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Choose the right fats!

I hope your are enjoying the Whole Life Challenge and by now you have overcome sugar addiction and you experience clearer concentration and more stable energy levels.  In the last post, we discussed the different types of carbohydrates, the ones you should include regularly in your diet, like fruits and vegetables, the ones you should restrain, like maple syrup and honey, and those carbs you should avoid, like grains and cereals. Now, I would like to discuss the other macronutrient category that cause a lot of debate and confusion, the lipids, or most commonly referred as fats.  Like carbs, there are good sources of fats, and bad sources of fats, but fat must be included in your diet in small amounts at EVERY meal.  If you remember the discussion about insulin and leptin, the hormones regulating the blood sugar and fat levels, you will feel better, look better, and perform better when your metabolism is burning fat rather than carbs; fats are a more sustainable energy source than carbs.  And lets get it straight for once: it is NOT eating fat that will make you fat, but rather eating excessive amounts of carbs!  Again, the excess of carbs in the blood stream is transported to the liver and muscles by the insulin; when the liver is saturated, it transforms the glucose into triglycerides, e.g., LDL and HDL, and fat accumulates in your cells.  Understand?  Eating fats does not make you fat and will not cause high cholesterol and heart diseases!  If you don't believe me, you can read this article. As expected, the lipids can come in different forms, saturated fats, unsaturated fats and trans fats.  Everyone has heard the bad publicity around trans fats.  Well, you should know that trans fats occur naturally, and are also produced artificially.  The most common source of natural trans fats is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is found in the fat of ruminant animals, like cattle and sheep.  So meat and dairy contains CLA, and non only CLA is not harmful, it even has some anti-cancer properties and other benefits.  On the other hand, artificial trans fats have been linked to a whole spectrum of diseases, and as you already know, they should be avoided at all costs!? Now on to saturated fats.  We will explore the long-chain (LCSFA) and the medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) saturated fat.  The former are mostly found in the meat and milk of ruminant animals.  This fat structure is the most commonly found in the body, and they are the primary source of energy for humans.  The MCT fats are also found in milk, but also in coconut.  Contrary to the long-chain saturated fat, this type of fat is easily digested, passing directly through the liver without secreting bile; therefore being a quick source of energy!  MCT also has a lot of therapeutic properties: anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-oxidative.  Hence, you can eat as much saturated fat as you desire! Next are the unsaturated fats.  We find the monounsaturated fats (MFA) and the polyunsaturated fats (PUFA).  The MFA is found in beef, olive oil, avocado oil and some nuts.  Like the saturated fats, MFA is non-toxic, even at high doses, so it can be eaten without restraint.  Now, the PUFA are most-commonly known as the omega fats: omega-3 and omega-6.  These fats are very fragile and can be oxidized by free radicals in the body and leading to systemic inflammation.  The intake of PUFA should then be limited in the diet, with an equal balance of omega-3/omega-6.  Omega-3 are found in plant foods, like walnut and flax, and seafood.  The omega-3 in plant foods is in the form of ALA, while seafood contains omega-3 in the form of EPA and DHA.  The latter are essential fatty acids, but cannot be produced by the human body.  So only intake of seafood, like salmon, can insure proper intake of essential fatty acids.  Beware vegetarians and vegans, eating flax seeds will not help you here!?  On the other end, the case of omega-6 is complex.  Omega-6 is found in a lot of food: vegetables, grains and meat, nuts and all refined oils, like soybean corn, safflower.  Omega-6 in the form of LA is another essential fatty acid, and can only be obtain from the diet, but excessive intake amount compared to omega-3 causes systemic inflammation.  Hence, your diet should restrain intake of omega-6 to the advantage of omega-3. Lastly, I want to point out that there is no known toxicity with saturated fats and monounsaturated fats, unlike PUFA and some carbohydrates like fructose.  Eating these three types of fats, LCSFA, MCT, and MFA, will increase your muscle mass as well as stabilizing your energy and mood.  So go eat your fats :-) Reminder:  ONLY 9am class downtown today.  11:00am First Aid for Gulu Fundraiser workout, BBQ and silent auction.