Demystifying fats and
oils, part one
The cholesterol scare has many of us thinking that animal
fats are bad for us, that saturated fats are bad for us, that fat in general is
bad for us. Many weight-conscious people fear fat for its high calorie count.
However, the most serious health problem caused by fats and oils is from
neither cholesterol nor calories—it is from rancidity and unnatural processing…
The body does need fats to insulate us against the cold and
to cushion our organs and hold them in place. We need fat in order to absorb
the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K prevalent in greens and other
vegetables. Can you see how a fat-free
salad dressing does not do you any nutritional favors?
Fat plays an important role in the absorption of calcium and
therefore in the maintenance of bone health. It is no coincidence that milk comes with a fair amount of fat in it, as
do cold-water fish—both good sources of calcium. So fat-free or low-fat dairy products do not
make much sense—we need fat for effective absorption of the calcium contained
in these foods.
Fat also nourishes our skin, hair, and nails and is
important for proper brain functioning, especially in the developing brains of
babies and children.
Too much fat in our food can clog up our lymph system and
compromise our immune system. The right
amount of fat, however, slows down the digestion process just enough to allow
effective absorption of nutrients. By
slowing the speed at which carbohydrates are broken down into sugars, fat helps
to stabilize our blood sugar level. This
actually fosters weight loss.
way that fats can help rather than hinder weight loss is through their role in
the endocrine system. Our brain reacts
to fat intake by producing a chemical called cholecystokinin (CCK). CCK stimulates the liver to produce bile,
which helps in the digestion of fat. CCK
also gives us the message that we have had enough food—in essence, curbing our
appetite. A bit of fat in the diet
hastens a feeling of satiety and satisfaction with what we have eaten, actually
permitting us to save calories by eating no more than we need.