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Fat Is Where It’s At

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Fat Is Where It’s At

By Janet Paskin, Ode Magazine

For decades, fat has been blamed for everything from heart disease to obesity to cancer. But new research shows that fat can be good for you.

Jenny Matthau stands in front of hundreds of students at the Natural Gourmet School and speaks heresy. The New York City culinary program specializes in “health-supportive, whole-foods cuisine” with a “plant-based curriculum.” So when Matthau, who’s president of the school and teaches the core nutrition class, delivers her lecture in praise of fat, students are often surprised.

“A lot of students expect to hear just what the government is saying: You have your good fats and your bad fats, and you should try to eat a very low-fat diet,” Matthau says. “And we don’t agree.”

Instead, Matthau’s lecture includes a long section on why we need fats of all kinds in our diets, much more than we’ve been led to believe. She points out societies like the Maasai, a Kenyan tribe that counts meat, blood and whole milk among its dietary staples, yet has low rates of heart disease and obesity. She praises fat’s capacity to add flavor to a dish and make people feel full. “Fat makes things taste great, period,” Matthau says. “I’m a big fan.” Even so, sometimes it feels like a losing battle. “Students still want alternatives to butter.”

For more than three decades, we’ve been told that fatty foods are deadly, to blame for a full menu of health hazards, from heart disease to obesity to cancer. Regularly described as the nutritional equivalent of cigarettes, fat has been the target of public-service campaigns and municipal bans aimed at keeping us slender and healthy. But a growing body of international research suggests our obsessive fear of fat may be misplaced. A high-fat diet won’t necessarily make us sick or fat; a low-fat diet may not make us healthy or slim.

Even the American Heart Association (AHA), a leader in the campaign against dietary fat, recently revised its nutritional guidelines, increasing the daily recommendations for fat. “The science just wasn’t there,” acknowledges Robert Eckel, president of the AHA and a professor of endocrinology, metabolism and diabetes at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

Not only that, but our myopic aversion to fat may be doing more damage than an order of steak frites ever could. In our effort to avoid the demon lipids at all costs, we’re forever tinkering with our diets–substituting Snackwells for Oreos, dry toast and a glass of orange juice for a plate of bacon and eggs–in hopes it will keep us skinny almost effortlessly. But these dietary contortions often have unintended consequences. They inspire us to eat more food, for starters. And the food we eat more of? It contains more chemicals, starches and sugar. These ingredients “are more harmful than the much-feared animal fats,” says Irina Baumbach, secretary of the Association for Nutritional Medicine and Dietetics in Aachen, Germany.

Next: Is Fat Good For Us?

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Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Food, Health, Mental Wellness, Whole Soy Benefits, , , ,

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also by Robyn, selected from The Intelligent Optimist

21 comments

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12:40PM PDT on Apr 27, 2013

Thank you Robyn.

4:38AM PDT on Aug 17, 2009

This is a wonderful article! It's so nice to hear more and more sense being posted about dietary fats. Juanita, you also make a fantastic point. Thank you! I would, however, like to see some of the sources/research cited in this piece... I'm very big on reviewing the literature for myself.

10:12AM PDT on Jul 24, 2009

cont'd
Together, Soy, HFC, Sugar Substitutes & factory farmed meats are all a death sentence. I know there's a lot more to it, but these comments do not allow me to write book, LOL & some readers have dial-up and cannot load the pages. Something I take for granted, so thanks for mentioning that Meridith & Patricia. Have a healthy day and don't forget to eat you 'good fats' ;)

10:08AM PDT on Jul 24, 2009

Tricia, Thank you for including the details to back up my statement. It's an important part of the statement about fat that many are not aware of and could very well be detrimental to their health.
Although this article blames (rightly so) low fat diets for increased weight, again there are other factors not mentioned, which I'd like to. First off, many products on the market no longer contain sugar (sucrose). It's rare to see sugar as an ingredient in anything. Corn syrup or High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFC) is usually the first ingredient on many products. Studies have been done that show Fructose to trick the body into wanting more because it is not digested or metabolized as sugar is. Like sugar substitutes, which may be harmful to your brain, nervous system and digestive tract, Fructose that is not in its natural form (from fresh fruit) will most certainly wreak havoc on the digestive tract, insulin and who knows what else. I wish they would have mentioned it here but you can't include everything unless you are writing a book.
Another issue I believe they are not really in touch with is that all these people on low fat diets "most, or some of the time" will drink diet soda while they are having a burger and fries. What's wrong with that picture? Well, maybe a free range burger with the proper ratio of lipids O-3 & O-6 but also foods are fried in Soy oil. We are inundated with soy & HFC. Together, Soy, HFC, Sugar Substitutes & factory farmed meats are all a de

2:21PM PDT on Jul 21, 2009

I read less and less at this site now because of the lag time loading page after page after page. I guess you need sort of a "teaser" to make people read on? Is that the reason for the fractured articles? I usually just read the e-mail now and then if I see an item of interest, I google it. I usually come up with information on the item of interest to me. Just my 2¢ cents worth.

