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diet

The Health Benefits of Bacon and Butter

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It’s most highly concentrated in coconut oil, and its health benefits are through the roof. However, its reputation is terribly negative, second only to that of trans fats. Can you guess what it is?

 

The answer: Saturated fat

 

Moving past the dogma of low fat, high carbohydrate fad, many of us now realize that low-fat just means high sugar, and high sugar equals more insulin, and more insulin leads to stored fat. You are likely familiar with the health benefits and necessity of unsaturated fatty acids like EPA and DHA found in cold water fish, but saturated fat also proves just as essential. But in what ways can butter, coconut oil, lard, and rib-eye steaks improve your health?

Image Courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

1. Lower cardiovascular risk

Saturated fat reduces the levels of lipoprotein (a), a substance found to be strongly correlated with the risk of heart disease. It also increases your level of HDL (good cholesterol).

 

2. Bone strength

The fat within these foods also contribute to bone strength, as your body cannot effectively incorporate calcium into your bones without it. For this reason, Mary Enig, Ph.D, recommends that 50 percent of your fats should be saturated.

 

3. Liver cleanliness

A fatty liver is damaging to your health and can eventually lead to cirrhosis.  However, the saturated fat that you eat does not directly convert to fat in your liver. On the contrary, adding saturated fat into your diet encourages the liver cells to dump their fat content, additionally protecting the liver from the toxicity of alcohol. The liver’s key role in a healthy metabolism connects the consumption of saturated fat to fat loss.

 

4. Strong lungs

Saturated fatty acids make up 100 percent of your lung’s airspace coating, essential for the function of the lungs. The absence of these fats will lead to the collapse of these airspaces and breathing will become difficult. In fact, some researchers theorize that the rise in asthma is linked to the fact that children have replaced saturated fats with hydrogenated fats, which do not correctly support the structure of the lungs.

 

5. Brain building

Did you know that your brain is made largely of fat and cholesterol? EPA and DHA are still important, but the fat found in butter, coconut oil, lard, and meat is more so, as a majority of the fatty acids in your brain are saturated. Without the proper materials, it is impossible for your body to put together the best functioning brain.

 

Image Courtesy of cooldesign / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Courtesy of cooldesign / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

6. Fat loss

To get your metabolism cranking, eat more saturated fat! This type of fat directly signals the nerve signals that influence metabolism, leveling out the release of insulin and keeping fat storage to a minimum.

 

7. Strong immune system

The myristic and lauric acid in butter and coconut oil keep the immune system healthy, helping your white blood cells identify and destroy viruses, bacteria, and fungi. To prove the wholesomeness of saturated fat, it may be important to note that human breast milk is rich in both myristic and lauric acid, killing germs and protecting the immune system of an infant, and is needed throughout the lifetime in order to keep an immune system alert and attentive against cancer development and infections.

 

Give saturated fat a chance. Your body (and taste buds) will thank you.

 

 

Claims About Supplements Starting to Sound Fishy

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If you’re currently taking Broga classes, or even contemplating signing up for your first one, you are already making progress toward improving your overall health.  The next step may be to give some thought to your diet if total body wellness is a goal of yours.  As you begin to contemplate your personal nutrition goals, you may at some point also begin to contemplate taking supplements.  Buyer beware, be sure to stay current on your research.  Shelling out big bucks on pills may be a waste of resources better spent on real food.Fish Pills

In spite of previous studies linking the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil pills to heart health, new research featured in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that taking fish oil supplements may in fact provide no significant cardio vascular benefits. 

So are fish oil supplements still worth buying? Doesn’t it always seem like the news about nutrition is changing?  One day something is good for you, and the next, not so much right? 

Nutritional research is still fairly young, as medical research goes.  We are still learning so much about how the body processes nutrients and which ones (and how much of them) it needs most. 

Any medical research is complicated to decipher, but I think I got this one. It’s generally accepted in medical communities that omega-3 fatty acids play a role in heart health.  We know that certain fish are known sources of omega-3s.  If you connect the dots then, fish=heart health.  Pretty simple stuff so far. 

Fish oil supplementation has risen in popularity in the past few years because it was thought that we could isolate the good omega-3s from real fish, and put them in a pill.  If people took these pills, it seemed logical that the increase in their diet in omega-3s would lead to healthier hearts.  This logic wasn’t exactly wrong, but there is likely more to the story than we thought. 

What this new information really means is that there may be more to fish that is good for your heart than just its omega-3s.  The same fish that are rich in omega-3s are also rich in selenium and Vitamin D (among other things.)  It is possible that omega-3s are most helpful to our cardiovascular health when consumed with other nutrients.  Just like we know that calcium needs Vitamin D to be fully functional in our bodies, omega-3 fatty acids may be most beneficial when accompanied by other nutrients.  Further research will need to be done to see if this is in fact the case.

SalmonSo what’s your action item?  If your doctor has suggested taking a fish oil supplement, I wouldn’t toss them in the trash because of one study’s findings.  If you are concerned about heart health (and aren’t we all) try to increase your intake of omega-3 rich fish to at least 2-3 meals per week.  Approachable fish rich in omega-3s are salmon, anchovies, and bluefish. 

Your fish oil pills are not likely doing you any harm, and may still be doing some good, but it’s almost always best to get your nutrients from real foods when you can instead of supplements.  

Consider your likes and dislikes and your current dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and try to add more.  Don’t write off supplements in general, some do great things, but my advice is to look at them with healthy skepticism and always ask yourself if you can get what you are looking for from real food first.

 

 

What do you think? Do you have a post-workout favorite food? Maybe a smoothie recipe you’d be willing to share? Share your input in the comment section below!

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Jen JasminJennifer Jasmin is a nutritionist and freelance writer living in Watertown, Massachusetts.  She holds a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College, and a Graduate Certificate in Dietetics from Simmons College.  In her work, Jen strives to help people find balance between real nutrition facts, and realistic health and fitness goals.   Her background also includes over 15 years working in the food service industry, which adds to her unique perspective on eating well.  She shares her insights, personal cooking lessons, and recipe ideas on her blog at: www.skeletonsinmykitchen.com.  In addition to writing, Jen shares her passion about healthy eating in casual, approachable nutrition seminars and workshops in both corporate and community settings.  To Jen, the journey to wellness is incredibly personal, and should be approached in a way that is individual, actionable and unpretentious.