Fats have been getting an incredible beating in recent years. They have practically been considered equivalent to evil poison. Many otherwise sane people avoid fat as if it were a direct insult. But this avoidance is unwarranted.
Fats are one of the three essential macronutrients that provide us with calories. As a concentrated source of energy, fat is essential in cold climates as its breakdown provides us with heat. A layer of fat under the skin insulates the body from environmental chills and helps keep it at a steady temperature. This same layer of fat, perhaps a bit thicker, can produce estrogens, and so helps women in menopause and beyond keep their hormone levels up naturally. The kidneys, heart, and liver need to be surrounded by fat deposits so as to be protected and held in place.
Essential fatty acids are closely involved in the metabolism of calcium. One of the more obvious connections is the fact that vitamin D is fat-soluble, and if we are fat deficient, we will also be lacking in that vitamin, which in turn will affect our absorption of calcium. Good-quality fats, in small amounts, are needed for the proper function of the immune and hormonal systems, the manufacture of prostaglandins, sex hormones, cell wall construction, and the transport of fat-soluble vitamins.
Some fats kill, some fats heal. The unhealthy fats are refined, heated, or hydrogenated. They are found in fried foods, commercially processed products, and animals raised on poor diets, drugs, and no exercise.
The unhealthy fats contribute to cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, immune system dysfunction, cancer, and osteoporosis. As they slow down the digestive process by cutting down the secretion of hydrocholoric acid in the stomach, these fats contibute to slow digestion, indigestion, and poor absorption of nutrients.
Among the worst sources of fats are chips and snacks, crisp baked goods (always a sign of high saturated fat), candies, and commercial milk products, especially commercial ice cream because of high sugar content. Genetically engineered foods, such as Canola oil, although purported to be a source of omega-3 fatty acids, could be subject to error due to the possible use of genetically engineered seeds not approved for human use.
Nature does a good job in providing necessary fats. Healthful fats are high in essential fatty acids (EFAs), which include omega-3 and omega-6, both associated with cardiovascular health, good skin, lustrous hair, good nails, and a strong immune system. When they are unrefined, they contain their natural antioxidants and nutrients. Mostly they are found in nuts, seeds, and fresh cold-water fish such as salmon and mackerel. If chickens and cows are raised on natural foods and no drugs, they have a higher proportion of monounsaturated fats and lower cholesterol. EFAs prevent calcium from being excreted in the urine. Good-quality saturated fats are also necessary for important metabolic function.
Extremely high-fat diets can contribute to bone loss. For example, a very-high-fat diet (80% of calories from fat), known as the ketogenic diet, has been used since the 1920s in a number of hospital as a highly successful treatment for epileptic seizures, especially in children who do not respond well to anti-epileptic drugs. Studies done on the additional effects of this diet have shown that:
-At the beginning of its use, it creates metabolic acidosis, but the condition reverses itself wiithin a few days even while continuing on the diet.
-Excretion of calcium in the urine was increased while calcium balance in the blood remained positive.
-One of the few observed adverse effects of the ketogenic diet was some bone loss.
The ketogenic diet is obviously an extreme situation, as rarely will anyone go on an 80% fat diet by naturally.Yet on a standard American diet of processed and fast foods, snacks, dairy, and sweets, it is entirely possible to reach 40% or more of calories from fat, most of it in the form of unhealthful fats. This low-vegetable, high-unhealthful-fat, high-protein, high-refined-carbohydrate diet creates an increased tendency toward an acid condition, which in turn removes calcium from the bones, particularly when accompanied by lots of soft drinks and sweets.
A very-low-fat diet will also hurt bone if:
-It causes weight loss of 10% or more of normal weight
-It is an acid-forming diet high in flour, sweets, and/or protein and low in vegetables
-It is a diet high in nightshades and low in or devoid of milk products
With fat as with everything else, too much is not good, too little is not good. The average post-menopausal woman needs about 65 grams of total fat per day. Some dishes and some meals will have more and some less. That means we need approximately a total of two or three tablespoons of good-quality fat per day in an eating regimen that is based on home-cooked foods such as vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds, and no more than one or two tablespoons of added fats per day when cooking with animal foods or dairy.
Using exclusively one type of fat is not advised. This is because it might cause an imbalance in the fatty acids that it does not provide. A mixture of oils is best, such as extra virgin olive oil or unrefinded light sesame and flaxseed oil, that can be used on salads and steamed vegetables.
.The above information taken directly from: Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution by Dr. Atkins (2002). Harper:NY. Available from www.amazon.com.