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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

NUTS FOR COCONUTS!


Of the overt fat sources (foods which derive 50% or more of their calories from fat), we here at the Paradigm Diet endorse avocados and olives over traditional staples like nuts and oils. The reason is simple. Oils are not whole foods. They are extracted from whole foods, leaving the vitamins and minerals behind and sticking you with pure fat, which if eaten in excess sticks to problem spots like the cheeks, thighs, neck, arms, waist, hips, and buttocks. And nuts derive a large percentage of their calories from pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats which are already overemphasized in the standard American diet. Besides, nuts too often come roasted and salted and are simply too easy to overeat.

By contrast, olives and avocados are fruits eaten in their raw and minimally-processed state to provide an abundance of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in addition to fiber and vitamins and minerals. And they are delectable.

But avocados can be expensive and have a relatively short shelf life. Also, once mixed into a salad, they tend to oxidize rapidly, turning an unbecoming shade of brownish black and giving off a funky odor and taste. Spritzing some lemon on them can alleviate some of the funk, but still avocados are best eaten within an hour or two after preparation. But if you are looking for an additional fat source with a longer shelf-life and comparable nutrition, try coconut butter.

Coconut butter, in contrast to coconut oil, retains the pulp of this beloved fruit, which lowers the fat content per serving and increases the fiber content. And you will love the creamy, nutty taste. Coconut butter is reasonably priced, a 16-ounce container can be purchased for around $10; and it is available at both health food stores and traditional Ralphs/Vons type supermarkets.

In lieu of avocado, simply mix 1 or 2 tbsps. of coconut butter into your favorite green salad - kale, spinach, lettuce, etc. It's oh so delicious. Dairy eaters will find it tastes like cream cheese! Remember that coconut butter is predominantly fat - two tbsps. is equivalent to 1 small avocado - so be sparing. And much of the fat found in coconut butter is of the saturated variety, a nonessential fat which can elevate cholesterol in amounts exceeding 20 grams per day. Two tbsps. of coconut butter provides 16 grams of saturated fat, but keep in mind that a vegan diet is generally low in saturated fat,  since this type of fat is found mainly in animal foods including milk, eggs, and meat products.

Of course, all saturated fat is not created equal. A study in a recent addition of the Journal of Nutrition showed that saturated fat derived from animal sources (milk, butter, cheese, etc) is inversely associated with telomere length, making it a biomarker of aging. Telomeres are the ends of DNA strands, which get shorter as the cells divide. Cells have a finite ability to divide, meaning the shorter there telomeres, the more they have divided (likely due to cellular damage/stress), and the closer they are to death. In short, the more saturated fat you eat, the more quickly you lose leukocytes. Leukocytes are white blood cells. They are your body's immune cells. You want to keep those buggers around. And if they're dying, chances are other cells are dying in the oxidative environment created by excessive ingestion of the wrong types of fats, causing you to age rapidly.

Interestingly enough, the 1 short-to-medium chain saturated fatty acid NOT associated with aging was the 12-carbon lauric acid. Where is this fatty acid found? You guessed it: coconuts, half of whose saturated fatty acids are of this variety. Bottom line: when eating saturated fat, choose vegetable sources. That is, if you want to live long and look young.

A note on caloric content. Coconut butter has 110 calories and 10 grams of fat per tbsp., which is less than the 120 calories and 14 grams of fat found in oil (coconut, olive, etc.). To reduce fat content even further simply skim off the layer of oil that collects on top of the butter. To distinguish, note that the oil is bright white compared to the butter's yellowish hue. You'll find that you can easily skim off 5 or 6 tbsp., which reduces the amount of calories and fat found in coconut butter to 80 and 7 respectively. The oil works great as a moisturizer. Spread some on today.

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