What’s the Deal with Dairy?

Dairy Cow

There is a lot of controversy regarding the consumption of dairy products. The Australian Dietary Guidelines suggest a moderate intake of reduced fat milk, yogurt and cheese. The Canadian Food Guide suggests 2-4 servings per day depending on age.  At the same time other health professionals are saying that milk is unhealthy. So how does this affect you?

Government guidelines are based on the idea that cow’s milk contains a lot of calcium so we should consume it to strengthen bones in growing children and reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures as we get older. Unfortunately, data from the Nurses’ Health Study has shown that there may actually be an increased risk of not only fractures but some cancers and obesity. Cow’s milk may contain lots of calcium, but it is made for growing baby cows and is difficult for humans to absorb. Human babies should not consume dairy until at least 1 to 2 years of age. After this age, you can introduce dairy if you choose, but it is not something they need to be healthy and should not make up the majority of their calories.

The Australian dietary guidelines also say that there is an association between milk consumption and decreased risk of heart disease and some cancers. But research also shows that milk consumption is associated with an increased risk of prostate and possibly ovarian cancer.

And then there is the issue with low fat vs high fat. People have long believed that the consumption of fat is unhealthy for you. This was flawed research, which has since been proven false. In fact, eating or drinking low fat products (including milk) can actually lead to weight gain as it does not fill you up so you then consume more calories. It also contains more sugar in the form of lactose, and as we all now know, it is sugar, not fat, that leads to weight gain. There is a lot of research out these days about fats (including saturated) being healthy while sugar is the culprit for many health issues.  Please check out this post to read more on the Truth About Fats.

It is estimated that 50-60% of people have an allergy or intolerance to dairy, most of whichindigestion2 is undiagnosed. This can manifest as many symptoms including seasonal or other food allergies, eczema, constipation, acne, and irritable bowel syndrome. If you want to know if you have an issue with dairy, take a break for 2-3 weeks and see how you feel. If symptoms return when you eat it again, you have your answer!

And finally we also need to question government dietary guidelines. In 1992, the Canadian government tried to decrease the recommended servings of dairy and meat in their food guide based on research at the time. Due to complaints from the Canadian Meat Council and Dairy Bureau of Canada, the serving suggestions were increased. Are food guides really for our health, or the pocket book of business?

Supplementation of calcium is not recommended as this may increase the risk of kidney stones and does not take into consideration the other nutrients such as Vitamin D and K2 needed for calcium absorption. Eating whole foods rich in calcium is best for bone health and can actually help prevent kidney stones. The best way to get your daily calcium is by having a diet rich in nuts, seeds, broccoli, dark leafy greens and small fish (with bones).

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Don’t get me wrong, dairy is delicious! But it seems that it isn’t as healthy for us as we once thought. If you have any questions about diary, talk to your local naturopath. If you are looking to avoid osteoporosis and fractures, the best thing to do is weight-bearing exercise (you knew I was going to say that!).

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Protein. What do we need it for?

fagioli borlotti - beansProtein is the most abundant substance in our bodies after water. Our hair, skin, eyes, muscles and organs all contain protein. We use it to make hormones, enzymes, blood components such as hemoglobein and ferritin, and antibodies for our immune system.

The average person needs 1g of protein per kg of a person’s weight. So if you are 70kg you want to eat 70g of protein in a day. One easy way to know if you aren’t getting enough is if you crave sugar. Protein is a slow burning energy that helps make us feel full. But when our bodies don’t have enough of it, it seeks to eat fast burning carbohydrates such as sugar. If you increase the amount of protein in your diet, you will notice a decrease in sugar cravings. And studies have shown that increasing protein intake can help reduce weight even without other lifestyle changes.

It is best to eat protein at each meal so that your body gets the sustained energy throughout the day and not leave it to just dinner. Breakfast, as people say, is the most important meal of the day and the most important time to eat protein. Some protein at breakfast will keep you going longer and help prevent those sugar cravings at morning-tea time. And eating a healthy breakfast leads to improved cognition and memory, reduced absenteeism from school and work and improved mood.

