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What Is Fat? 

And what's it for?

Bad fats have been linked to obesity, clogging of the arteries, heart disease and cancer. Heart disease is the number-one killer of men and women in the United States. High dietary fat intake greatly increases the risk of developing certain cancers, another leading cause of death in the U.S.

This article is the first in a series, which clarifies what fat is and what it is for. Next week, I’ll talk about the different kinds of fats. Later, I'll tell you where the different kinds of fats come from, how much of each kind you should eat, and how to reduce bad fat and replace it with good fat for weight loss and health.

About 45 percent of the total calories in the typical American diet come from fat. 

It's worth noting that fat contains more calories per gram than either protein or carbohydrates. One gram of fat contains 9 calories, whereas a gram of protein or carbohydrate each contains 4 calories.

When we talk about fat we’re really talking about triglycerides, the main form of fat in food. Triglycerides are a complex compound consisting of three fatty acids attached to a molecule of glycerol. Fatty acids differ from one another in degree of saturation and in chain length. Generally speaking, fats contain 3 triglycerides; saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. 

Our genetic composition and dietary fat both affect what types of triglycerides the body manufactures.

What is Fat For? 

Body fat protects vital organs in the body and acts as a shock absorber, preventing internal injuries during intense physical activity or movement. It also serves as an insulator to protect the body from extreme temperatures. 

Fat is the principal storage form of energy from food consumed in excess of what Amira Elgan the body needs to function. It provides energy for muscle work and serves as a reserve for later use after energy from carbohydrate glucose has been used up. 

This natural ability of our body to store surplus energy becomes a problem when, over the months and years, our total calorie intake is significantly higher than the calories we burn. 

There are many health related illnesses attributed to high consumption of bad fats. Given the alarming growing number of studies that present us with evidence of how fat affects health, I’ll go into considerable detail in this series so that, at the end of it, you'll have a complete understanding of this vital dietary subject. 

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Reader Q&A 

Q: Amira: Good information on cooked and frozen vegetables. Some recent articles I have read seem to suggest that cooked tomatoes release more good-for-you nutrients than raw tomatoes. Is that true? 

J.M., Carpinteria, California

A: That’s right. This tasty and nutritious fruit is rich in vitamin C when fresh provides greater protection against cancer and heart disease when cooked. 

Research shows that although cooking tomatoes reduces their vitamin C content, it increases their levels of lycopene and makes the beneficial phytochemical compounds easier to absorb by the body. Lycopene is a carotenoid (plant-based antioxidant), which gives tomato its color and its disease-fighting properties. During cooking, the lycopene level in tomatoes more than doubles, a benefit that outweighs the loss of vitamin C.

You may have noticed that many of my recipes call for fresh tomatoes to be pureed and cooked with a little bit of expeller-pressed, unrefined safflower oil or cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. Cooking tomatoes with healthy fat makes it easier for the digestive system to absorb the lycopene to maximize its antioxidant benefits as scavengers of free radicals in the body. 


Words of Wisdom

There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life -- happiness, freedom, and peace of mind -- are always attained by giving them to someone else.

Peyton Convay March

The Research Department

Red Meat and Dairy: A Recipe for Breast Cancer

Researchers have found that high consumption of red meat and whole fat dairy products increase the risk of breast cancer on an eight-year study of 90,000 women ranging from 26 to 46 years old.

This is another reason for young and women of all ages to avoid bad fats and to turn to small consumption of good fats instead such as fat found in olive oil, which has been found to not increase risk of breast cancer.

Cooked red meat also contains carcinogens and has been linked with colon cancer. The benefits of eating less meat and dairy will not only help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer but will also lower the risk of heart disease.


Hooked on Sugar and Fat?

Researchers have found that the regular consumption of food high in fat and sugar can be addictive. These findings give the phrase “food junky” a whole new meaning and explains what we already know: The more junk food people eat the more they crave. It’s yet another reason to avoid processed, convenience junk food. 

Eating food high in fat and sugar triggers a chemical reaction in the brain that causes hormonal imbalance. A diet with too much high-fat, high-sugar food can alter brain biochemistry, chemically impairing the brain functions that normally tell you to stop eating. This chemical alteration in the brain can result in overeating of junk food, leading to addiction and an endless cycle of more overeating leading to obesity. 



Good News

I have created a companion Web site for those of you interested in keeping up with health related news. It's called Vegetarian Organic News, and you can visit the site regularly to stay on top of what's happening in the world that affects our food and our health. Click here to visit the site


Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week

Yummy Hummus
Makes about 3 cups (12 servings)

This recipe one of my sons' favorite snack foods. It’s a wonderful appetizer at any time of the day. Serve with baked tortilla chips, whole wheat pita bread or fresh raw vegetables -- or add it to salads. Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are rich in protein and soluble fiber, which is beneficial in reducing cholesterol.

Ahead of time: Cook chickpeas (canned will also do the job as well).

Preparation time: 20 minutes Equipment: Food processor or blender

Get ingredients ready: (organic ingredients if possible)
3 cups drained cooked chickpeas (If canned, rinse and drain)
4 fresh garlic cloves (peeled)
¼ cup tahini (ground sesame seeds paste)
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice 
2 tablespoons cumin powder
2 tablespoons lemon juice
sea salt & freshly ground pepper

1. In food processor or blender process chickpeas and garlic until the mixture looks smooth. Add all other ingredients including salt and pepper to taste and processed until well blended. Store in a tightly covered container and chill for a couple of hours before serving. Keep refrigerated--it will last up to 5 days.

Cook’s tip: Hummus makes a healthy alternative to mayo on sandwiches and veggie burgers.

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This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.