10:46PM PDT on Jul 20, 2009

*This comment has nothing to do with the content of the article, which I find very interesting and would like to finish reading, if the computer will just load the next page*


PLEASE quit the 3 page articles. If it fits on one page, put it on one page. It takes FOREVER for slower internet connections to load a multi-page article. Putting the whole thing on one page increases tenfold the likelihood of me reading the whole thing, and I'm sure there are slow-connection people out there that would also appreciate the one-page format. Thank you! :-)

2:22PM PDT on Jul 20, 2009

Kuddos to Juanita!

We need to pay more attention to what the animals we eat, eat! Corn feed (as opposed to grass) makes cows unhealthy, and causes their own lipid balance to be off. (When grass farmed, cows have a balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, a 1:1 ratio. If they are feedlot raised, it's a ratio of about 1:6 with the bad fat being in abundance) How can we expect to be healthy eating unhealthy animals?

If you want to be healthy, avoid processed foods, eat pastured poultry, meat and dairy. If you also want to add benefit to the environment, add local and organic to your shopping items as well.

12:34PM PDT on Jul 20, 2009

Wonder if the teacher notes that the Maasai, a Kenyan tribe are active most of the day and not couch potatoes. Not only are they constantly active, be it gathering fire wood, milking livestock, herding livestock, hand washing clothes, and doing manual labour, the amount of meat and dairy they consume is 1/4 what the average American consumes.

And American children as an example, started to get fatter when public schools cut back on physical education, and parents became paranoid about allowing their kids to play outside because of isolated cases of child abductions.

Recently I noticed who was buying the low fat foods at the store. Most had weight issues. Seems to me that people see 'low fat' and think they can eat even more. And what's in the 'low fat' foods when one reads the label, seems to make one never feel satisfied. Julia Child seemed to have the best approach. A little butter for taste is great, but don't use half the cube.

Personally I keep a food journal so that I am assured I am getting enough fruits and vegetables per day since I need to make an effort to eat enough each day. Am like I was as a kid, where I would be having so much fun outside that I didn't want to come into eat, when called.

11:55AM PDT on Jul 20, 2009

Doesn't make much sense, does it? The more we are urged to eat a low-fat diet, the fatter we get! Probably the best thing anyone can do in regard to their diet is to STOP BUYING AND EATING PROCESSED FOODS. The labels on this stuff are enough to make you ill - they are full of high-fructose corn syrup (very odd in so many things which are not actually sweet tasting) and trans fats, as well as other sources of sugars and fats, and they have high proportions of carbohydrates. It's just not that hard to make sloppy joes yourself, with a can of tomato sauce, hamburger and seasonings - there's no need for a can of Manwich. Make your own cookies and cakes, don't buy them - they'll taste better and impress the heck out of people. And if there is anything more satisfying than making bread with your own hands (and eating it warm with butter when it's done), I can't imagine what it is! Your mothers and grandmothers did it, you can do it too. And stop paying the big Food Incorporated companies, like Con Agra and others, who are making your life "easier", your food bad for you, and your weight go up every year no matter how active you try to be. Regain control over your diet and the foods your family eats, and you will be both healthier and happier, and maybe a few pennies ahead in the long run.

11:54AM PDT on Jul 20, 2009

Doesn't make much sense, does it? The more we are urged to eat a low-fat diet, the fatter we get! Probably the best thing anyone can do in regard to their diet is to STOP BUYING AND EATING PROCESSED FOODS. The labels on this stuff are enough to make you ill - they are full of high-fructose corn syrup (very odd in so many things which are not actually sweet tasting) and trans fats, as well as other sources of sugars and fats, and they have high proportions of carbohydrates. It's just not that hard to make sloppy joes yourself, with a can of tomato sauce, hamburger and seasonings - there's no need for a can of Manwich. Make your own cookies and cakes, don't buy them - they'll taste better and impress the heck out of people. And if there is anything more satisfying than making bread with your own hands (and eating it warm with butter when it's done), I can't imagine what it is! Your mothers and grandmothers did it, you can do it too. And stop paying the big Food Incorporated companies, like Con Agra and others, who are making your life "easier", your food bad for you, and your weight go up every year no matter how active you try to be. Regain control over your diet and the foods your family eats, and you will be both healthier and happier, and maybe a few pennies ahead in the long run.

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