Fertility Superfoods: You Butter Believe It's Healthy!
Okay, I've got good news and I've got bad news for you. The good news is that you read me right. *Butter in all its creamy deliciousness is a Fertility Superfood.
The bad news is that we've been misled by the political and medical community for decades. Fat is not the enemy when it comes to heart disease or obesity. In fact, certain kinds of fat are protective against many health problems. The real enemy when it comes to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease (really, inflammation in general) is sugar and artificial transfats.
In the mid 1950's a scientist and epidemiologist named Ancel Keys developed the "low-fat, heart-healthy" diet from a largely untested hypothesis and got the backing of the US government to promote it to the American population. Many of the studies that support the high-carb, low fat diet for health are now being disproven as being scientifically unsound and having flawed research methodologies, including his widely touted Seven Countries Study. To read more about the history of how our current dietary recommendation have come to be, I highly recommend Nina Teicholz's book, The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet or Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. It should be noted that while Ancel Keys lived to the ripe old age of 100, even he didn't adhere to his own advice and ate calf liver and Canadian bacon (which are both chock-full of saturated fats) as part of his regular diet.
So what does this have to do with YOUR health and fertility? Well, turns out that when fat gets taken away from a product, it needs to be replaced with something else for flavor and texture. Which is where sugar comes into play. The 1950's is when we started seeing a boon of processed foods enter the food market so it suddenly became easy to take out the fat, hide the sugar and slap a "Heart Healthy" or "Low Fat" label on it and get folks to think they are eating healthier. The problem with foods that have little fat and are loaded with sugar is that 1) you don't feel satisfied or satiated from a meal because you need the fat for sustained energy so you eat more sugar-heavy food to feed the hunger 2) your body experiences the blood sugar highs and lows that create fat and inflammation that contribute to so many of the modern disease processes that plague our world today.
The tricky part is that sugar comes in so many different forms. Start reading your labels, and start reexamining your habits. Sugar can be found in the form of carbohydrate products such as breads, pastas, and pastries. A 12-ounce can of soda contains 39 grams of sugar. Harvard says that drinking 1-2 cans of soda a day increases your risk of Type 2 Diabetes by 26%, increases your chance of dying from a heart attack by 20% and increases your chance of developing gout by 75%.
Canadians are now eating sugar at all-time high rates. We are consuming 88 pounds of sugar a year; this means that we are consuming sugar at a rate that is equivalent to ¼ pound of sugar a day! I don't think any of us wake up in the morning thinking "Let's see how much sugar I can eat today". We are consuming this much sugar because it is all hidden in our processed foods. Now, my intention in writing this blog post is not because I want you to obsess about your "diet", but I do think that we should all be aware of what we put in our bodies and develop a consciousness and a connection to our food that we have lost in this culture of eating dinners in front of the tv, grabbing meals on the go and eating for convenience instead of for pleasure.
Aside from all the processed food loaded with sugar, we can also thank the 1950's for the introduction of margarine, which is still being advertised as a heart-healthy product by the American Heart Association (AHA). Margarine is one of the products that were developed when scientists started hydrogenating vegetable oils for better consistency and longer shelf life. All these products are now known to contain transfats and partially hydrogenated oils which studies have shown to increase tumor and cancer rates in labs animals. Policy is finally catching up. The FDA is now requiring all transfats to be taken out of the market in the US by 2018.
"But won't eating all the bacon and butter (aka saturated fats) increase my cholesterol numbers and make me fat, give me heart disease, and put me at risk for diabetes?" The first thing I'm going to tackle is saturated fats and the relationship that it has to fat. It's really unfortunate that the English language has such a limited vocabulary around this. The fat that is on our bodies is NOT created by consuming fat. The research is now indicating that "the consequence of consuming dietary sugars and starches above levels that can be directly oxidized is that a great proportion is converted to fat (i.e. de novo lipogenesis)". In fact, it is possible to induce serum profiles that indicate insulin resistance in healthy men just by overfeeding them carbohydrates. Dietary fat, such as bacon and butter is actually needed for several important processes in our bodies including the utilization of certain vitamins, long-term energy storage, and for healthy bile, steroid and cell membrane health. In terms of fertility, dietary fat is actually needed because it is one of the building blocks of steroid hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. Without the building blocks, the body cannot create these steroids in a balanced way.
As far as heart disease, diabetes and the connection to saturated fats goes, the link is getting flimsier and flimsier as more research not tainted by corporations is being conducted. The position that reducing saturated fats for health is now being widely questioned by the medical research community because (surprise surprise!) the research to support this claim is not holding up. In fact, recent analyses have found that saturated fats are unrelated to risk of disease. Actually, by putting research participants on a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet, researchers were able to improve blood serum levels that are consistent risk markers for diabetes and heart disease such as triglycerides, glucose, insulin and serum cholesterol.
THE BOTTOM LINE
You need to eliminate trans-fats and sugars in all of its different forms. But the good news is that saturated fats from certain sources are healthy for you. You can read more about the different types of fat in this blog post. If you want to make some easy choices for health, do yourself a favor and throw out that margarine, canola oil and "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter". And don't limit the good fats, raw butter, nitrate-free bacon and delicious local whole fruits and vegetables. Find ways to eliminate sugar in your life. Chances are, if you are eating a diet that is not scared of fat, you will crave the sugar less and less.
Did you know you can make butter at home? Yes! You can! Here is a recipe!
* If you have been diagnosed with PCOS or are lactose-intolerant, dairy products (including butter) is contraindicated. Please find alternatives to consume healthy fats in your diet such as avocados, nuts/seeds, olive/sesame oil, etc.
If you want to nerd out about nutrition with me and see how a healthy diet can get you to your peak fertility potential, give the clinic a call at (604) 678-8600 to schedule a 15 minute complimentary consultation.