In honor of one of my favorite shows on the radio, called Science Friday, I decided to do a little research today, Friday, into my diet in a scientific direction.
I wanted to look into the science behind the south beach diet. The post got so long I broke it up into 2 parts. In this post I will discuss Fat.
South Beach Diet
The goal of the diet as it was developed as reported by Dr. Agatston, in his book, was to create a diet that had as few rules as possible and was flexible and simple. It is supposed to allow people to eat the way they actually want to eat while improving their blood chemistry and lose weight over the long run.
The basic science of the diet on a macro-nutrient level is that there is good fat and bad fat. Eat the good stuff, and limit the bad stuff, the diet is that simple. You can get a list of what is good and bad but behind these lists is a bit of science. The Fats are all about specific details of the cholesterol and whether or not the fat is saturated or not. Things you can easily find on the nutrition labels.
All of these topics are covered in the first section of the South Beach Diet book. There is also a new book out.
Now let’s dive a bit deeper into the details of how the diet works.
FAT – Cholesterol
There are two kinds of cholesterol, HDL and LDL, again good and bad. The bad cholesterol has another, not so well known attribute, that makes it go from bad to worse and that is the size of the LDL particles. The smaller the particles, the easier they can scoot on into the aterial lining and start a build up that leads to heart attacks. Here is a quote from David Gilbert:
The whole point can be boiled down to a phrase that everyone is familiar with and understands:
size does matter
LDL size that is, and yes, bigger is better. But is there even a way to find out how big your LDL is? Yes, there are three ways to test. Best bet though is to just ask your doctor if she can do the test.
I don’t care one lick if you tell me I got bad genes if I can’t do anything about it. How do I improve the number?
Diets that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol, regular aerobic exercise, and loss of excess body fat have been determined to decrease the number of small LDL particles and increase the number of large LDL particles in the blood.
So for me and my current goals, yippee, I don’t have to do anything. It’s a by product of my real goal of removing excess body fat and a method I have chosen to do that called regular aerobic exercise. For you, maybe this is the last straw that puts you on the same path as me.
FAT – Saturation
The first section on fat was more about the details of cholesterol than on what type of fat to eat. The South Beach Diet signature is how easy it is to follow without having to know any of this type of stuff. What you do need to know is how saturated the fat you eat is. Here is the deal. Saturated fat, Bad. Trans-fat, Worse. Monounsaturated fat, good. Polyunsaturated fat, better.
In the old days, before butter was bad for us, they didn’t hydrogenate the vegatable oils so they would be a nice spread at certain temperatures. We humans are so picky though, our butter is to hard to spread so some jackass invented this wonderfully unhealthy process to make vegetable oil deadly. Brilliant. Well, alright they did it so food wouldn’t spoil so fast and so twinkies can have a shelf life of 30 years too.
The thing about the hydrogination process is that it creates trans fats and saturated fats out of what was good fats. Hydrogenation is a chemical process. The fat molecule was mono or poly unsaturated because it didn’t have the hydrogen attached to one or more of the carbon atoms, we are sticking it back in in this process. Worse, the process “nukes” the omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which just so happen to be about the best thing an oil might have in it. Get this, the fully hydrogenated fat is not a problem other than it is saturated but it is so hard it is more like a plastic than a fat. So they only partially hydrogenate it to make it the creamy blend you know and love.
The partially hydrogonated oil has a new man made product in it called trans fatty acids, nature does not create this stuff. It takes a heated oil in a chamber pressurized with hydrogen gas with nickel as a catalyst present to sit stewing for hours. This cannot be good. Unless of course you are the manufacturer and need to produce a gazillion pounds of a product that will last longer on the shelf and have a nicely creamy texture that people will choose over something healthier because it is too runny or too hard. Would you ever buy a bag of chips ahoy that was made with unsaturated fats? Not after you found out it would probably go rancid in a few days since they didn’t use saturated fats. The solution? Make your own cookies, at least you will burn a few calories running to the kitchen every time the smoke alarm goes off.
Trans fats are just not good for us. Any processing of the oil, something that makes it last longer in the shelf, degrades the healthiness of the oil.
Why are unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats good for us? They don’t do all of the bad things that you have heard and thought was caused by all fats in general. They don’t increase the risk of heart attacks or stroke and so on. Face it humans need fat to live, this is how the body works. Its normal, its natural, fat is not to be avoided at all, only the worst fats are. It is more an exercise in common sense if you think about it this way…
Don’t eat oils that have been placed in a pressure cooker with an explosive gas and nickel metal for hours to make them harder. Now is that so hard to believe?
Now as for saturated fats, there is going to be some consumption. That is just how animals and even some plants are made. We eat them we get some. The key here is to eat less. Put another way make sure of all the fat you eat that less than one third is saturated fat because saturated fats are twice as bad as unsaturated fats are good. [The “because they are twice as bad” comes from somewhere in the SBD book I could not confirm online due to the fatigue in my muscles after all this typing…]
Next week I will be tackling Carbs and all the glycemic index-load-yada yada. This stuff is so interesting to me… can you tell?
So I want anyone with a science question to help me out after that and think of a topic for me to research. That’s right I will do free research on Fridays, so ask me something to research, and it’s yours…