Life in the Fats Lane

Heartland Healing has previously noted the value and importance of healthful fat in the diet. When we did, we received a scathing rant of a letter from a cretin university medical school student. In his ad hominem attack and screed, he scolded me for promoting fat; wrote that fat was bad, causes heart disease and on and on. He cursed me and damned me with, “If Mr. Braunstein wants to eat Big Macs and die at an early age of clogged arteries (Note: too late for that, pal.) then let him.” Though the column in question made it clear there is “good” fat and “bad” fat, our friendly student critic missed that part. Apparently comprehensive reading skills are no longer a requisite for acceptance to medical school. Then again, one must recall that doctors are hardly the arbiters of good diet. Doctors have endorsed cigarette smoking as innocuous pleasure and in the ‘60s, cardiologists pimped trans fat margarine as “heart healthy.”

But we’re here to claim, “Fear not the fat.” Good fat and bad fat can very generally be discerned by a simple criterion: If human meddling is involved with the fat, then it is likely “bad” fat. If the fat is pretty much in its natural state, then it stands a good chance of being “good” fat. But like eggs, cholesterol and butter, fat has been skewered as a sinister element in the diet. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fat is necessary for life. Without it, our cells would fall apart. We’d be a horrible mess. Fat occurs in nature in many differing forms. Even with natural fats, we could experience health problems if we eat too much of the wrong kind. Let’s review the basic kinds of fat.

Saturated fats These are typically associated with fat from animal sources such as meat, cheese or milk. We have long been told that there is a connection between animal fats and disease, notably heart disease, which ranks just behind conventional medicine as the leading cause of death in the United States. Many speculate that the prejudice against animal fat was actually initiated by the food industry to make chemically-produced trans fats more appealing to consumers. Saturated fats, accused of association with atherosclerosis or heart disease, do instead have their own set of health benefits. We are learning more about the important balance between the different fatty acids contained in animal sources. 

Unsaturated fats These are usually fats derived from plant sources. They also are in the form of mono-unsaturated (olive oil, for example) and poly-unsaturated fats (such as canola, soy or corn). Some scientists believe these fats actually improve heart health by increasing the level of so-called good cholesterol in the blood. Other researchers, notably Mary Enig, Ph.D., believe vegetable fats are not the health panacea they are made out to be.

Trans fats Artificially created trans fats are deadly. Known as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats on labeling, a Harvard review in 1994 suggested trans fats cause 30,000 deaths a year in the United States by contributing to heart disease. They are also associated with cancers. At first, consumer advocates thought trans fats were a good idea. The selling point was that by using them, we would potentially cut back on animal fats. When trans fats were just coming into their own, we were not fully aware how absolutely toxic they were.

Fats domino effect The current trend evaluates healthfulness of fats based more on composite elements rather than general category of saturated or unsaturated. It’s more important to understand the balance and presence of fatty acids that make up the fat. For example, it’s clear that industrial beef has an inferior nutritional profile than grass fed beef.

Quoting directly from research published in the journal Nutrition: “Research spanning three decades supports the argument that grass-fed beef…has a more desirable [fat] profile as compared to grain-fed beef. Grass-finished beef is also higher in total [antioxidants]. This results in a better [omega fatty acid] ratio that is preferred by the nutritional community. Grass-fed beef is also higher in precursors for Vitamin A and E and cancer fighting antioxidants such as GT and SOD activity as compared to grain-fed contemporaries.”

Just eat it. So we’re inundated with data, research, propaganda and advertising that take us one way then the other. Should you spend all your time sifting through the numbers in order to eat the right way? It makes more sense to keep it simple when it comes to fats. I move away from the American meat-centric diet. Too much of a thing is a bad thing. Then, when eating meat, choose the non-industrial type from a rancher you know. Probably the worst place (after fast food) to buy meat is a supermarket of any type. Next, seek out foods that are minimally processed or perverted by mankind’s helping hand. Nature does it best when it comes to fats.

By now that med school student is selling statins to the masses. Have a burger, buddy.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: for a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit and like us on Facebook.

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