Should I eat a low-fat diet?

 Should I eat a low-fat diet? Is saturated fat bad for me?

The low-fat diet has been around for many decades, and I still hear nutritionists touting it as a the main way to lose weight. But does a low-fat diet really help you lose bodyfat? Is saturated fat evil? Will low-fat yogurt fix all of my problems?

In short, the answer is…no. But that’s a bit too simple.

And don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting a high-fat diet. or at least not a diet filled with fried foods and cheeseburgers. You can go overboard with anything, and I’ve seen some meals that could cause heart palpitations by sight alone. (Creamy Alfredo with bacon, ham, and butter, anyone?) But except for extreme overuse, integrating fats into your diet can be incredibly helpful, it’s really the source of the fat you need to worry about.

Fat can help make us feel more full, and keep our sugar cravings and low-blood sugar attacks at bay. Our body uses fat for various repairs and energy; and I actually lost a lot of weight when I stopped my low-fat habits. It’s been proven that there have been more heart problems and fat-gain once the low-fat diet gained popularity.

coconut oilThe video below describes the simple chemical make-up of the different types of fat. I’ve also written an article with similar information giving the chemical make-up of the different fats, and another article about the dangers of vegetable oil. Start there to get an idea of the science behind it. But here are my basic suggestions:

Saturated Fat:
Saturated fat has gotten a bad rap, but it’s actually an important part of our diet. Our brains use it, and our cells use it for elasticity. Like any calorie, it’s also a form of energy. And it’s actually easier for our body to convert fat into energy than it is to convert protein into energy! So I purposely make sure that fat is included in most of my meals. I prefer saturated fats from vegetable sources, since the medium chain triglycerides are a quick source of energy, and most vegetable sources have other benefits (coconuts are magical). But fat is very “dense” in calories, so don’t overdo it. If you eat animal protein, you’re automatically getting saturated fat, and I wouldn’t suggest adding any more. There are various amounts of saturated fat in most oils and plant foods, the percentage just varies greatly. I’m only listing the sources that contain a large percentage.
Here are the common sources of saturated fat:

  • Meat of any kind
  • Dairy (cheese, milk, butter, and all other forms of dairy).
  • Coconut Oil
  • Palm Oil

Monounsaturated Fat:
Monounsatured fat is found mostly in plant sources. (Olives, nuts, seeds, etc.) The most common source is olive oil. Saturated fat is the most stable, but monounsaturated is the second most stable. Unsaturated molecules are “empty” and are open to becoming rancid or destroyed by heat. If unprocessed and unheated, then this fat is very healthy. In monounsatured fats there is only one molecule that is “unsaturated,” so the rest of the fat is stable, and it will only get partially destroyed. This is safe to eat raw, or at a very low heat. Most plant sources have both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, but they have a varying percentage of each. Here’s the ones that are high in monounsaturated and low in poly:

  • Olive Oil
  • Almonds
  • Avocado
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Hazelnuts

 Polyunsaturated Fat:

Polyunsaturated fat has several unsaturated molecules. This makes it very unstable, and easily susceptible to damage. In a raw, unprocessed form, these fats can be very good for you. Omega 3 and Omega 6 are both polyunsaturated fats. But…most of these oils can be damaged just in the processing to make them, so they’re often already destroyed by the time you buy them. I never cook with polyunsaturated fats, and I use them more as a supplement (like cold-pressed chia seed oil or flax oil.) You also get these fats when you eat nuts, seeds, or other plant products. There are even trace amounts in animal fats, although it’s usually destroyed by cooking.
Here are some common polyunsaturated fat sources:

  • Safflower Seed Oil
  • Canola Oil
  • Flax Oil
  • Chia Seed Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Sunflower Seeds

 

 

 

 

Detox Your Liver for Vitality

Your liver is frequently under appreciated, yet is one of the most important organs in your body! The liver has hundreds of different functions, two of the primary being to store vital nutrients for your body and to filter and breakdown chemicals that would otherwise be harmful to our bodies. As our world has become more industrialized, we are now more commonly exposed to both natural and unnatural substances that our livers must filter. These substances can come from a variety of sources, be it chemicals (pesticides, industrial chemicals, solvents, toiletries etc.), drugs and medications, or poor diet (including alcohol, caffeine, and sugar). Exposure to these substances can lead to your liver being overburdened, and an overburdened liver can lead to chronic fatigue, allergies, improper digestion of food, body aches, headaches, brain fog, depression, and fatty liver disease. Some, including myself, argue that an overtaxed liver will result in a toxic body, promoting the ideal environment for almost all chronic diseases and disorders!

