Winter is coming on. Now is the time for all great rationalizers to put on weight or to quit trying to shed those extra pounds. Encoded deep within our genes is the urgency to add another layer to protect us from the cold months ahead. After all, in hard winters of yore, only the fittest (who were frequently the fattest) survived.
However, this is the Northwet and I need not remind you that our winters are neither threatening nor cold enough to merit an extra fat layer, so lighten up. Fat is still a killer as far as cardiovascular, endocrine and respiratory illnesses are concerned.
Weight loss. How to? Well, you know the old standbys: Exercise (including “push aways” from the table and/or fridge!), modifying caloric intake, adequate water, adequate DHEA, adequate fiber… there are many important bases to cover. One, above all, I find intriguing enough to hold forth on and that is your oil intake. Yes. We need to discuss your need for an oil change. The fact is, you need adequate oil in order to burn fat. Go figure, eh!
What is the difference between an oil and a fat? Well, a fat is solid at room temperature whereas on the same kitchen counter, the oil is liquid. Another way to think of it is that a liquid oil holds more heat than a fat which solidifies (think “crystallizes” like ice) at room temperature. To simplify: water is to ice as oil is to fat.
So, about your oil change. Didn’t I see you last week at the new hamburger joint? Deep-fried onion rings, french fries and a greasy hamburger with a slab of cheese were washed down by a milkshake, as I recall. If that was you, well you just ate saturated or partially saturated oils which have no redeeming virtue other than, alas, great taste. Same goes for most Chinese, Mexican and American cuisine. On the bright side, traditional Thai, Japanese and native Northwet (seafood) diets are fairly free of the “bad” oils.
What is a bad oil and why? In a nutshell, bad oils interfere with the work of good oils and create a significant digestive burden to your already over-taxed system. So what are the good oils? They are the various RAW seed oils (flax, sunflower), RAW nut oils (walnut, beechnut, chestnut) and vegetable oils (primrose, corn, soy, safflower) which constitute your essential fatty acids (EFAs). In addition, they are unsaturated and when appropriately metabolized, convert to some 50 important prostaglandins which, in turn, are responsible for, well, let’s just say, most everything in the body. Trust me, they are essential.
Essential fatty acids are divided into two main types: Linoleic acid and Linolenic acid (referred to in medicalese respectively as Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids). The former comes from seeds and converts first to gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) and then to di-homo gamma linoleic acid (DGLA) before becoming arachidonic acid (AA) and finally (with the help of magnesium, zinc, selenium, iron, vitamin B3, B6, C and E as well as abstaining from sugar and non-essential fatty acids from the hamburger joint) to all-important prostaglandins. Whew! The latter, omega 3 fatty acid, follows an equally tenuous metabolic pathway before emerging as another important prostaglandin.
Non-essential fatty acids are saturated animal fats (bacon fat, marbled steak, milk and other dairy products), oils from warm climates (cotton seed, coconut, palm) and heat damaged fats from cooking (esp deep frying). Now you know why to avoid fried foods. They compete with essential fatty acids and reduce your immune system’s vitality. They also increase your need for anti-oxidants, but that is a future column.
What happens if you omit your omegas? Well, lack of linoleic (omega 3) can manifest as various neurological problems, impaired learning, dandruff, acne, elevated cholesterol and triglycerides as well as being FAT. Lack of linolenic (omega 6) can manifest as eczema, asthma, hyperactivity (ADD), hypertension, autoimmune diseases, PMS and being FAT.
Deficiencies of essential fatty acids in general appear to you in the mirror as dry or scaly skin, bumps on the back of your arms, brittle fingernails, stiff hair, fibrocystic breast disease and… you guessed it, being FAT.
To change your oil, I recommend 1-2 tablespoons a day of RAW, cold- pressed, organic flax seed oil which is a good blend of omega 3,6 and 9 (don’t ask!) fatty acids. In addition, I encourage to read the labels of the food you are buying and consuming on a daily basis in order to avoid bad fats. Be aware that in order to increase shelf life, manufacturers trick you.
Take margarine for example. Most manufacturers shamelessly try and deceive you, the consumer. They do this by boldly advertizing what they start with i.e. good stuff (“made from poly-unsaturated vegetable oils”) but neglect to inform you that they went ahead and raped that virgin oil by saturating it as part of the preservative process. Sure, they start with poly-unsaturated product but then they go ahead and saturate it! Thus they sell you a saturated (bad) oil! Slick, eh? They lead you to believe that just because their product is made from polyunsaturated vegetable oil that it remains so. In fact, what something came from and what it is today are frequently two very different realities. If you don’t believe me, think back to your pure and innocent youth….
What can I say to motivate avoidance of bad oils, (the so-called “partially saturated fatty acids” or “trans-fatty acids”). Well, try thinking of them as embalming fluid. After all, they are preservatives and they are toxic. Logic screams for us to avoid eating a preserved food that has been treated to prevent decomposition because the same food will resist digestion too! Think of it! What happens to preserved foods within your system? If they can’t be broken down and metabolized, where do they go? What vital functions do they gum up and which arteries do they clog? Retaining youthful beauty is one thing. Being well-preserved is another. Remember, what you see on the counter is what develops within your arteries and tissues. The solid fats are saturated and will clog up your works whereas the liquid unsaturated oils will not.
Where do you find these toxins in your diet? Read the labels of your common foods. Almost every food coming to you in a box, package, can or wrapper has these saturated or partially saturated toxins which act as preservatives. Since you do have the choice, why not a fresh food? “Life comes from life” the ancient alchemists taught. “You are what you eat.” So why swallow preserved (think “embalmed”) foods which might look good but be devoid of vitality? There is little difference between preserving and embalming. Both are driven by our need to have things look deceptively pretty. (Think of how nice the undertaker rendered dear deceased Aunt Mildred. Her remains, however, were thus disqualified as worm food…)
So, look alive! Eat living food. Food that is vital enough to spoil in a healthy time frame. Food that is therefore digestible. Avoid fats but eat good oils and lose weight by cleaning up your metabolism. Avoid foods that will weigh you down with undigested “preserved” junk. Afterall, if you manage to digest fully what you eat, you’ll feel pounds lighter! You’d agree, I trust, that staying young (vital) beats looking well-preserved any day!
Years ago, in speaking about our nascent country’s freedom, Thomas Jefferson declared: “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance”. Thus it is with our health. Beware! Read the labels carefully!
To your Health!