Monday, August 08, 2011

What Not to Talk About...Religion, Politics... Food?

I would have never dreamed a discussion on food could be so complicated.  There's a study to support just about anything, or condemn just about anything.  Bringing up food philosophy creates heated debate likened to a discussion on religion or politics.  There are so many camps out there, the vegetarians, the vegans, the raw folk, the primal folk, the paleo, the whole food people, the clean foodies, the junk foodies, the eat-whatever-you-want-we're-all-going-to-die foodies...and the list goes on.  It can get a bit confusing.  Who to believe?  What to believe?  What study is accurate?  Which one has a hidden agenda?

This fall, I'm teaching a P.E./Nutrition class at a local homeschool group so I've upped my reading about nutrition this summer.  My focus in reading has been "Real Food" and what is best for our bodies nutritionally.  There is so much controversy, I thought I'd begin sharing a bit of what I've read.  It's yours to take it or leave it.  Your body, your food choice.

I must first mention, I'm in the CrossFit scene.  For the most part, people who frequent CrossFit gyms follow either a Zone or Paleo eating plan, although I do know a vegetarian at our gym.  I would say she is the exception, rather than the rule.  CrossFit produces meat eaters the way yoga produces vegetarians.  I've been at the CrossFit gym for about a year.  I've always been a Big fan of protein, but thought fats were not my friends.  After much reading over the last many years, I've changed my viewpoint on fats.  Natural Fats Are Good!  During the lowfat craze of the late 80's early 90's I think I did serious damage to my body by avoiding fats.  My hormones were whacked and I experienced consequences due to my fat avoidance.  I can say, never did a doctor look at me and question my diet, but I know firmly believe by issues were nutrition related.

So since I brought up fats, let's look at fats first.  Why do we need fats?  Fat is burned as fuel giving us energy.  It insulates us, protecting us from cold.  And, fat is a basic building block in our cells.  We need fat for proper brain function, hormone production, cellular function, and to properly digest, absorb and transport vitamins.

So what kind of good, healthy fat should we eat?  Note, the words, "good, healthy fat", not potato chips.  According to Kristen Michaelis, author of Real Food Nutrition and Health, we should give our bodies the kinds of fats it needs.  The number one need is for saturated fats.  WHAT, Saturated Fats?  I can hear you now.  I feel your pain.  This goes against everything we've heard or learned over the last many years.  Here's a fantastic article I found on Mark's Daily Apple to ease your concerns.  Animal fat is good for us.  Meat is our friend.  I'm still trying to embrace bacon as my friend.  I like bacon, but have avoided it for so long, it's hard for me to think it's okay now.  According to Michaelis, saturated fats should be followed by monounsaturated fats found in red meat, whole milk products, nuts and high fat fruits like olives and avocados.

Next on the list, is balancing Omega-6 fatty acids with Omega-3 fatty acids.  The ratio should be less than 4:1, but optimal should be 1:1 or 2:1.  Check your oils at home.  Yellow, refined, seed-based oils have high concentrations of omega-6.  This is shocking, but the average ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 in the standard modern diet is 20:1 because of the dependence on corn products!  Corn is everywhere.  It's time to do some label reading.

Michaelis provides a great list of good fats to use for cooking.  She stresses, "Avoid cooking fats past their smoke point."  That's when the fat begins the process of oxidation leading to inflammation of the arteries.

Great Fats to Use For Cooking

Butter- from grass fed cows (lower than 350 degrees)

Coconut or Palm Oil (lower than 350 degrees)  LOVE the coconut oil!

Lard (Yes, I just typed LARD, I know many of you may be cringing.  It just screams FAT PIG! How can we eat that?).  This lard is from foraged, meaning they ate grasses roots, etc- not corn, pigs (lower than 370 degrees)

Schmaltz (the rendered fat)  from pastured chickens, ducks, or geese (lower than 375 degrees)

Macadamia Oil (lower than 410 degrees)

Tallow from grass-fed cows (lower than 420 degrees)

Ghee (clarified butter) from grass-fed cows (lower than 425 degrees)

Avocado Oil (expeller pressed, UV-protected, lower than 520 degrees)

Fats that are great as condiments are:

Olive Oil

Sesame Oil

Avocado Oil

Macadamia Oil

Coconut Oil

Butter (from grass-fed cows)

Sour Cream (full-fat, with live cultures preferably)

Yogurt (full-fat, with live cultures)

Note: most of the good oils are expeller pressed.  Some are UV-protected.

So, there's a quick fat lesson.  Hopefully all this learning will help me in teaching this fall.  My prayer is that I know what I know in my knower when asked. 

Eat your fats: grass-fed meats, good fish & chicken, avocados, nuts, good oils.  Your brain and body will thank you!

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