Beginner Plan: Fats
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Dr. Mercola's Nutrition Plan
Did you know that your brain is about 60 percent fat? The fats you eat strongly influence your level of brain function. Some nutritional anthropologists believe the human brain would not have developed as it did without access to high levels of DHA (a type of fat) found in fish and wild game. Just two generations of high omega-6 and low omega-3 fats can lead to profound changes in brain size and function.
Lesson 1: It is the type of fat that matters, not the amount.
Learning about fats can be confusing. When you go to the grocery store, you're confronted with advertisements telling you that a product is low in fat, or a product is made with partially hydrogenated oil. To make sense of all the labels, I've compiled the following list of definitions for you:
- Saturated fats: Saturated fats are found in animal products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream and fatty meats. They are also found in some tropical plants and vegetable oils such as coconut, palm and palm kernel.
Saturated fats are not as dangerous as you think. In fact, coconut oil is quite healthy and is the oil to use for cooking since it is far less likely to be damaged through heating.
A misguided fallacy that persists to this day is the belief that saturated fat will increase your risk of heart attacks. Folks, this is simply another myth that has been harming your health for the last 30 or 40 years. The truth is, healthy saturated fats from high quality minimally processed animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in your diet, and they provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone like substances.
When you eat saturated fats as part of your meal, they slow down absorption so that you can go longer without feeling hungry. In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are also needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption, and for a host of other biological processes.
Studies on low saturated fat diets also support nutritional typing, which predicts that one-third of people will do very well on low saturated fat diets (which supports the studies showing that they work), whereas another one-third of people need high saturated fat diets to stay healthy. If you'd like to learn more about the role dietary fats play in your health, be sure to check out these excellent research studies.
It's important though to understand that not all saturated fats are the same. There are subtle differences that have profound health implications, and if you avoid eating all saturated fats, your health will likely suffer as a result. There are in fact more than a dozen different types of saturated fat, but you predominantly consume only three: stearic acid, palmitic acid and lauric acid.
It's already been well established that stearic acid (found in cocoa and animal fat) has no adverse effects on your cholesterol levels, and actually gets converted in your liver into the monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. The other two, palmitic and lauric acid, do raise total cholesterol. However, since they raise "good" cholesterol as much or more than "bad" cholesterol, you're still actually lowering your risk of heart disease. Sources of healthy fats include:
||Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk
||Organic pastured egg yolks
|Coconuts and coconut oil
||unheated organic nut oils
||Raw Nuts, such as, almonds or pecans, and seeds
||Grass fed meats
- Trans fats: These fats form when vegetable oil hardens, a process called hydrogenation, and can raise LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, and lower HDL (good cholesterol) levels, which of course is the complete opposite of what you need in order to maintain good heart health. In fact, trans fats -- as opposed to saturated fats -- have been linked repeatedly to heart disease. These fatty acids can also cause major clogging of your arteries, type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems.
Lesson 2: Learn about the importance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats.
Omega-3 fats improve your cell's response to insulin, neurotransmitters and other messengers. They also help the repair process when your cells are damaged. On the other hand, omega-6 fats are pro-inflammatory and contribute to insulin and membrane resistance, altering your mood, and impairing learning and cell repair. To avoid high levels of omega-6, it is important to avoid all vegetable seed oils.
Please understand that it's not only necessary to consciously consume omega-3 fats, which I'll review further in lesson 3 below, but it is just as important to lower your omega-6 fat intake. If you don't lower your omega-6 fats to acceptable levels, your omega 6:3 ratio will not be low enough, and you will not receive many of the wonderful benefits of omega-3 fats such as reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer's, arthritis and many other degenerative illnesses.
Lesson 3: Take a high quality animal-based omega-3 supplement
Americans consume a dangerously insufficient amount of omega-3, a fat essential to good health but only found in krill oil, fish oil, and a few other foods. Meanwhile, our intake of omega-6, another fat found in corn-, soy-, sunflower- and other oils, is far too high. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 should be 1:1, but the typical American's ratio ranges from 15:1 to 50:1!
I am convinced that this lack of omega-3 in our diets is a primary reason behind many of the diseases Americans face, and our shorter lifespan in relation to many other "first world" countries such as Japan or Greece. Benefits of omega-3 found in fish-, cod liver-, and krill oil:
While a helpful form of omega-3 can be found in flaxseed, walnuts and a few other foods, the most beneficial form of omega-3 -- containing two fatty acids, DHA and EPA, which are essential to fighting and preventing both physical and mental disease -- can only be found in fish and krill. Unfortunately, nearly all fish, from most all sources, are now severely contaminated with toxic mercury, which is why I have amended my previous recommendations to consume fish on a routine basis. It's simply not advisable for most people any longer.
My latest recommendation for a source of high quality omega-3 fats is krill oil. The omega-3 in krill is attached to phospholipids that increase its absorption, which means you need less of it, and it won't cause belching or burping like many other fish oil products. Additionally, it naturally contains astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant—almost 50 times more than is present in fish oil. This prevents the highly perishable omega-3 fats from oxidizing before you are able to integrate them into your cellular tissue. In laboratory tests, krill oil remained undamaged after being exposed to a steady flow of oxygen for 190 hours. Compare that to fish oil, which went rancid after just one hour. That makes krill oil nearly 200 times more resistant to oxidative damage compared to fish oil!
