Understanding the fats of life

World renowned nutritionist Udo Erasmus describes the body as a major construction site.

World renowned nutritionist Udo Erasmus describes the body as a major construction site.

It is the “f” word with the bad reputation. Mention “fat” or “fats” and warning bells immediately ring in people’s heads.

Those interested in enjoying good health, retaining a slim figure and avoiding heart problems have been told for years to drastically reduce their intake of fat.

This might seem like commonsense. If you do not want to be fat do not eat fat. However there is a lot more to the relationship between fats and health than that, explains world renowned nutritionist Udo Erasmus who gave a public lecture in Galway recently.

The author of the groundbreaking book Fats that Heal: Fats that Kill likens the body to a permanent construction site where about 98 per cent of its molecules are removed and replaced every year. This means that anyone who pays attention to eating the right foods can contribute to the healing ability of the body.

“The body is always under construction. And a major construction site it is, even when it is not diseased. We must eat, drink, breathe, sleep and clean the body on a regular basis, all of which take continuous attention and effort.

“The upside of the fact that the body is always under major construction, renovation and repair is that healing is possible. By making the appropriate changes in the kinds of food we eat, how we prepare them, how we eat them and how we fashion our lifestyles, we can rebuild 98 per cent of a diseased body into a healthy body. That is very good news.”

‘Feelings of love, gratitude and contentment abound when we are in touch with life.’

He explains that healing depends largely on changes we make in the way we eat which in turn depends on the way we think and feel.

“Healing also depends on the environment we choose to live in and the influences we allow ourselves to be exposed to. It’s easy to see how working in a polluted environment may negatively affect our health but we may overlook the stress factors, introduced by overexposure to depressing news, for example, or violent images in films. Unsatisfactory or abusive relationships can also impede the healing process.”

Most importantly, healing depends on how close we are to life itself, he states. Life is not only the source of physical health it is also the source of mental and emotional wellbeing.

“Life, the power behind our breath, is the source of joy. Staying close to that power in our awareness is the surest way to enjoy our life and ensure that the engine of healing runs smoothly. Feelings of love, gratitude and contentment abound when we are in touch with life.”

He identifies minerals, essential amino and fatty acids as the building blocks of life. As the body does not manufacture these we must source them from outside.

“If we want optimum health we need optimum intake of the essential building blocks in an undamaged form. Life didn’t supply us with a blueprint for making these essential nutrients. They must therefore be supplied from outside the body, through foods or supplements.

‘We may damage food molecules unknowingly through our own food preparation and storage methods.’

“Life also determines which molecules are poisons to the body. Foremost among these are manmade synthetic molecules which have never been present in nature. Life has not developed effective ways of counteracting, neutralising or getting rid of them. By changing the way our genes perform many different kinds of synthetic molecules can turn our genetic programme for health into a programme for disease. Among these molecules that can have a negative effect on health are pesticides, plastics, industrial chemicals, pharmaceutical drugs and food molecules damaged by industry through processing. Also, we may damage food molecules unknowingly through our own food preparation and storage methods.”

Mr Erasmus emphasises that we must make changes in the way we eat to enable physical healing to occur. “Not only must we do this for healing, we must do it for ongoing health.”

A life altering experience changed the course of Mr Erasmus’ life in 1980. While spraying pesticides he was poisoned and nearly died. His health was so adversely affected that it took several years of treatment and “trial and error” to restore it. During this time he researched different aspects of health and came to realise the vital importance of essential fatty acids to ongoing health.

‘Cooking over steam is better than cooking in water, which is much better than sauteing in oil, which in turn is vastly better than deep-frying.’

This research culminated in the publication of his first book Fats and Oils in 1986. He updated this seven years later when he published Fats that Heal: Fats that Kill to popular acclaim. He co-wrote Omega3Cuisine - recipes for Health and Pleasure with famous Canadian chef Alan Roettinger. It offers a comprehensive collection of easy to prepare recipes using fresh ingredients rich in essential fatty acids.

Stressing the importance of consuming food in an “undamaged form” he says it should be prepared and cooked in a way that protects its nutrients because “even good food can be rendered harmful when prepared in ways that alter its natural state”.

Except for humans and the animals that depend on humans for food, every creature that has ever lived has eaten all its food fresh, whole, raw and organic, he points out.

“That is nature’s food standard. When we cook food, we depart from nature’s food standard. The harsher the cooking method, the more we depart from this. Cooking over steam is better than cooking in water, which is much better than sauteing in oil, which in turn is vastly better than deep-frying. If food is free of bacterial or other toxic microorganisms raw food is better than food that has been cooked.

“Because cooked food has become a standard of virtually every modern cuisine most people have become accustomed to eating their food prepared this way. Unfortunately, our physiology has not adapted to the loss of essential nutrients and other components of health that are present in raw foods. Therefore, I am a strong proponent of using digestive enzymes with meals to replace the enzymes in food that are destroyed by cooking.”

He strongly believes in using extra virgin olive oil, water and wine when preparing food and cooking at a low heat to help prevent it from becoming charred or burned. Hence his mantra “Bin your frying pan”.

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