Last week you may have seen a news story about the USDA plan to drop the recommendation that we limit our intake of cholesterol.
For many it was a big head scratcher, since this recommendation has been in place since at least 1961.
According to the panel, the evidence is now “mixed” as to whether eating cholesterol in food raises the cholesterol in your blood.
To me this is kind of a moot point.
What won’t be dropped is the recommendation to limit our consumption of saturated fat to as low as 5-6% of our daily calories. This is because the evidence is very clear that consuming saturated fat raises our bad cholesterol.
Can we eat cholesterol in foods but not saturated fat? If not, then this ruling doesn’t change anything.
Cholesterol is only found in animal foods (there is no cholesterol in kale, for example). Animal foods also tend to have a lot of saturated fat.
There are no foods that contain cholesterol but don’t contain saturated fat. So by embracing cholesterol in foods we would be embracing a known contributor to heart disease and other chronic conditions. Food is a package deal, and cholesterol comes packaged with saturated fat.
Quite simply these recommendations conflict with each other. Thus, the ruling on cholesterol changes nothing in how we should be eating (mostly plants).
Counterpoint: the ruling on cholesterol changes everything.
Ok I know I just showed you why it doesn’t change a thing, but the problem is how people act versus how these recommendations are worded.
The average consumer does not consider individual components of food in their analysis of what to eat everyday.
This is why this ruling is a big problem.
When it becomes official later this year, guess what the headlines will say:
“It’s Fine to Eat Eggs Again! Load Up The Bacon!”
Most people will likely only see the headline and wont read the story. Even if they did read the story, the relationship between cholesterol and saturated fat in food likely would not be included in the pages.
This is why we need to start talking about foods how people talk about foods — not by their individual components but by the whole.
Instead of saying “saturated fat raises cholesterol,” or “dietary cholesterol raises cholesterol,” we should say “eggs, dairy, and meat raises your cholesterol.”
Better and simpler yet: “Eating animal products raises your risk of heart disease. The basis of your diet should be plants and you should limit the foods that come from animals as much as possible.”
Unfortunately, the agency handing out the recommendations is the same agency responsible for protecting the agricultural industry. The USDA has competing roles: protect consumer health, and protect agriculture industry.
It will be a long time before we see the official recommendation say anything negative about meat. But we know better.
Want more on this subject? Check out my YouTube Channel this Thursday for my latest video all about cholesterol and saturated fat!: http://j.mp/plantifulyoutube
As we discussed last week, knowing what nutrients are essential — meaning they must be consumed from food, our body cannot manufacture them — teaches us a lot about what we should be eating.
This week we take a look at fats, specifically what fat is essential to consume.
It’s a short list this week. The only two fats that are essential are:
- α-Linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, and
- Linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid
It is interesting to note just how few fats are essential to consume. What this means is that the body can manufacture every other fat necessary for human health. That means we don’t need to consume any other fats, no saturated fat, no cholesterol, etc. Our body can make all we need.
In other words, apart from the two essential fats, we don’t need to purposely eat fatty foods. Unlike other nutrients, we don’t need to try to get enough. If you live in America, you are already getting enough fat in your diet, and likely are consuming far too much of it.
When it comes to Linoleic Acid, the omega-6 fatty acid, you are also getting enough already. In fact you are likely getting too much. Omega-6 is found in abundance in plant oils, such as corn, safflower, and sunflower oil, and also most animal fat. Most processed food contains a lot of these oils, and many people cook with them as well, thus we get more than enough. As we’ll see, most actually get too much.
Essential Fat Plays a Key Role in Heart Disease
Important to the development of heart disease is the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the diet. Optimal is around 1:1 or 1:2. The average in America is between 1:14 and 1:25. This means we are getting far too much omega-6 and far too little omega 3.
We need to lower our omega-6 consumption and increase our omega-3 intake.
Dropping omega-6 is easy — stop cooking with oils, eat fewer animal products, and less processed food.
Increasing omega-3 is also easy. Add ground flaxseed, about 2 tablespoons a day, to your diet, by adding to smoothies, your oatmeal, or baked goods recipes. You can also eat more walnuts, chia seeds, or dark leafy greens, though flax is preferable for omega-3s.
So what does this teach us about what we should be eating?
It tells us we shouldn’t eat processed foods (duh), added oils (they are not natural), and too much animal flesh.
Our ancestors didn’t have to worry too much about their O3:O6 ratio. Most fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans, have a ratio of about 1:1 or 1:2. So a diet centered on these foods would naturally rest in that optimal range. So this also tells us to eat more plants!
Likewise, since only two fatty acids are essential to consume, this suggests that fat as a macronutrient is relatively unimportant to our thriving. In other words, we just don’t need that much of it. We only need a couple grams of omega-3 and omega-6 every day, and that’s it.
So, work on your essential fatty acid ratio, and don’t worry about the rest. In fact, good evidence suggests avoiding fat — particularly animal fat — helps to avoid obesity and other chronic diseases.
As the great Dr. John McDougall says, “The fat you eat is the fat you wear.”
EGG REPLACER RECIPE
1 TBSP Ground Flaxseed
3 TBSP Warm Water
Mix, let stand for a few minutes. Replaces one egg