Our August 14 blog concerns the Time Magazine article on the subject of butter and other fats in the American diet. The essay addresses the marketing and political forces that shaped their consumption in the U.S. for the past six decades. We use this article as a point of departure to (1) open the door to the larger discussion of fats and oils in the foods you eat and (2) to take your understanding of these phenomenal biochemicals to a higher level. The fact that fats and oils exist in nature means that they have purpose and value, especially to the plant or animal from which they originally derive.
Mainstream society’s views and understanding of fats can be quite limited. The mention of the word “fats” may prompt a variety of responses at a social gathering ranging from: “I don’t eat red meat” to “I only eat fat-free” to “I don’t eat fried foods”. The discussions rarely go much further. One risks being the “boring” person at that gathering if one wants to enlighten the others about some of the more “technical” aspects of fats.
In this series of short blogs we take that risk. And in the end, fats will not be things you fear. You will instead have new-found respect for them. And you will have more knowledge of how to make a balanced selection of them in your life because you will see they have purposes and, thus, value to you.
FATS AND OILS ARE LIPIDS
Fats and oils are actually members of a family of biochemicals called lipids which have many essential functions in your body. For the moment we will focus on fats and oils. The fact is there are many different types of fats. (Upcoming blogs will be written on the subject of other members of the lipid family and their importance to your well-being.)
TOO LITTLE KNOWLEDGE ABOUT FATS AND OTHER LIPIDS CAN LEAD TO POOR CHOICES
The nutrition information on a label of a food container can be glossed over by many without understanding much. Once someone showed us a product meant to put one on a fat-free nutrient plan. The person subsisted for a number of months on this fabricated powder formula in a can that was meant to help “lose weight”. What happened was the individual developed a number of health problems related to being “fat deficient”. Among the more visible signs were deteriorated skin health (including ulcers around the mouth) and extensive hair loss. Can’t imagine the health decline of internal tissues due to fat deprivation.
Many persons simply look at the number of grams of fat on a nutrition label and often they say “This is too high in fat”. It’s been a rare occurrence that someone asks “What kinds of fats are present here?” or “Will you please expand my thinking on the various roles of fats in my body”?
Health professionals and the media use the terms “good” and “bad” often too much and too carelessly. A case in point is “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol”. This oversimplified labeling has been also used in the case of fats but does little to help you as a consumer or a patient to better understand the functions of these biochemicals. What you need to do is ask: “What are these substances and what do they do?” Here is a cardinal rule to change your thinking: All biochemicals made by or that are present in your body have purpose. This thinking needs to apply when you think about the fats in your life.
LIPIDS PERFORM MANY VITAL JOBS
Fats and other lipids are not good or bad. Rather they all have functions. Here’s a different vision of these biochemicals:
- Many fats and other lipids play structural roles in your body. Different ones help build and maintain the individuality of the trillions of cells that make up you. They serve protective and regulatory functions for each cell. Certain nutrients can enter your cells through surrounding membrane only because specific fats are present in that membrane’s construction.
- Fats and other lipids are part of your communication network inside of you. Certain fats are essential for your brain and the rest of your nervous system to work. Many of your hormones are lipids and you have quite a number of these to send messages among various organs and tissues to regulate degrees of activity.
- Fats are used for energy storage and is a source of fuel to keep your body going. The extra inches around someone’s midsection are simply a fuel depot.
More to come on the lipid family. Next blog will touch on what are called “essential fats”.