When purchasing krill oil, you'll want to read the label and check the amount of astaxanthin it contains. The more the better, but anything above 0.2 mg per gram of krill oil will protect it from rancidity. To learn more about the benefits of krill- versus fish oil, please see my interview with Dr. Rudi Moerck, a drug industry insider and an expert on omega-3 fats.
Lesson 4: How to know if you are taking the right amount of omega-3 fats
Omega-3 deficiencies have been tied to the following problems:
|Poor quality of sleep
|Lack of concentration
If you start krill oil and notice that one or more of the above symptoms improve that is a very good sign. If after a time on the krill oil your symptoms return for no apparent reason that is a good clue that you are taking too much krill oil and should stop for a short while to help your body eliminate the oil and then resume at a lower dose.
Unlike vitamins and minerals whose intake is usually relatively constant, the amounts of essential fatty intake is quite variable so following the above will help fine-tune your dose so you can fully benefit from the truly miraculous health benefits that krill oil provides.
If you chose to use fish oil or cod liver oil as your source of omega-3 fats, then the normal dose of fish oil is one 1,000 mg capsule with 300 mg of EPA/DHA for every 10 pounds of body weight.
One teaspoon of liquid cod liver oil is equal to about 3 ½ capsules, and there are three teaspoons in one tablespoon, so one tablespoon would equal about 10 capsules. This dose can be reduced if you are healthy and if you are in a summer climate with warmth and sun exposure.
Lesson 5: Treats with Healthy Fats and Sweeteners
Healthy Chocolate Candy
It has become very clear to me that one of the most important dietary changes you can make is to eliminate your sugar intake and limit your carbs to healthy vegetables. Additionally, most would benefit from dramatically lowering their protein intake. So if you implement both of these changes you need to replace those calories with healthy fat. This recipe is about ¼ to 1/3 of my daily calories.
I realized that this was a major challenge and that I, like most of you, do enjoy having treats. So I thought I would try to create the healthiest combination meal that would combine both the highest quality fats and serve to satisfy the desire for treats. I do believe I succeeded, and I hope you’ll agree. Most of the people that I have shared this recipe with have really enjoyed it.
Interestingly, I think it also solved the sweet cravings indirectly by providing a solid, simple and relatively inexpensive source of substitute calories that could replace the carbs and protein. By doing so, one is able to normalize their insulin and leptin sensitivity, and also improve their mTOR pathways. Once this occurs, almost magically, your hunger and sweet cravings seem to disappear.
I created this recipe over a one year time frame, over much trial and error and have revised it dozens of times. Here is my current version that I am using. Please feel free to tweak it to your personal preferences. The only changes I would advise against are using sugar or artificial sweeteners as that would radically diminish the health benefits
Raw Cacao butter. 4-5 ounces typically can be obtained on Amazon. I purchase organic and fair traded. You can eliminate this if you want, and I believe that I actually prefer the mixture without the cacao butter. Certainly makes it easier to prepare as the coconut melts at 76 and the cacao butter at 122. If you eliminate the cacao just replace it with equal amounts of coconut oil and butter below.
Raw Organic Pastured Butter. 4-5 ounces. If you don’t have a source contact your local Weston Price Chapter leader for recommendations of where you can find this in your area by clicking here.
Organic coconut oil; Obviously I use the one we sell as it is one of the finest in the world.
LoHan (monk fruit) Can use 1-2 scoops that come in container.
Stevia I used one of the liquid versions that has a chocolate flavor and use one dropperful
All chocolate is derived from the cacao bean. However most of it is highly processed and has loads of sugar added. I use organic raw cacao nibs that are also fair traded. They can be purchased on Amazon. I typically take one eighth of a cup and grind them fresh in a coffee grinder.
Cinnamon if you like this spice you can add about 1/8 of a cup to the liquid mixture, about half the amount of freshly ground cacao
Shredded organic coconut. I add this to the liquid mixture, I use 5 ounces but you could use more or less depending on your preferences, or none at all
Vanilla. One dropperful
Melt all the fats over a very low heat. Since you are going to pour this liquid onto a plate I have found it easiest to use a quart glass Pyrex measuring cup and I put the fats into the cup and the cup into a slightly larger pot that is partially filled with water. This essentially creates a double boiler.
The raw cacao butter melts at 122 degrees Fahrenheit so you don’t need to go much higher than that. I typically add the raw butter last as that is the most damaged by the heat. I add it after the heat has been turned off and the mixture is cooled off.
Once all the fats have been melted, you can mix the other ingredients into the liquid. Stir it well and then pour the mixture onto a plate and refrigerate the plate. I find it is easiest to put the plate into the fridge before you pour the mixture as it eliminates the risk of spilling the plate when you transfer it to the fridge.
You could also get fancy and purchase silicone candy molds on Amazon and they will be far more presentable for friends. The mixture takes about an hour or less to harden. Once it hardens you can crack with a knife and enjoy. I find it needs to be kept refrigerated and should be considered like ice cream. It is not as fragile but will turn to a paste that you need to eat with a fork or spoon if you leave it at room temperature for awhile.