Good Fat - Bad Fat
For a long time doctors and health experts told us that a low fat diet was the key to a healthy life. But now we know that not all fat is bad. In fact some fats have enormous health benefits.
One of the healthiest fatty acids is also one of the most misunderstood. From heart health to cancer prevention and even weight loss, CLA has the potential to be enormously beneficial to our health. But most Americans don’t get nearly enough in their diets. So what is CLA and where can you find it?
What is CLA?
Conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, isn’t just one type of fat. It’s a whole family, with over 20 variations found so far. The two most common, and most valuable to our health, are called cis-9 and trans-11. When ruminant animals like cattle, goats and sheep eat plant matter they ingest linoleic acid. That acid undergoes a series of transformations as it’s digested, including becoming CLA. Because of their unique digestive systems, ruminants produce several times more CLA than any other animal.
CLA - A Healthy Fat
So why should we care about CLA? Research has shown that CLA, specifically cis-9 and trans-11, can have huge health benefits. In lab and animal studies it’s been shown to reduce the risk of cancer and inhibit the growth of existing tumors. The effect seems to be especially true for breast cancer. In one study increased CLA intake during puberty decreased the chance of breast cancer later in life. And while most of these studies have been limited to the lab, there is evidence to suggest that the same is true in humans. One Finnish study found that women with higher CLA levels were less likely to develop breast cancer. In lab models CLA killed cancer cells related to leukemia, melanoma, colon and prostate cancer and ovarian cancer.
CLA’s benefits go beyond its anti-carcinogenic properties. CLA has also been shown to reduce certain risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In a two-year study of overweight adults high doses of CLA reduced overall levels of fat in the blood. Importantly, it also reduced the bad cholesterol LDL without affecting good HDL cholesterol. Similar studies have also shown that higher doses of CLA may help to reduce body fat and build or maintain lean muscle mass.
Getting Your CLA
The problem is that most people don’t get nearly enough CLA in their diets to fully enjoy its benefits. And while CLA supplements are growing in popularity, critics warn that the limited variations found in them don’t provide the same advantages. Because CLA is found mostly in grass-eating animals, most Americans get theirs from beef and dairy products. But we’re only getting, on average, less than half of what scientists say is the optimal level.
The good news is you don’t need to double your consumption of burgers or drink milk by the gallon to get the most out of CLA. Grass-fed cows, goats and sheep have much higher levels of CLA in their meat and milk because grass has more linoleic acid than grains. A Penn State study found that CLA levels in milk doubled when cows were pastured, while a similar study in Wisconsin saw a four-fold increase. When cows are taken out of the pasture and fed grain their CLA levels drop even if they’re being given supplements.
Eating high-quality grass-fed beef and dairy products, like those we sell at Green Owl Provisions, can close the gap in your recommended CLA consumption. Grass-fed dairy products and beef aren’t just lower in the bad types of fat, they’re higher in the fats you need!
Your favorite foods from Green Owl are a delicious way to improve your long-term health.