An Apple a Day: Saturated fats and the case for going natural
I have always had deep love for butter.
As a child, I was often found hiding under the table snacking on a stick of the oily delicacy. When I was 10 years old, the margarine craze hit the media, demonizing my beloved butter as a cause of heart disease. Overnight, the butter that I loved so dearly was swept from our table and replaced with golden sticks of margarine.
The debate between butter and margarine is exhaustive and dates back to the 1900s when margarine began gaining popularity as a cheaper alternative to butter. As we have just celebrated National Heart Month in February and enter into National Nutrition Month, it seems an appropriate time to take another look at the controversy.
The Center for Disease control reports that 700,000 people suffer a heart attack each year in the United States. As a nation we have been taught what to eat and what not to eat to prevent a heart attack. We have been avoiding saturated fats found in butter, and eating low fat margarine and fat free mayonnaise to protect our hearts, yet the numbers of heart incidents continue to rise.
A recent study published in the BMJ has discovered a link between heart disease and Omega 6 fat consumption. These fats are also known as polyunsaturated fats and include vegetable oils like Canola and Soybean which are found in margarine. Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are comprised of long chain fatty acids that are easily damaged by heat, light and oxygen.
Saturated fats, like those found in butter and animal fats, are short chain fats that are solid at room temperature and are not damaged when exposed to heat.
The study shows that these vegetable oils that we have been led to believe are healthy, are anything but. Sally Fallon in her book, "Nourishing Traditions," explains "one reason polyunsaturated fats cause so many health problems is they tend to easily become oxidized when exposed to heat, light and moisture as in cooking and processing."
These damaged oils are termed "rancid" and lead to widespread free radical damage to cells that can cause damage to the arterial walls resulting in plaque build up. The offending oils include vegetable oils, soy, corn, safflower and canola oil, and are found in nearly every label on grocery store shelves.
Margarine is loaded with these rancid oils. It is created by taking a delicate Omega 6 fat, usually soybean or canola oil, and adding hydrogen bonds to it to make it solid at room temperature. The oils are then subjected to high heat, industrial chemicals, deodorizing agents, bleach, de-waxing solvents and the use of artificial flavors and colors. It is more chemical than food by the time we spread it on our bread. It's no wonder that heart disease has skyrocketed as we have been eating this Franken-food for decades.
A much healthier fat source is a good old-fashioned stick of butter that has exactly one ingredient: cream.
The study concludes that Omega 6 fats are damaging the body through wide spread inflammation, including inflammation of arterial walls which is implicated in heart disease. Omega 3 fatty acids like those found in deep water fish have the opposite effect and help reduce inflammation. It is a good idea for everyone to include Omega 3 foods in the diet or take a fish oil supplement to improve heart health.
Be good to your heart and get rid of the Omega 6 foods in your diet. If you can't believe that the chemicals you are spreading on you toast is not butter, then its time to kick the tub and simply use real butter.
Not only does it taste better, but your heart will thank you, too.
Missy Beavers is a certified health and wellness consultant as well as a weight loss consultant. She and her husband own the Health Habit in Willows. Her column appears on the second Wednesday of each month.