Nourishing Traditions Book Review: Part II – Fats


This section of the introduction was only about 16 pages, but it took me a few hours to read because of all of the minute detail, chemistry and facts.  I found it fascinating, but there is no way I can completely summarize this portion.  It is VERY well written and it didn’t seem like there was a good way to condense or reduce the amount of information or just convey what was most important… so I had to just summarize what I found most interesting.  I hope you find this helpful!

The premise: Fat is good for you!  There are a lot of details to back up that statement and there are a lot of fats better for you than others.  Some fats are bad for you, but those are the ones that are super processed or refined.

In the early 1900s there was hardly any heart disease and by the 1950s it became the leading cause of death and today about 40% of the nation will die from it.  What could have changed during that time?  Yes, part of it could be that it was better diagnosed, but that can’t be the whole cause.

From 1910 – 1970 the animal fat consumption decreased from 82% to 62%.  The consumption of butter went down from 18 lbs per person per year to only 4 lbs of butter consumed per person per year.  And even with those decreases in the “bad fats”, per the leading medical advisors, average cholesterol levels have only decreased by 1%.  Dietary vegetable oils, margarine, shortening and other refined oils increased 400% during those years and the consumption of sugar and processed foods increased by 60%.

Children especially need cholesterol for brain development.  What health problems could this be causing if they aren’t getting what they need?  Most baby formulas are cholesterol free, but breast milk is about 50% fat and most of that is saturated.  The American Heart Association recommends low fat diets for kids, but low fat is thought to be a cause of kids with failure to thrive.

The Japanese have the longest lives in the world today and what do they eat?  They consume few dairy fats, but moderate amounts of animal fats, eggs, pork, chicken, beef, seafood, organ meats, shellfish and fish broth almost on a daily basis.  Since WWII their life span has continued to increase.  Austria, Greece and France eat high fat diets as well and are next in line for longest life spans.  France however has fallen behind due to increased sugar and processed food consumption.

At the turn of the century Americans used mostly saturated fats in the form of butter, lard, tallow, coconut oil and small amounts of olive oil.  Modern medicine tells us that polyunsaturated fats are the fats we should be eating and that the saturated fats are the bad fats to avoid.  A few examples of polyunsaturated fats include vegetable oils derived from soy, corn, safflower and canola.

The follow quote (on page 10) lists a few of those illnesses:

“Excess consumption of polyunsaturated oils has been shown  to contribute to a large number of disease conditions including increased cancer and heart disease, immune system dysfunction, damage to the liver, reproductive organs and lungs, digestive disorders, depressed learning ability, impaired growth and weight  gain.”

Polyunsaturated fats are usually liquid in the refrigerator.  They are easily oxidized (usually by heat) which creates free radicals, which attach and alter DNA and RNA.  There is speculation that exposure to free radicals can cause premature aging, autoimmune disorders, arthritis,  Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s, Alzheimer’s and cataracts.

Most polyunsaturated fats have a lot of omega 6 and very little omega 3 fatty acids. It is important to ingest as close to equal parts of both as possible.  Here is an example:  Super market eggs raised on grain have nineteen times more omega 6s than omega 3s, but on the flip side, eggs from chickens eating insects and green plants have equal ratio of omega 6s and 3s.

The book also has a HUGE list of why we need healthy fats and what functions they are needed for in our bodies.  There are many functions that won’t occur or that are impaired if these fats aren’t ingested. Most importantly it is used for healthy cellular structure and as we all know EVERY part of our body is made up of cells.  Low cholesterol levels have been linked to aggressive and violent behavior, depression and suicidal tendencies.

A concise summarization by Fallon on the “bad fats” is as quoted on page 13:

“The cause of heart disease is not animal fats and cholesterol but rather a number of factors inherent in modern diets, including excess consumption of vegetable oils and hydrogenated fats, excess consumption of refined carbohydrates in the form of sugar and white flour; mineral deficiencies, particularly low levels of protective magnesium and iodine; deficiencies of vitamins, particularly of vitamin A, C an D, needed for the integrity of the blood vessel walls, and of antioxidants like selenium and vitamin E, which protect us from free radicals; and, finally, the disappearance of antimicrobial fats from the food supply, namely, animal fats and tropical oils.  These once protected us against the kinds of viruses and bacteria that have been associated with the onset of pathogenic plaque leading to heart disease.”

There was probably a whole other page on how oils are extracted and what hydrogenation and homogenization is.  It was very interesting, but there is no way to explain it except by reading the section.  It is very detailed, but VERY interesting and VERY disgusting.  It makes you want to never eat them again!  There is probably a whole page or more dedicated to the health benefits of butter from raw, grass fed milk.  Some of the positive points were that it lubricates joins helping in arthritis, high in fat soluble vitamins like A, D, K and E.

I really enjoyed reading about fats and how important it is to eat good fats to help your body function the way it was created to! It was also encouraging to know that we can and should be eating good butter, animal fats (from bacon and sausage!! Mmmmm, lard, tallow, etc), coconut oil and raw (unheated) olive oil. It’s encouraging to know that there are some things our family is on the right page with!  I’m sure I won’t always feel as encouraged as I continue through the book.

Next up… Carbohydrates, proteins, milk and milk products… Stay tuned!

Read Part III

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