Fats in Modern Diet
Some Fats Are Highly Nutritious
The higher-fat-low-carb diet trend is itself a reaction to the all-fat-is-bad viewpoint which was a response to the high-cholesterol worries of the 70s and 80s. But as we now know, not all fat is bad – on the contrary, some fats (eg. omega-3 fatty acids) are absolutely essential, highly nutritious and beneficial for weight control.
But We Eat Too Much Saturated Fat
Even though some fat is essential, we still eat too much heart-unhealthy saturated fat. Saturated fat is solid at room temperature and tends to clog up our arteries. By contrast, unsaturated oils are liquid in form and tend to be healthier. The fats used in baking and frying are typically saturated fats (eg. hydrogenated vegetable oil or shortening), as is the fat in fatty meats and dairy products. The fat in fish, olive oil, canola oil, as well as oils made from other seeds such as safflower and sunflower is the heart-healthier unsaturated kind.
Stone Age Hunter Gatherers Ate Less Saturated Fat
It’s important to note that although our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed a large amount of animal food, they did not eat huge quantities of saturated fat. This is partly because the overall fat content in their wild animals was lower, and partly because the fat of wild animals, including the fat in the brain and other organs, has higher proportions of unsaturated fat.
Hidden Fat in Modern Convenience and Snack Foods
The increasing availability of modern convenience foods (including, prepared meats, hamburgers, and commercial snack-foods) is also a major contributor to increased intake of saturated-fat and trans fats. We prefer to eat our potatoes as french fries or potato chips, our corn as tortilla chips, and our fish battered and fried. As a result, healthy vegetables and grains are often transformed into highly palatable but calorie-dense items that are high in saturated fat.
Exercise Helps to Reduce Cholesterol and Body Fat
Medical experts now agree that falling physical fitness levels are linked with the rise in weight-related disease. So, as well as limiting our intake of saturated fat, it’s important to get physically active in order to lower our cholesterol, burn excess body fat and obtain a healthy body-fat-percentage. When comparing present eating habits with those of our ancestors, it’s worth remembering that in the Stone Age era, and for a long time afterwards, physical exercise was essential to survival. Daily processes such as hunting, drawing water and collecting firewood burned large amounts of calories, and helped to develop significant muscular and bone strength. The contribution of physical fitness to the health and longevity of hunter gatherer and later generations should not be underestimated.