The Zero Carb Diet is a diet high in saturated fat. It’s one of the reasons it’s such a healthy diet to follow. Most people do not understand this fact and find the thought of increasing saturated fats in their diet to be a crazy idea. It’s not their fault they think this way, it’s what we have been taught for some time now. Since the last century fat has been seen as the enemy, and treated like a deadly poison that should be avoided at all costs. The belief that it clogs our arteries and kills us with heart disease has made scared to use it. Even though saturated fat was our main source of nutrition for millions of years a few dodgy studies has us scared.
The science is changing now, those old studies by Keys have been disproved. The new science has proven that saturated fats do not harm us in this way and that the vegetable oils that have been sold to us as healthy are actually the problem.
What is Saturated Fat?
All fatty acids are molecules consisting of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Carbon atoms have the capability of forming single, double, or triple bonds with other carbon atoms, and it is this that makes a fatty acid saturated or unsaturated.
When the fatty acid has more than the single bond they become much more reactive and unstable compared to the single bonded fatty acids.
Unsaturated fatty acids are the ones with double or triple bonds. Saturated fatty acids have just the single bond, making them more stable than the unsaturated fats with more bonds. It is this condition in the number of bonds that make them so different. With more than the single bond, unsaturated fats bend while saturated fats with their single bonds stay straight which makes them a denser fat that can stay solid at room temperature.
Within the saturated fats there are some considerable differences. Depending on the number carbon atoms a saturated fat has, makes it a short, medium or long chain fatty acid. Each have their own importance in our bodies and play different roles. So, despite the bad press and the unwarranted bad reputation of saturated fat, it is an essential part of our nutrition. Let’s look at some reasons it is so important.
Fat contains more energy than any other nutrient. In fact, it has double the calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein. This makes it perfect to burn for energy. The energy from fat can be used immediately for energy or it can store that fat for later. Almost half the fat in our body is saturated fat and is produced when we consume carbohydrates. Insulin converts the carbs to fatand stores it for later use. This is how our ancestors survived harsh winters with little food.
Organs such as the liver and the heart consume most of the energy used by the body and the fuel these organs work best with is FAT! There are two saturated fats that the heart prefers to use for energy, ‘stearic acid’ and ‘palmitic acid’ – The thought that saturated fat cause heart disease is ridiculous when you realise the fact that its saturated fat that runs the heart.
Fats and oils can be damaged at high temperatures which can harm your health. This is more so with unsaturated fats. Their multiple shared bonds make them much more unstable. Polyunsaturated fats are the most unstable, when exposed to the high cooking temperatures they become oxidized and form free radicals that are extremely damaging to our cells. It is this damage from these free radicals that is believed to be the main contributor to heart disease (as well as other health issues). Soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil and other polyunsaturated vegetable oils are damaging to us, especially when used for cooking. These oils have been pushed as the healthy alternative for years and is used in much of our processed foods and sold as being healthy.
Healthy Brain & Nervous System
The human brain is a remarkable organ and is made of fat and cholesterol. Up to half of that fat is saturated fat. The myelin sheath that surrounds nerve fibers is made of mostly fat and cholesterol. Deterioration of this protective layer can cause neurological issues.
Fat Soluble Vitamins
I have mentioned this is past blogs that saturated fats from the animal kingdom have a great number of fat soluble vitamins (A,D,K2). These vitamins are important for bone production, immunity and many other critical functions within our bodies.
Cell membranes regulate gene expression based on its surroundings and has a significant influence on our health. Seeing that most of the cell membrane is made from saturated fat, it has an influence on those cells. The more fat contained in a cells membrane, the stronger it becomes.
Strong & Resilient Skin
Skin cells become more resistant to oxidative damage when your diet is high in saturated fat. This can help prevent skin cancer.
Our lungs have small sacks called alveoli which is where the oxygen is passed to the blood. These are lined with surfactant which allows these sacks to expand which is how we breath. Surfactant can be damaged when trans fats are used instead of saturated fat. This can cause asthma.
We know that saturated fat has a denseness that allows it remain solid at body temperature. So that is why it is used for protection. It pads our hands and feet, our backside for sitting and vital organs. Its natures perfect cushion.
Some research suggests that saturated fatty acids can reverse damage to the liver made by excessive alcohol. Fewer free radicals produced by saturated fat will protect the liver from further damage.
There is some research from Purdue University that says saturated fat is essential to the development of bones and the way it uses calcium. Fat soluble vitamins D and K2 are used in this process. As we know, these vitamins can be found in animal fat.
Utilisation of Essential Fatty Acids
Not much is more crucial to our health than essential fatty acids, but our bodies can not produce them its self. They can only be obtained through your diet. They support optimal health in multiple ways. They are important for proper immune, brain, and cardiovascular function. Saturated fats are believed to play a key role in the importance of essential fatty acids by promoting their proper utilisation and protecting them from oxidation.
Its important to know the fats you are eating. Saturated fats are essential to a healthy diet and knowing more about them and what they do can help you make the right choices. ‘Know Your Fats’ by Mary Enig PhD is a great book that dispels the popular beliefs held about fat and your health. Well worth a read.