There are a number of options to consider when it comes to finding a protocol to help detoxify and cleanse your liver. Some protocols are more extreme than others, so always choose the option you feel most comfortable with. Small changes in your lifestyle can have a dramatic effect on how you feel and your quality of life. That being said, some of the more ‘extreme’ options can be more effective than other ‘less extreme’ options.

Diet and exercise are the foundation of a quality life and is one of the most important protocols for keeping your liver in tip-top shape. Processed foods lack essential nutrients your body requires to function optimally — this includes allowing your liver to work its magic and keep your body clean! Additionally, most processed foods contain preservatives in the form of chemicals, which put a great strain on your liver to eliminate. Usually, they also contain sugar, another substance your liver must eliminate. Keep your foods as simple and whole as possible to provide yourself with the most amount of nutrients, and test yourself for food intolerances and allergies — these foods can put an enormous strain on your entire body, not just your liver. Be sure to include high quality fats in your diet, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or even butter! Your liver works in conjunction with your gallbladder, the organ responsible for digesting fats. If you give your body the proper fats it needs, your gallbladder will release bile for digestion. The magic is that bile is actually created from the toxins your liver removes from your body! Limiting or eliminating alcohol, caffeine, and sugar consumption will also take tremendous strides in detoxifying your liver.

Milk Thistle

Herbs and cleansing foods are another facet to consider to detoxify your liver. Milk thistle is one of the most well known and well researched herbs when it comes to aiding and cleansing your liver. It contains numerous antioxidants and compounds that not only help your liver function more optimally, but also help prevent your liver from absorbing any dangerous compounds it filters while it works. Two other herbs include artichoke and dandelion, both which have been used for thousands of years to promote better digestion and aid the liver. These three herbs can be found at health food stores in whole, capsule, or tincture form, and are frequently placed together in various tonics. Adding specific foods known to help cleanse the liver can also be a great asset to liver detox. Such foods include dark leafy greens, including the three herbs above in their whole form, other green vegetables (such as cabbage and asparagus), garlic, turmeric, citrus fruit, carrots, beets, and apples in their various form. Apples contain two important substances for helping to detox the liver: pectin, a form of soluble fiber, and malic acid, which can help fat digestion and help break down gallstones in your gallbladder.

Dandelion

Liver cleanses and fasting are the more ‘extreme’ methods of detoxifying your liver, and different variations can also be more ‘extreme’ than others. Such variations can include the olive oil liver cleanse, coffee enemas, apple juice fasting, vegetable juice fasting, and water fasting. Each of these techniques deserves their own post, as each requires its own unique protocol while being conducted. Look for a series of upcoming articles beginning this week, starting with the olive oil liver cleanse!

Vegetable Oils Will Destroy Your Health!

Fat and oil in our diet is one of the most widely misunderstood and confusing subjects when it comes to our health. Decades ago we were informed that a ‘low-fat’ diet was optimal for energy, health, and preventing nearly all diseases — especially heart disease. We were then informed that fats are crucial for health, yet also told that the best fats to consume are vegetable oils. Vegetable oils have widely been touted to help lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease, aid weight loss, and even help to lower cholesterol. Almost every product that contains vegetable oils has today been labeled as ‘Heart Healthy.’ But the truth is that consuming vegetable oils will actually destroy your health!

Vegetable oils are generally produced from seemingly healthy foods: from soybeans, corn, rapeseed (canola oil), safflower, sunflower, etc. Yet, if we think back 100 years, oils produced from these plants were non-existent. Technology had yet to be developed that would actually allow oil to be extracted from these plants. Especially in the case of soybeans and corn, think about eating a soybean or a kernel of corn. How much fat do they contain? Not much. In the early 1900s chemical solvents, usually petroleum based, were created that allowed oils to be extracted and separated from their whole-food form. These chemical solvents were (and are) cheap to produce, and could be applied to nearly any crop. Manufacturers applied these cheap chemicals to the cheapest crops, creating a large surplus of vegetable oil. Now vegetable oils are in everything: margarine, mayonnaise, salad dressing, roasted nuts and seeds, and almost every processed food!

Vegetable oils will destroy your health for two reasons: they way in which they are manufactured and their chemical makeup.

