I’ve had some symptoms of liver congestion recently, so I re-read the liver/gallbladder chapter of my favorite book, Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford. And, lo and behold, I discovered that I’ve been way too liberal with both red meats and saturated fats, for way too long.
For years now, I’ve been gleefully mounding heaping tablespoons of ghee and virgin coconut oil into my skillet, because I’m now eating a low glycemic, whole food diet. So, my metabolism has switched from burning sugars for energy to burning fats for energy, which is actually the way the human body is designed to run. I’ve been loving the flavors of using these whole, unrefined, saturated fats in my cooking, also because it’s now well known that the trans fats from not only hydrogenated oils, but also from the heating of refined vegetable oils (canola, corn, soybean, “vegetable” oils, etc.), which are used in most processed and restaurant foods, are what clog our arteries, especially in conjunction with too much saturated fat in the diet. You see, healthy indigenous people often eat as much as a 40% fat diet, with plenty of good saturated fats (and tons of vegetables), but they don’t eat cookies, crackers and chips. So, I’ve been likening myself to an indigenous Chumash woman in my diet, but I’ve stopped in my tracks with this fat-fest, after reading that too much saturated fat is really difficult for the liver & kidneys to process. Hmmm…
Paul Pitchford says that saturated fats cause internal heat to build up because the energy released from digesting fats is more than twice the amount of energy released from proteins and carbohydrates. No wonder I’ve been opening the windows and waking up sweating at night. According to Chinese medicine, eating too much saturated fat slows the liver’s ability to cleanse the blood, which leads to liver heat and stagnation, which then can lead to excesses and inflammations such as acne, tumors, cancer, obesity, boils, carbuncles, liver/gallbladder disorders, heart disease, and kidney disorders. Whoah Nellie! No wonder my acne has come back again lately…I’m glad I came across this information when I did!
So, how much saturated fat is too much?
In a nutshell, even though my metabolism has switched to burning fats, and even though I lost another 5 pounds without even trying on my low-glycemic, whole foods diet, my saturated fat consumption (pasture butter, ghee, virgin coconut oil, etc.) should be no more than 1 teaspoon per meal (as opposed to the tablespoon or two I’ve been wallowing in for years). Okay. This guideline is best for me because my diet includes meats and other animal products, which have copious amounts of their own saturated fats. If I were a low-glycemic, whole food-eating vegan, it would be okay to increase my saturated fat intake to 2 teaspoons or so per meal. But, since I want to continue to enjoy my eggs with greens a few days a week, and my grass fed beef/lamb/buffalo/venison twice a week or so, I need to eat way less saturated fats than I have been cooking with, and enjoy more monounsaturated fats like high quality, extra virgin olive oil, unrefined sesame oil, raw nuts & seeds like flax, chia, and pumpkin seeds…and of course, avocado! Hallelujah! I want those fats to come from somewhere!
I’ll be using more water in my stir frys now, and way less ghee or butter in my beans. But, I won’t omit these wonderfully flavorful, saturated fats completely, because they’re very important in small to moderate amounts for everyone. You see, our bodies absolutely need good quality, saturated fats from both plant and animal sources, for brain & nerve repair and function, for glandular secretions & hormone balance, for healthy skin, and for internal warmth in the winter or when feeling cold. If we don’t get any saturated fat & cholesterol in our diets, our liver will begin to over-produce it because it plays such an important role in so many bodily processes. Chinese medicine says that fats should be used more liberally in the winter, or when feeling dry, cold, nervous, underweight, unproductive or ungrounded. Well, wonders never cease!
I believe that most health problems in modern people happen from three bad habits of the standard American diet; 1) eating packaged, restaurant & other refined foods such as iodized (refined) salts, refined sugars, refined vegetable oils, and refined grains like wheat flour (which are often rancid/oxidized), 2) in spiking the blood sugar throughout the day and throughout the lifetime, and now 3) in eating too much saturated fat, red meats, or pasteurized dairy products…by the way, the maladies of pasteurized dairy products on the body is a whole other article…stay tuned!
Okay. This is the perfect segway into what I just read about animal proteins. Animal foods, especially red meats, contain arachidonic acid. When this substance builds up, the body will experience pain & inflammation, blood clotting, and the inhibition of omega-3 fatty acid uptake. Excess animal protein & especially red meat consumption for long periods of time can eventually lead to: rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, dermatitis, rhinitis, psoriasis, lupus, and tumors. If you’re a regular red meat-eater (protein nutritional type or type O blood), and you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you’ll probably want to eat at least 50% less animal protein, and replace your red meat with consciously raised, organic poultry and wild caught fish.
So, exactly how much meat is okay?
Personally, I do really well as a type A blood type, on a low-glycemic, complex carbohydrate-based diet. So, I’m going to reduce my egg consumption from 8 eggs/week, down to 3-4 eggs/week, my poultry and fish consumption down to about 4oz twice a week, and my red meat consumption down from 8oz twice a week to just 4oz once a week. This is how most healthy, rural, Asain people eat, and seasonal veggies are the base of their diets (60-70% of their plate). If you’re a type O or type B blood type, and/or running marathons or pregnant & nursing, and you’re really craving meats, then you should probably listen to your body and eat about double this amount. Everyone is different, with different heritage, metabolism, energy output, biochemistry, etc, and our bodies either celebrate the changes we make in our diets, or they rebel against these changes. Deep breathing, yoga asanas, and quieting the mind, all help with being able to tune in to our bodies, to feel what they are telling us and what foods we really need.
If you find yourself craving meat but you have any of the liver congestion symptoms mentioned above, spirulina or chlorella micro algae are GREAT ways to supplement your protein needs while supplying your body with everything it needs nutrient-wise. Micro algae are considered super-foods which you can thrive on exclusively, with plenty of vitamins & minerals, tons of blood building (yet highly cleansing) chlorophyll, and gamma-linoleic acid (a highly absorbable form of omega-3 fat). Micro algae are not really plants, and they’re not really animals. They’re sort of a kingdom between the two, which is why they fulfill human protein needs so well. I love the fact that micro algae are full of everything we need to build strength, yet they are very cleansing to the body at the same time. Very few other foods have both of these qualities.
Spirulina and chlorella are the two types of micro algae that are generally safe for most body types (wild blue green & dunaliella algae are more extremely cooling & cleansing), and are recommended for people transitioning from over-eating meats to a more vegetarian platter. The recommended dosage is 1-2 teaspoons per day. It’s smart these days to spend the money on the more expensive, lab-grown (or pristine environment-grown) micro algae, because in most places in the world, micro algae have been recently found to concentrate toxins from their environment.
Right now is a perfect time to address these issues of overeating meats and fats & oils in our diets, because May marks the warm return of summer, and it’s this time of year when our bodies need less meat and fat. This time of year we generally need more of the the cooling, cleansing summer fruits and vegetables to maintain balance in mind, body, and spirit. It’s amazing to me how nature gives us what’s most balancing, season to changing season, right where we happen to live.