They go rancid easily, particularly omega-3 linolenic acid, and must be treated with care. Polyunsaturated oils should never be heated or used in cooking. In nature, the polyunsaturated fatty acids are usually found in the cis form, which means that both hydrogen atoms at the double bond are on the same side.
All fats and oils, whether of vegetable or animal origin, are some combination of saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated linoleic acid and linolenic acid. In general, animal fats such as butter, lard and tallow contain about 40-60% saturated fat and are solid at room temperature. Vegetable oils from northern climates contain a preponderance of polyunsaturated fatty acids and are liquid at room temperature. But vegetable oils from the tropics are highly saturated. Coconut oil, for example, is 92% saturated. These fats are liquid in the tropics but hard as butter in northern climes. Vegetable oils are more saturated in hot climates because the increased saturation helps maintain stiffness in plant leaves. Olive oil with its preponderance of oleic acid is the product of a temperate climate. It is liquid at warm temperatures but hardens when refrigerated.
Classification of fatty acids by length
Researchers classify fatty acids not only according to their degree of saturation but also by their length.
Short-chain fatty acids have four to six carbon atoms. These fats are always saturated. Four-carbon butyric acid is found mostly in butterfat from cows, and six-carbon capric acid is found mostly in butterfat from goats. These fatty acids have antimicrobial properties—that is, they protect us from viruses, yeasts and pathogenic bacteria in the gut. They do not need to be acted on by the bile salts but are directly absorbed for quick energy. For this reason, they are less likely to cause weight gain than olive oil or commercial vegetable oils.27 Short-chain fatty acids also contribute to the health of the immune system.28
Medium-chain fatty acids have eight to twelve carbon atoms and are found mostly in butterfat and the tropical oils. Like the short-chain fatty acids, these fats have antimicrobial properties; are absorbed directly for quick energy; and contribute to the health of the immune system.
Long-chain fatty acids have from 14 to 18 carbon atoms and can be either saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Stearic acid is an 18-carbon saturated fatty acid found chiefly in beef and mutton tallows. Oleic acid is an 18-carbon monounsaturated fat which is the chief component of olive oil. Another monounsaturated fatty acid is the 16-carbon palmitoleic acid which has strong antimicrobial properties. It is found almost exclusively in animal fats. The two essential fatty acids are also long chain, each 18 carbons in length. Another important long-chain fatty acid is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which has 18 carbons and three double bonds. It is found in evening primrose, borage and black currant oils. Your body makes GLA out of omega-6 linoleic acid and uses it in the production of substances called prostaglandins, localized tissue hormones that regulate many processes at the cellular level.
Very-long-chain fatty acids have 20 to 24 carbon atoms. They tend to be highly unsaturated, with four, five or six double bonds. Some people can make these fatty acids from EFA’s, but others, particularly those whose ancestors ate a lot of fish, lack enzymes to produce them. These “obligate carnivores” must obtain them from animal foods such as organ meats, egg yolks, butter and fish oils. The most important very-long-chain fatty acids are dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) with 20 carbons and three double bonds; arachidonic acid (AA) with 20 carbons and four double bonds; eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) with 20 carbons and five double bonds; and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) with 22 carbons and six double bonds. All of these except DHA are used in the production of prostaglandins, localized tissue hormones that direct many processes in the cells. In addition, AA and DHA play important roles in the function of the nervous system.29
If you want to read more check out this link…or buy their book.
If you love brown rice, raw almonds, or black beans they all have something in common: They don’t want to give up their nutritive magic very easily. They need a little courting. Here’s the deal…
Phytic acid is the enzyme inhibitor that keeps these seeds dormant. Until they get “planted” and “watered” they are programmed to stay “locked” up. For those who love to eat raw nuts, whole grains and legumes for their vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and amino acids, there is a key step in the processing of these items in order to unlock all of the nutritional potency and neutralize the phytic acid–sprouting.
What this means is that all of these raw items need to be soaked in water and sprouted. Soaking/sprouting times vary, but at a minimum over night soaking is a good start. The word on the street about brown rice is that a good soak in water over night, change the water in the morning, rinse, drain, and let it go throughout the day prior to cooking at night.
Not only does this soaking/sprouting neutralize phytic acid, but it also allows all of the nourishing elements that are bound up by the phytic acid to be released and made available for easy digestion and assimilation.
The saying, “you are what you eat” is fine. But I heard an amendment to that saying recently: “you are what you assimilate.” True dat. It does no good to eat a whole load of grains or raw nuts without the ability to assimilate their potent profile of vitamins, minerals and aminos.