Selection of protein sources in kitchen background

There are many great sources of protein. Red meat, chicken, fish and eggs contain the most amount of protein. Cheese, yogurt and other dairy products also all contain protein. There are also many great plant sources that will also give you good fats and fibre such as almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds. Beans, peas and soy are also great sources of protein.Dinner plate

No one wants to be weighing their food to make sure they are having the right
proportions, so an
easy way to make sure you are
getting enough is look at your plate. For a healthy meal, you want half of your plate to be fruits and vegetables, although preferably vegetables. A bit more than a quarter to be protein and a bit less then a quarter to be healthy carbohydrates.

If you need motivation to increase your fruit and veg intake along with your protein, how about this: one additional serving per day of fruit lowers your risk of death from all causes by 6%. Each additional serving of vegetables lowers it by 5%.

Most people are pretty good with having a balanced dinner plate, but struggle with breakfast. Some ideas are smashed avocado with an egg of wholegrain toast. Or make your own muesli or granola with lots of nuts and seeds.

Don’t forget to increase your water intake as you increase your protein intake to avoid constipation. And enjoy the increase in energy you will feel!

References

Wang X, Ouyang Y, Liu J, Zhu M, Zhao G, Bao W & Hu FB. (2014). Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ. 29 July. 349.

What are Fats?

healthy fats. healthy fats for heart. top view.

 

Good fats. Bad Fats. Mono, trans, saturated, omega 3. What does it all mean? The world of fats has become very confusing and it is hard to know what you are supposed to eat. If you would like to learn more about which ones you should and shouldn’t eat, please read my article, The Truth About Fats. Here, I will give you some background into the different kinds of fats that exist.

We need some fat – it makes up part of our brains, it protects our joints and it provides reserves for when we’re sick.

  • Fat provides needed energy.  It is difficult to eat the large amounts of food that you would need for energy in a very low fat diet.
  • Fat is needed so your body can absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K, and prevent deficiencies of these vitamins.
  • Provides back-up energy if blood sugar supplies run out (after 4-6 hours without food).
  • Provides insulation under the skin from the cold and the heat.
  • Protects organs and bones from shock and provides support for organs.
  • Fat surrounds and insulates nerve fibers to help transmit nerve impulses.
  • Fat is part of every cell membrane in the body.  It helps transport nutrients and metabolites across cell membranes.
  • Your body uses fat to make a variety of other building blocks needed for everything from hormones to immune function.

What happens if we don’t have enough fat?

  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Hair loss
  • Low body weight
  • Cold intolerance
  • Bruising
  • Poor growth
  • Lower resistance to infection
  • Poor wound healing
  • Loss of menstruation

What is fat?

Fats, also known as fatty acids, are made up of a chain of carbon atoms with hydrogens and oxygens attached. The number of carbons and hydrogens and their configuration, will decide what kind of fat it is.

Length

Fats are classified by their length being short, medium, long and very long chain fatty acids. Short chains have less than 6 carbons, medium chains have 6-12, long chains have 12-22 and very long chains have greater than 22.

Triglyceride

A triglyceride is when 3 fatty acids are attached to a glycerol. This is the storage form of fats and generally what you are eating when you eat fat. This is also how fat is stored in your own body. Triglycerides can be made up of a variety of fatty acids. 

Saturated Fats

These fats have no double bonds between any carbons and so are ‘full’ of hydrogens. They are usually solid at room temperature. Saturated fats are found in dairy products, meat products, coconut, cottonseed and palm oil, and even chocolate. These fats have typically been considered ‘bad’ fats but unfortunately it isn’t that simple. Animal sources of fat are usually completely saturated fats, but most plant sources are a mix of saturated and unsaturated so their effects on the body are more unpredictable and individual. It has been thought for years that a diet high in animal sources of saturated fats was linked to higher cholesterol and heart disease. This has recently been found to be untrue.