Because vegetable oils tend to be extracted from the cheapest of crops, they tend to derive from genetically modified (GMO) crops. In the case of canola oil, oil cannot be extracted from a non-genetically modified variety of rapeseed! The variety of rapeseed from which oil is extracted was specifically engineered to have oil extracted from it! I’ll have a future article on why to avoid GMOs, but know that genetically modified crops also tend to be the crops with the most heavily used pesticides and herbicides. Oil is a concentrated form of a food, thus oils have a much greater concentration of whatever pesticides and herbicides were sprayed on its whole-form!

When vegetable oil is extracted from it’s whole-form, it is extracted by heating the food and applying the chemical solvent. Waxy residues are created from this heat and chemical mixture, and must be removed by applying yet another mixture of heat and a chemical acid. If this doesn’t sound that tempting — it’s not. At this point, vegetable oils have an unappetizing color and smell. Manufacturers know this, so use even more chemicals to make the color more appetizing. This is followed by another chemical process to deodorize the oil. Such chemicals used in these processes include bleach and hexane, an extremely dangerous chemical known to be a neurotoxin and potent carcinogen (a cancer promoting substance). Residue from the chemicals required for extraction are found in vegetables. These chemicals combined with the pesticides and herbicides used for growing the crop create a vegetable oil that is, in actuality, a toxic concoction.

Vegetable oils by their chemical nature are mostly polyunsaturated fats. The chemical structure of polyunsaturated fats makes them extremely sensitive to heat: even a minor heating (such as light cooking) can damage the chemical structure, making them rancid and unfit for consumption. Vegetable oils are the most polyunsaturated of all oils! Yet the process required for extracting vegetable oil requires a high-temperature heating, not once, but twice! The reason oils smell unpalatable during manufacturing is because the oils have spoiled, they’re rancid. By using a deodorizing process, manufacturers cover up this reality. Rancid and spoiled oils are one of the most damaging foods you can consume. Rancid fats promote free radicals (those things anti-oxidants are supposed to help reduce), are toxic to the body (your body does not know how to eliminate them properly), and promote full-body inflammation (known to promote all major diseases and disorders).

Additionally, vegetable oils contains a large concentration of Omega-6 oils. While Omega-6 fats are important for health, the majority of people’s diets contain far too many Omega-6. A balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats are required for health, but an overabundance of Omega-6 promoted an over-inflammation of the body. As mentioned above, inflammation is perhaps the single largest and universal cause of all major diseases and disorders, especially heart disease and high blood pressure.

So what oils should you consume? Sticking with traditional oils, oils that have been consumed for millenia, are the safest and most health promoting! Such oils include coconut oil, palm fruit oil, and butter. While these oils are saturated fats, they are not dangerous to your health! Check out all the benefits of coconut oil! The saturated chemical structure of these fats makes them more stable than polyunsaturated vegetable oils, and thus extremely safe and the oil of choice for cooking. And while olive oil is a vegetable oil, it is perhaps the only safe vegetable oil for consumption. Buying cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil is your best bet, as the extraction process requires minimal heat and has been extracted for thousands of years without the use of chemical solvents.

Choosing the highest quality fats and oils in your diet will give you large gains in your overall health. Stick with traditional oils, and avoid vegetable oils that have only existed for a few decades, including eating the processed foods that contain them. You’ll find you feel better, reduce your risk for all major diseases, and you’ll probably enjoy them more, too!

Balsamic Marinated Figs and Blueberries with Brie

Happy Labor Day! Although relaxation is imperative for health, holidays are often associated with overeating and unhealthy food. I decided to post this recipe, although to be totally honest, it’s not the healthiest thing I’ve posted…but I decided that for a holiday, I could meet halfway and go for a treat. It does has antioxidants and fiber in the figs and blueberries, and protein in the brie. Good-quality balsamic can ease digestion. It can be made gluten-free with a gf bread choice. It’s not the best for food combining, and it’s not vegan…but like I said, this holiday. Let’s meet in the middle. I first made this on a lovely day off, after I had picked some fresh blueberries off an alpaca farm. I hope you enjoy!