Now if you want to buy sprouted brown rice you’re in luck. Whole Foods stocks a version from Minsley. They make a good product. Their main marketing gag is that sprouted brown rice has an increased level of GABA (Gamma-aminobuteryic acid). GABA increase in sprouted brown rice ranges from 5-15 times that of regular brown rice and thus is a great source for this feel-good amino. GABA has been shown to have several key health benefits. I will say that any chance you can get a natural source of GABA is a good thing.
So whether it’s quinoa, millet, raw almonds, or brown rice, just make sure you unlock the potential before you dish it up. Remember–sprout your grains and soak your nuts. It’s a good thing. Really.
So I took a break from the blog because I spent all summer working on a book. The working title is THE TAILING BOARD. I have had so many folks over the years encourage me to put together a layout of my story and my suggestions for living a healthier life, that I finally decided to capture it. I am a little over 30,000 words deep on the journey and I have spent the past month working on the proposal to send out to agents. The only agent out there that I feel has any kind of a cool vibe on their site is a guy named Nathan Bransford. If any of you know any other nonfiction literary agents that would be good to connect with, please let me know.
I’ll keep you posted with any updates and hopefully some good news about publishing this little project.
The movie “Tapped” is a film about the global, environmental, health crisis of plastic bottled water. Check out the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72MCumz5lq4
And read some of these statistics…
- The United States is the world’s leading consumer of bottled water. In 2006, bottled water consumption in the US reached a record 8.3 billion gallons, 185 million gallons of which was imported. The total amount spent on bottled water was over $11 billion.
- In contrast to tap water, which is distributed through an energy-efficient infrastructure, transporting bottled water long distances involves burning massive quantities of fossil fuels.
- Making bottles to meet Americans’ demand for bottled water requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel some 100,000 U.S. cars for a year.
- It costs more money to drink bottled water than to put gas in your car–up to five times more–due mainly to its packaging and transportation.
- 86 percent of plastic water bottles used in the United States become garbage or litter.
- Buried water bottles can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.
- Studies show that consumers associate bottled water with healthy living. But bottled water is not guaranteed to be any healthier than tap water. In fact, roughly 40 percent of bottled water begins as tap water; often the only difference is added minerals that have no marked health benefit.
- In 1999, NRDC conducted 1,000 separate tests of more than 100 brands of bottled water and concluded that bottled water is not necessarily any purer or any safer than city tap water – See Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype?.
- Bottled water companies do not have to release their water-testing results to the public, whereas municipalities do.
- A city’s tap water cannot have any E. coli or fecal coliform bacteria, while bottled water is allowed a certain amount of these bacteria. In addition, most cities’ tap water must be tested for Cryptosporidium or Giardia, common water pathogens that can cause intestinal problems, including diarrhea. In contrast, bottled water companies are not required to conduct these tests.
- People pay from $1 to $4 a gallon for the perception of higher quality when, in fact, the quality of bottled water is at best unknown! Over 90% of the cost of bottled water is in the bottle, lid and label.
- The FDA, who regulates bottled water, states that “Companies that market bottled water as being safer than tap water are defrauding the American public.”
- On average, one person uses 166 disposable plastic water bottles each year.
- If everyone in New York City were to use a reusable water bottle for one week, for one month, or for one year it would make a significant difference in reducing waste.
One week = 24 million bottles saved
One month = 112 million bottles saved
One year = 1.328 billion bottles saved
Here are some interesting links to check out as well…
And some more amazing statistics on why tap water is probably safer than bottled water…
* City tap water is rigorously inspected, and can have no confirmed E. coli or fecal coliform bacteria. Bottled water regulations include no such prohibition (a certain amount of any type of coliform bacteria is allowed in bottled water).
* City tap water from surface water must be filtered and disinfected. In contrast, there are no government filtration or disinfection requirements for bottled water.
* Most cities using surface water have to test for Cryptosporidium or Giardia, two common water pathogens that can cause diarrhea and other intestinal problems. Bottled water companies do not have to do this.
* City tap water must meet standards for certain important toxic or cancer-causing chemicals, such as phthalate (a chemical that can leach from plastic, including those plastic water bottles); some in the industry persuaded government regulators to exempt bottled water from the regulations regarding these chemicals.
* City water systems must issue annual “right to know” reports, telling consumers what is in their water. But bottlers successfully killed a “right to know” requirement for bottled water.
This was a pick me up at the end of a crappy day.
