In a perfect world, every summer vacation food would be healthy for us, making it easy for us to eat fried foods in our bikinis. Donuts for breakfast, french fries for lunch, and vegetable tempura sushi for dinner. We wish. Although a giant plate of tempura isn’tt going to improve our health anytime soon, there is something we can do to offset the damage of eating fried foods – and the solution tastes pretty great too. By using the right nutrition at the right times, we can protect our bodies from the harmful effects of our favorite indulgences and late-night snacks.
The Damage: The process of frying food, whether it be a ball of dough or an avocado, leads to the destruction of the nutrients found in those food. Vitamins and minerals are lost, fats are oxidized (i.e., they become rancid), proteins create heterocyclic amines which are potential carcinogens, and carbohydrates create a cancer-causing agent called acrylamides. As a result, the food you’re consuming food is nutritionally “dead,” and directly harmful to your body as well.
When rancid fats are consumed, like when you eat fried foods, the body takes those damaged fats and utilizes them for key processes in the body. Instead of having healthy strong lipids (fats), you have weak and permeable ones, which leads to a host of health issues. For one, lipids are the main component for creating the membranes of our cells, and if our membranes are damaged, the cells become vulnerable to pathogens (viruses, bacteria, fungus) since they don’t have a strong barrier against those pathogens. Secondly, rancid fats lead to the destruction of vitamins already present in the body, resulting in deficiency. Thirdly, rancid fats cause inflammation in the body, which stresses the immune system and signals a pain response. Finally, in research studies, the consumption of rancid fats has been found to increase the expression of cancer genes, while turning off tumor suppression genes.
Fill in the Gap: In order to save our bodies from the damage done by eating fried foods, we must be religious about daily consumption of healthy fats. This includes fats and oils that: a) are protective against free radicals, the cell-damaging compounds created by the rancid fats; b) provide the body with the building blocks for cellular membranes and hormone production; and c) act as anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventative agents. While consuming fried foods is never a healthy practice, if you flood your body daily with healthy fats from the list below, you can work toward controlling the damage.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are fats that are not made by the body and must be received from a food source. They include ALA, EPA and DHA, which are the fats needed by the body to create strong cells. This group of fats has been shown to lower inflammation in the body, to prevent against depression, and they may help to lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. In addition, they are antioxidants that protect the body from the damage done by free radicals, which is exactly what we need to defend against the rancid fats in fried foods.
The Form: There are many ways to get your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids, including both food and supplement options. You can get ample DHA and EPA in lightly cooked or raw, wild-caught, cold-water fish such as salmon or halibut. If you are vegan, take the algae-based supplement DHA 200 by Quantum Nutrition Labs. You can get ALA in flax, chia, pumpkin or hemp seeds, and raw walnuts.
High-Quality Saturated Fats: It is now widely accepted that high-quality, unprocessed saturated fats are not related to a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease, and they may even help to lower the risk. In addition, they have been linked to lower inflammation levels in the body, improved gut health, proper hormone production, brain function and a healthy immune response. The most important part is that the body will choose to use these fats over the rancid fats found in fried foods, therefore reducing your risk of health complications.
The Form: The best sources of saturated fats are grass-fed, organic beef, free-range eggs, organic ghee (clarified butter), avocado and coconut oil/butter. Always remember that even healthy saturated fats can be damaged by high heat, so stick to eating them raw, lightly-cooked, or follow these helpful guidelines for cooking with the right oils.