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Unsaturated Fats

These fats have at least one double bond between two carbons and are often either very soft or liquid at room temperature. There can either be just one double bond making it monounsaturated or many double bonds making it polyunsaturated. These double bonds can occur in 2 different formations: cis and trans.

Cis

The cis form results in a ‘kinked’ fatty acid which makes it into a liquid. These are naturally occurring.

Trans

The trans form results is a straight fatty acid like a saturated fat and so is more solid. These were manufactured in order to make a solid fat that would have a longer shelf life than saturated fats. As these are not naturally occurring, the body does not digest them as they would other fats and so they can cause problems such as increased cholesterol, decreased visual acuity, increased heart disease, insulin resistance (leading to diabetes), reproductive difficulties, decreased nutrition in breast milk and cancer. Read labels and avoid anything that contains ‘trans fats’ or says it is hydrogenated (the process of making a trans fat).

Polyunsaturated (Essential)

There are many polyunsaturated fats, but the key ones are the essential ones. The essential fatty acids are linoleic (Omega 6) and linolenic (Omega 3) acid. They are important for controlling inflammation, blood clotting, and brain development. These are considered essential because you must consume them as your body can not build them from something else. In general, Omega 6 fats increase hormones along the inflammation pathway and are considered bad while Omega 3 fats increase hormones that decrease inflammation and are considered good. Omega 6 fats are still needed in our diet, but we usually over consume them thus leading to excessive inflammation. The same enzymes metabolize both fats. If there are more Omega 6 fats then the enzymes will be busy metabolizing them instead of the Omega 3 fats. A balance of both fats is needed to promote health. Most sources suggest omega 3 and omega 6 be consumed at a ratio of 2:1.

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Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids have been found to be helpful for atherosclerosis, decreasing inflammation, lowering risk of heart attacks, lowering cholesterol, immunomodulation, constipation, diabetes, PMS, renal failure, mental health (depression, ADHD, schizophrenia), cancer prevention and treatment, pre-eclampsia and many more. Cod liver oil is commonly given as a source of Omega 3 in Australia, but you need to be careful because it is also high in Vitamin A. Excess Vitamin A needs to be avoided when a woman is pregnant as it can cause birth defects, but for others it can cause vomiting, weight loss, joint pain, dry skin, irritability, amenorrhea, digestive problems, fissures at the corners of the mouth, and liver enlargement.

EPA and DHA

Along the breakdown pathway for Omega 3 fats, they become eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). From here they become the anti-inflammatory hormones. Cold water fish oils (salmon, mackeral, anchovies, sardines, herring) contain EPA and DHA while flax, walnut and hemp contain linolenic acid. The advantage of taking fish oils is that you are taking in the substance that is already a few steps down the pathway.   Also, our bodies are not very efficient at turning linolenic acid into EPA and DHA and conditions such as diabetes and allergies can reduce the body’s conversion ability even further.

EPA has been found to be helpful with blood pressure, blood clotting, blood lipid levels, the immune response, and inflammation. DHA is important for reducing cancer risk, brain development and function, memory, depression, ADHD, and other behavioural problems.

how-to-clean-sardines-1

Omega 6

Omega 6 fatty acids are found in corn, cotton, soy, safflower, sunflower, black currant, borage and evening primrose oil. They may help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, but when they are in excess over Omega 3 fatty acids, they can contribute to allergies and increased inflammation. It is also possible that a high consumption of these fats can increase the likelihood of breast and prostate cancer.

Monounsaturated – Omega 9

We often see Omega 9 fatty acids grouped together with 3 and 6. Omega 9 fats are not essential as our bodies can build them from other substrates, but can be used therapeutically to improve cholesterol (lower LDL and raise HDL), reduce blood pressure, reduce insulin resistance and improve glucose control, improve immune function and reduce cancer risk. These fats are found in olive, canola, macadamia, avocado, peanut, sesame, tea seed, corn, safflower and sunflower.

