Olive oil, canola oil, avocado, fish oil and salmon are good for the body.
By Laura Gregorini
Fat helps build cell membranes, provides insulation, is an energy source and provides “cushioning” between joints, says the director of the Canadian Institute for Studies in Aging.
Krishnan Venkataraman, who is also an assistant professor in Huntington University’s gerontology program, is setting out to debunk the myth that all fats are bad. In fact, he says good fats, or unsaturated fats, are the key to longevity.
“Some of the vitamins we get into our bodies is by fat alone – they are not water soluble,” he says. “So the only way to get them is from fatty sources.”
Good fats like olive oil, canola oil, avocado, fish oil and salmon are healthy and good for the body. Venkataraman says to remember to balance out energy sources and don’t overindulge in carbohydrates, which he calls the real “evil” in the North American diet.
Health Canada and the U.S. National Institutes of Health recommend the average female adult needs 2,000 calories a day. According to those guidelines, 60 percent of those calories should be carbohydrates.
But Venkataraman calls that “absolutely scary” because that amount of carbohydrates is the equivalent to a loaf of bread.
“Having high levels of glucose in the blood as a result of a high consumption of carbohydrates as the primary energy source is a huge risk factor,” he says.
“It causes inflammation or swelling in our blood vessels. It causes oxidated damage to our DNA in our cells, increasing the chances of cancer. It increases the chances of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Venkataraman’s recommendation contradicts Health Canada guidelines. He says the average adult’s diet should consist of only 45 percent carbohydrates.
“The key word is choice,” he says. “The key is to have complex carbohydrates that don’t raise insulin levels. “
Fat provides energy in very small volumes but the real challenge is to avoid trans fats. Trans fats raise bad cholesterol levels, ultimately leading to strokes and heart attacks, which is the primary cause of death of men and women in North America.
Even some saturated fats such as butter are healthy – it all depends on what else is incorporated into the diet. When processed carbohydrates and fats are eaten together, “your body gets tricked into consuming more calories” because of a constant feeling of being hungry.
Try complex carbohydrates like barley, quinoa and beans accompanied with good fats and protein instead, says Venkataraman.
In France, almost all baking and cooking is done with butter, a saturated fat. “But the quality of life, the quality of health maintenance is much better than what we have in North America,” he says. “They don’t have obesity challenges like we face in these parts of the world.”
Inuit people consume “copious amounts” of saturated fats and proteins and they are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than the average North America. Statistically Inuit people don’t outlive the average American but that is largely due to environmental circumstances such as limited access to health care.