Why not to go low fat: #1

Bacon and eggsModern zoos employ nutritionists who carefully prepare meals that suit the dietary needs of the different animals. Monkeys, elephants, sharks, rhino’s and lions: they all get foods that provide them with the right balance of nutrients, based on their natural diets. Zoos do this for a reason: it increases life expectancy, fertility and health in general. Rabbits get mainly plant foods whereas the lion’s meal is predominantly meat based. Probably it makes sense to you. Yet, we humans seem to have forgotten about our own natural diet: the foods that our far ancestors used to eat. Most of us eat ‘whatever’ and health statistics reflect the detrimental effects of it.

The ‘average caveman’s’  diet was more diverse then the lion’s, after all we are omnivores. We evolved over millions of years, being able to use a variety of both plant foods and meats in order to survive. However, our far ancestor’s diet could never have been anything close to our modern western diet, or the food pyramid for that matter. Carbohydrates and sugars for instance have only been so abundantly available to us since the agricultural revolution. Meats, fats, nuts and seeds were more important fuel sources. Yet, ‘experts’ and even governments want you to believe that meats are bad for your health because they contain saturated fats. Instead, we are supposed to consume processed oils, such as sunflower oil and corn seed oil, that were never part of our natural diet, and are usually extracted by using chemicals. How much sense does that make from an evolutionary perspective? What are the chances that the lion’s health improves, when we replace his meat with tofu burgers?

I know this information might confuse you, after all we’ve always been told how saturated fats raise our cholesterol and cause heart disease. The truth is, there is no reliable scientific research to support this so called lipid hypothesis. Please read this text or watch this enjoyable video if you want to know more about the sloppy science behind it. In most cases, trying to force down your cholesterol level, either by the use of statin drugs, or a low-fat diet, is probably not the best idea. Meats contain nutrients like vitamin B12 and iron, that are hard to get from other natural sources. Low fat diets are usually low in vitamins A, D, E and K, and more importantly, these vitamins need fats in order to be properly absorbed into our bodies. Let’s take a closer look at these ‘fat soluble vitamins’ to find out why they are so important.

Vitamin A plays an important role in growth and development (mitosis), reproduction, good vision, a healthy immune system, strong bones and teeth, and a healthy skin. Foods that are rich in vitamin A are liver and other meats, egg yolks, butter and cheese (from grass fed cows). Vegetables such as carrots and peppers contain beta-carotene. Beta-carotene can be partially converted into vitamin A, provided that you are a healthy, well-fed adult and consume a sufficient amount of animal fats*.

Vitamin D is technically not a vitamin but a precursor of a hormone. Our bodies are able to produce it, as long as there is enough skin exposure to sun light. Because this is often not the case, a lack of vitamin D is among the most common deficiencies. In that case, it’s important to compensate the lack of sunlight by consuming foods that are rich in vitamin D. Good sources are wild fatty fish (herring for instance), butter and egg yolks. Supplementing with a good quality cod liver oil is a smart idea. Vitamin D enhances the intestinal absorption of calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphate and iron and plays a role in the prevention of cancer, depression, Alzheimer’s and inflammation.

Vitamin K is required for blood coagulation and helps bones to absorb and maintain sufficient calcium. A low vitamin K level weakens bones and promotes calcification of arteries and other soft tissues. Vitamin K1 can be found in green leafy vegetables and cabbage. Vitamin K2, the main storage form in animals, seems to have superior health benefits. A growing body of evidence indicates its potential benefits for brain, skin, prostate and cardiovascular health. K2 can be found in products such as cheese, butter (from grass fed cows), salami, ground beef, chicken and egg yolk.

Vitamin E is important for reproduction and is an antioxidant that helps keeping the heart vessels healthy. Important sources are leafy greens, liver, egg yolks, nuts and seeds. Other products that are high in vitamin E, are grain products and vegetable oils. Pure olive oil can be consumed safely, when not heated. I’d personally stay away from most grains and processed vegetable oils, as they were no part of our ancestral diet, and cause health problems in many people.

The fact that these very important vitamins are fat-soluble is only one of many reasons why not to go on a low fat diet. In future posts I will discuss other reasons that hopefully prevent some people from cutting those great fats out of their diet!

Categories: Evolution, Food, Other

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