Grass fed meat

Not all saturated fats are the same. Red meat is high in saturated fat and although we have just discussed how they are not actually bad for you there is an exception. Due to the large scale of beef and sheep farming, animals have come to be fed grain as it is easier and cheaper then having them graze on a large piece of land. Unfortunately they are not meant to eat grain so this diet produces inflammation in their bodies resulting in large amounts of inflammatory cytokines. It has been found that animals fed grass produce higher amounts of Omega 3 fats in their bodies, arguably as high as fish. If you eat red meat, it is best to eat grass fed and grass finished meat when you can.

Cow cartoon

Processed Meat

The trend to reduce saturated fat intake has also led to an increased intake of processed, low-fat, meats. A study published in 2013 in BMC Medicine found that there was no link between unprocessed red meat and cardiovascular disease. The link is only with processed meats due to their high sodium and preservative content. This is consistent with the recent findings from the World Health Organization announcing that processed meats increase your chances of cancer occuring.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is mostly a medium chain saturated fat and is very good for you. It can aid in calorie burning thus improving weight loss. It has also been shown to help treat type II diabetes, dementia and epilepsy and improve digestion.

Farmed fish

Because farmed fish do not eat algae as they should, they are not actually as high in Omega-3 fats as their wild counterparts.

For more about which fats you should be eating, check out my article The Truth About Fats.  Enjoy eating fats.  Your body will thank you.

 

 

 

 

The Truth about Fats

Selection of healthy fat sources

For many years a low-fat diet has been considered healthy when in fact it has been contributing to the increase in diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

The original research that indicated a high-fat diet was associated with increased heart disease was an association study. It found that countries that consumed a high-fat diet had a higher incidence of heart disease. But this is an associated NOT causation. It is like saying New Year’s Eve causes fireworks. The study also didn’t include the data from all available countries. When included there is little to no association between a high-fat diet and heart disease.

Unfortunately the marketing world responded to the idea of low-fat being healthy by creating products that are low or no fat. As a result these products are higher in sugar and salt (to improve the bland taste from the lack of fat content) and thus dramatically more unhealthy. Check out the sugar content on low-fat versus full cream dairy products next time you are at the store.

In 1977, the US dietary guidelines suggested that an increase in carbohydrates should coincide with a decrease in fat intake. The reasoning was that fats have more calories in them so this would result in a reduction of overall calories. The exact opposite is what happened. Fats help make you feel satiated (full). If you eat low-fat products you are actually more likely to eat more calories. So although fats are higher in calories, you end up eating less than if the calories came from carbohydrates.

Oops

When people eat a low-carbohydrate diet it improves weight, lipids, diabetes, and inflammation. A low-fat diet with the same number of calories worsens all these measures. Fat intake is not associated with type 2 diabetes and there is in fact no association between percentage of dietary fat consumed and increased risk of death. Also, saturated fats do not increase cholesterol.

People have also been advised to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats. Unfortunately this has mostly resulted in people consuming more omega-6 fats found in corn, safflower, soybean, cottonseed and grain fed red meat, rather than the healthy omega-3 fats found in fish, grass fed red meat, flax and chia. This switch away from saturated fats to omega-6 fats resulted in increased cancer, increased heart disease, increased LDL, decreased HDL (good cholesterol), and increased death.

The most nutritious way of eating is to consume lots of vegetables, a moderate amount of protein from some meat but also vegetarian sources and a small amount of good quality carbohydrates.

So which fats should you eat? Coconut, macadamia, pumpkin, avocado, sesame and rice bran oils as well as butter are great for cooking. If you consume dairy products always buy full cream. Only eat grass-fed and grass finished red meat. Eat salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring and cod whenever you can. Avocado, walnuts, linseeds, almonds and hemp seeds are great for snacking. Avoid trans fats and farmed fish. Limit omega-6 intake especially in the form of vegetable oils.

Don’t be afraid of consuming good quality fats. You will feel fuller faster and for longer and will end up consuming less calories, improving your health and feeling better.

For some more information about fats, check out my video for the Healthy Heathcote 90-Day Challenge: