Category Archives: Fats

A radical diet with beef, butter, and carbohydrates

It’s not very popular to take the middle ground when it comes to recommending a dietary pattern in America, but I’m standing by it.  We have a tendency to swing the pendulum too widely, with unintentional results. Continue reading

Diet for 2013, part 3

Well, you know there had to be some things you shouldn’t do.  Here they are, with one last life-affirming set of do’s tomorrow:

  • DON’T Weigh yourself every 12 minutes.  It takes 3500 calories to lose a pound, and the best way to do that is a combination of decreasing your calories by 100-200 calories a day combined with 300 calories of exercise.  That’s a 500 calorie deficit x 7 = 3500 calories.  That’s a pound a week.  Now, if you’re normally consuming 11,000 calories a day, you could cut back and lose weight faster.  But if you’re a lady looking to lose 10 pounds, it’s probably a better idea to lose a pound a week for 10 weeks than to starve yourself and end up face down in a cake on week 4.
  • DON’T Talk about your new diet plan like the town crier.  If you have a friend who can’t wait to savor every detail, okay.  But if you find yourself telling your significant other every single detail every single time you see each other, you are either a) very excited all the damned time or b) white-knuckling it, which means you are hanging upside down on the rollercoaster and it’s probably not going to last.  Being obsessed usually means you are having trouble hanging on.  Go ahead and be excited about the changes you are making.  Be happy about everything you are doing right.  But change should be slow and relatively effortless.  Giving up a piece of bread is effortless, but giving up everything is not.  You need to build new habits, and that takes time.  Taking time increases the chances that the changes you make will be permanent and not fleeting.  Obsession is like new love: It’s an exciting novelty, but eventually there’s got to be a deeper relationship to sustain it.  Otherwise your new love will have Duncan Hines written all over it.
  • DON’T Eat at the movies or while playing video games.  Unless you’re bringing in vegetables or a piece of fruit.  This is the kind of eating we do without having any awareness of what we’re doing.  It’s easy to put on weight when you aren’t paying attention because it feels like you didn’t enjoy what you ate – so you eat again.
  • DON’T Drink so many sugary drinks.  Soda should be as close to eliminated as you can stand it.  Juice other than orange juice (and even then, 6 oz a day will do it) is unnecessary.  Frappuccinos…once in a while.  All of these sugary drinks raise insulin levels, contain loads of calories, and will make you hungry again sooner because as your insulin levels dip, your body registers hunger.  The higher they rise, the harder they fall as glucose enters the cells.  Before it can be released, the brain says, “Give me more food!”  This might be the easiest way for you to eliminate that 100 calories.  Frappuccino?  Get an extra cup and share, just like your mother always told you to do.  Then save up the money you save for something else.
  • DON’T Take a salad with 50 calories and dump 500 calories of dressing over it.  Dip the fork in the stuff, then take a bite, or give yourself a tablespoon of the stuff and then push the rest away.  At restaurants, the cups of dressing average about ¼ to 1/3 of a cup.  That’s 4-5 tablespoons of oil, my friend, or between 32-70 grams of fat (288-630 calories).  Gasp.
  • DON’T Go below 130 grams of carbs a day.  Bread or ½ cup rice has about 25 grams of carbohydrate, to give you an idea.  Your brain runs on glucose, a carbohydrate.  If you want a lower carbohydrate diet, this amount will do, as the average sane person consumes about 300 grams of carbs a day (not just from rice, bread and past, but from milk sugar and fruit also).  If you want to consume less in the way of sugar, go right ahead, but this bullshit about low carb only encourages you to consume fatty foods that aren’t good for your heart (or, apparently, your head).
  • DON’T Consume very much saturated or trans fats.  Saturated fat is the stuff that’s solid at room temperature – butter, Crisco…trans fat is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil that in it’s oil form was all right, but has now been turned into something that will contribute to your death.  Read labels and keep saturated fat to under 10% of calories (on average that would be 20 grams a day – the less the better) and 0 trans fat is preferred – yeah, it’s that bad.  If the label says 0 trans fat, read the ingredients.  If anything is hydrogenated, it still probably has ½ gram or less of the stuff and you should leave it on the shelf.  The naturally occurring trans fat in butter and meat behaves differently, and are okay – in moderation.  Nuts have both healthier monounsaturated and saturated fats.  In other words, they make a good snack as long as you don’t eat a 5 oz. bag of trail mix.  A palmful will do.  Stay away from powdered coffee whitener – that crap is LOADED with trans fat garbage.  Use milk or soy milk or suffer with plain.
  • Don’t believe all the fad diets that you sort of know couldn’t possibly be a good idea but you fall for out of desperation.  Save your money for something good and just do the hard work in very small steps until you get there.  There are lots of books out there and lots of articles in magazines promoting books.  Be skeptical.

One more bit tomorrow with some resources….

CA finally bans trans fat. So…what IS trans fat again?!