My typical pre-dinner therapy begins with the twilight watering and harvesting out in the garden. Tonight I gathered carrots, kale, french sorrel, spinach and asian cilantro. I have noticed that my sense of fresh greens has really evolved since I have been growing my own. My seven year old sidekick (Champe) usually facilitates the harvesting by running through his Bruce Lee inspired moves along the garden paths…replete with bow staff and other homemade weapons. Anyway, tonight’s juice was a nice load of the following.
Approx 12 carrots
Big load of fresh kale
handful of spinach
2 persian cucumbers
1 fuji apple
7 or 8 celery stalks
8 leaves of french sorrel
hunk of ginger
5 or 6 wedges of pineapple
handful of asian cilantro
This was one of my favorite concoctions I have run through the juicer. And I think that the reason I don’t mind the time it takes to harvest the veggies, the prep work and the clean up is because the overall feeling I get after drinking a huge glass of this veggie/fruit kick ass blend is so enlightening! It just feels great. With the stress and headaches of the general pandamonium of the dinner hour with two kids, I find that the magic elixir helps to stabilize the nerves…a bit. Anyway, if you have a juicer…USE IT! If you don’t…you might want to think about getting one. Fresh juice is a miracle for your body. Sipped slowly, the absorption rate of all those great vites and mins is just amazing. It absorbs right into your bloodstream for an immediate feel good with almost no energy wasted on digestion. These days I’m needing as much feel good in my bloodstream as I can get. Ya dig?
Ok. Since a lot of folks have been asking…
I have posted the “recipe” in the past…but I’ll give you my current “blend.”
Here goes…in the order that I load the Blendtec…
2 oranges (just carve off the outer skin leave the good white pith).
handfull of organic blueberries
5-6 organic strawberries
handfull of organic blackberries
1 organic banana
2 heaping tbsp of spirulina (Health Force Superfoods brand)
2 heaping tbsp of “Sun is Shining” (www.Sunfood.com)
2 heaping tbsp of Maca powder (major mojo from this high plain root)
3-4 heaping tbsp of local bee pollen (complete protein with major benefits)
1 whole papaya (awesome enzymes and a big blasty blast of beta carotene)
1 huge hunk of fresh pineapple (great enzymes)
3 raw fertile eggs (great load of good fats, and aminos)
4 tbsp Udo Erasmus’ Omega Oil (www.udoerasmus.com)
1 heaping tbsp of raw coconut oil (lauric acid and medium chain fatty acids)
3 tbsp of hemp seed (www.manitobaharvest.com) (another complete protein)
1/2 cup or so of vitacoco coconut water (great source of electrolytes).
1 tbsp of propolis (another bee product from my honey dude, awesome antibacterial)
1/2 cup of Acai juice (Sambazon. A nice antioxidant and good flavor)
And that just about does it. My preferred method of drinking it is in a 1 quart mason jar. This recipe fills 2 of them just about. I have this in the morning post-workout and it fuels me for the majority of the day. I am a huge fan of the power smoothie in the early part of the day because it so easy on the digestion. It is also highly assimilable. The big load of aminos in the hemp seed, spirulina, bee pollen and raw eggs all work synergistically to give my body a wellspring of building blocks that it can convert to highly usable energy.
Here’s another tip…most of you probably start the day with your blast of coffee. Cool. IF that is working for you, that’s fine. I used to do that too, but I found that it just wasn’t sustaining me. I always felt a mid-morning crash or there was a point in my day when I really felt fatigued. If this sounds familiar, then you might want to rethink how you’re “coming online” in the morning. I changed it up. Now I start my day with “morning water.” This is something that has changed my life. I fill a mason jar with filtered, spiralized water (http://www.sulis-health.co.uk/sulis/water.shtml#jug) and then I add the juice of a whole lemon, a tbsp of apple cider vinegar, a dropper full of marine phytoplankton, a dropper full of Fulvic Acid, and a dash of Celtic sea salt. This idea of “charged” water comes from David Wolfe, and since I have been doing this for the past four months…I am a believer. It saturates your body in a way that it lays the foundation for the rest of the day. The early morning is the “elimination” phase of the day. This hydration-plus helps support that and then some. So think about having morning water before morning joe. And really, after morning water if you down shift into a power smoothie you really won’t need your morning joe. You will get WAY more energy without the crash. Something to think about…
We’ve all heard of spring water, but how many of us drink it? I know I don’t. Ok, granted it’s not always easy to find a natural spring bubbling up in your neighborhood, but now you can. Check out findaspring.com and you can plan a field trip! It may be a drive to get there, but why not take a weekend outing and head for the hills. Chances are there’s going to be some beautiful hiking to be done near the spring in your area.
So here’s the download…plan a trip to go to the source and reconnect with a natural spring in your area. You’ll be glad you did. I know I am.