Balsamic Marinated Figs and Blueberries with BrieBalsamic Marinated Figs and Blueberries with Brie 

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 ripe figs
  • Blueberries
  • Aged Balsamic, or blackberry balsamic vinegar **
  • Extra virgin olive oil**Oilve Oil, Aged Balsamic, Brie, Figs, and Blueberries
  • 1/2 round of Brie or Camembert Cheese
  • Fresh bread (Italian or Ciabatta work best) or crackers
  • Fresh or dried thyme
  • Fresh or dried marjoram
  • Salt and Pepper
  • *Optional: white or black truffle salt

**Quality is very important! You want thick, barrel aged balsamic. I love the classic We Olive Balsamic that is local to California, but you should be able to find some online, or in a specialty grocery store. The same goes for olive oil! By law, olive oil can be mixed with a certain % of low-quality vegetable oil. So if it’s very cheap, it’s probably not pure! Besides We Olive, I also LOVE Temecula Olive Oil Company. The Fresh Basil Olive Oil is to die for. Supporting local products is also more environmentally friendly, as it saves on the shipping fuel.

Directions:

  1. Slice the tops off the figs, and cut into quarters. Place the figs and a handful of blueberries into a bowl. Finely chop the thyme and marjoram, and sprinkle over the top (fresh herbs are always best, but if not available dried works as well). Season with salt and crushed pepper. (Use less salt if you plan to use the truffle salt. But don’t put the truffle salt in yet; it will be used later.)
  2. Pour We Olive balsamic vinegar over the fruit. They should be pretty well covered, around 3 tablespoons. Put the bowl aside in a cool, dry place. (Not the refrigerator.) Let it marinade for at least an hour. Balsamic Marinated Figs and Blueberries
  3. If you’re using fresh bread, cut it into thin slices. Toast until crispy.
  4. Arrange the toasted pieces (or crackers) on a plate. Slice the Brie to your desired thickness, and place several pieces on each slice of bread.
  5. Take the bowl of marinated fruit, and place a some figs pieces and blueberries on each slice of bread. Drizzle some additional balsamic over each piece.
  6. When all the fruit is used, drizzle We Olive olive oil over each piece. Sprinkle some additional thyme, marjoram, and pepper on top for presentation.
  7. If you have truffle salt, sprinkle a pinch on each piece.
  8. Serve and enjoy!

Orange-Roasted Tofu with Asparagus

Finding quick, easy, and healthy recipes that you can make over and over is an essential to optimal health. This recipe was suggested by a client of mine, and is an absolute breeze to make! Preparation time is negligible, just pop it in the oven and dig in! As with many recipes, the recipe itself can serve as a base. Always feel free to add extra ingredients that suit your own pallet.

This is an excellent recipe for the season, as asparagus is just luscious in the spring! I’ll have an article soon on all the benefits asparagus yields.

*This recipe is adapted from the EatingWell Cookbook.

Ingredients:

  • 1 14-oz package extra-firm tofu (Organic if possible, non-gmo if not)
  • 2 Tablespoons Red Miso
  • 2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Pound Asparagus, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh Basil (1-2 Tablespoon dry if not fresh)
  • 1 Teaspoon Orange Zest
  • 1/4 cup Orange Juice (freshly squeezed if possible)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
  • (Optional) 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • (Optional) 1 Teaspoon Red Chili Flakes
  • (Optional) Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • (Optional) 1 Teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil

Preparation:

  • 1. Preheat oven to 450˚F. Coat a large baking sheet or baking dish with olive oil (coconut oil optional).
  • 2. Cut Tofu into 1/2 inch cubes, then pat dry. Mix 1 tablespoon miso, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl until a smooth consistency. Optionally, mix cayenne pepper and/or red chili flakes with this mixture if you prefer a much spicier variation (if you would like less heat from the spices, mix spices in step 3 instead). Toss and coat mixture over tofu. Spread tofu evenly over baking sheet/dish, and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and toss asparagus with tofu; roast for an additional 10-12 minutes, until tofu is golden brown and asparagus is tender.
  • 3. While tofu and asparagus are roasting, mix remaining tablespoon of miso, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, basil, orange zest, orange juice, and optional cayenne pepper/chili flakes in a large bowl until smooth. Remove tofu and asparagus from oven and toss with remaining mixture. Optionally, add an additional 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of coconut oil for extra flavor. Add freshly grand black pepper to taste. Let sit for a few minutes to cool. Serve, and enjoy!

This recipe makes an excellent main dish, so feel free to serve with whatever you may like as a side – rice, quinoa, extra vegetables – eat it alone, or even double the recipe! Makes 3 servings.