Following legislation passed in New York City a year ago, California became the first state to ban artificial trans fat from foods served in restaurants. Assembly Bill 97 will ban all but half a gram of trans fat per serving in restaurant food by 1/1/2010 and in commercial bakeries by 1/1/2011.

I’ve read a lot of commentary and a lot of comments on-line, and many, many people seem agitated by the idea of legislating what we eat. I’m wondering, however, if many of them know what they’ve been eating, and that’s really the point of this law.

Artificial trans fat raises LDL levels in the blood — that’s the “bad” carrier of cholesterol, the plaque builder, while also lowering HDL — the “good” carrier of cholesterol that helps us rid ourselves of cholesterol and avoid plaque buildup that leads to inevitable heart disease. There’s really no debate about this, and there’s really not one redeemable quality about the stuff except that it extends the shelf life of foods and solidifies fat. And neither one of those things will extend your shelf life. Naturally occurring trans fat — the kind found in butter and meat fats — do not behave the same way and are not included in the ban.

Trans fat is essentially good fat with a twist. Manufacturers take a monounsaturated fat — the type that’s good to consume, and hydrogenate it (literally, adding hydrogen) — breaking the double bonds holding it together and changing its shape. Normally those “H”s, hydrogens, hang out on the same side: that’s a cis fat – the normal state of things. But then they flip and are diagonal from one another — the result of hydrogenation — they’re trans. That’s a chemistry term. And that little chemical change makes all the difference in the world.


On food labels, when you see hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated, that’s a signal that there’s trans fat lurking in there. If there’s less than one-half gram of the stuff per serving, manufacturers can say there’s none in there on the food label. And none is the preferred amount — you want it as low as you can because there isn’t much that’s good about it, like I said.

So why not take it out of the stuff you eat out of the house? It’s difficult to tell when you’re getting it, and most people I’ve met are too afraid to ask how their food is prepared (they don’t want to seem like big fusspots).

For restaurants, it’s a matter of changing from hydrogenated cooking oil and shortening to unhydrogenated, and that’s nothing but good for you.

And where might you find this stuff in food? Cookies, snack foods (check the labels on those especially), the more solid margarines (check the label, go for the softer stuff because hydrogenation is used to solidify, and the softer it is, the less trans fat!), french fries, pie or anything with shortening (trans-fat-free shortening is now available, however), and icings.

Hungry for more? The FDA has a comprehensive page with all kinds of good information on trans fat right here.

All about cholesterol

Cholesterol: Don’t know what it is, but it’s bad stuff, right? Not exactly. The house with the add-ons

Cholesterol is a type of waxy lipid – a fat. Thus, it doesn’t dissolve in water, and it makes a great barrier (along with other fats) for each and every cell membrane in our body. So it’s a divider. But wait, it’s also a uniter (it plays both sides against the middle. It can’t help itself). We use cholesterol to make bile, and without bile, you can’t digest fat. It’s an emulsifier. That means it brings fat and water together (think salad dressing – the oil and other stuff are held together with emulsifiers. You’ll see if you read the package. Be not afraid). Anyway, bile gobbles up fat and holds it in droplets where enzymes can come along and break it down so we can cushion our organs, insulate ourselves and scream about the efficient fat storehouse that is our rear end.

Bile is made in the liver and stored in the gall bladder. Consume or make too much cholesterol, pack on the pounds by eating too much fat, or lose weight too quickly, and you could make some crunchy little gallstones. Gallstones are made of cholesterol. If you have a gallstone, you suddenly have no trouble at all locating this organ: It’s tucked right under the liver on the right hand side. Sometimes this necessitates removing the gallbladder. When the gallbladder is removed, the liver still makes bile and you can still digest fat.
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The what-what on LDL/HDL (that’s your blood lipids)

Usually we find out what the heck LDL and HDL are when we got to the doctor and we find out that the annual blood test we sweated through (okay I’m projecting but who loves it) showed that we’ve got an artery full of LDL and not enough HDL.

If our LDL levels are high enough, the doctor will prescribe a statin to lower them, and for many people these drugs are a godsend. However, if you can do without them, you should. But how do you know if you can do without statins if you don’t know what LDL is, let alone how to lower it? Or raise HDL, whatever that is? That’s when people usually get the “LDL is bad cholesterol, HDL is good cholesterol” rap and sent on their way (with pills). LDL causes heart disease — bloody true, but is that really enough information? Not if you need to make dietary changes.

My friend and neighbor Phyllis just celebrated her 81st birthday, and on that day related to me that the doctor had found just such a thing (to not need a statin before you’re 81 is akin to a miracle) and the doctor prescribed simvastatin (same stuff John McCain takes). She takes a tiny dose, and her cholesterol is only a tad high — lucky her. But when you’re on a statin to lower your cholesterol output, you have to make sure to have your blood tested every few months to be sure your liver enzymes are humming along (and to make sure the stuff is working). So what are LDL and HDL anyway? Phyllis wanted to know, so I’m guessing you might too:

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