How many times have you heard that it is best to “eat a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol?” You hear it from your doctor. It’s all over TV commercials. You probably even heard it in school. Saturated fat has been blamed for causing cancer and heart disease. Bacon, butter, and red meat are the poster children for obesity and heart attacks. High saturated fat intake is linked to high blood cholesterol. High blood cholesterol is linked to increased rate of heart disease. Right????
Maybe not….. let’s take a look at the facts…..
- From the Framingham Heart Study: “The more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person’s serum [blood] cholesterol….the people who ate the most saturated fat…weighed the least and were the most physically active.” (Nourishing Traditions, p. 5)
- From a 2001 Harvard research review article: “The amount of saturated fat in the diet may have little if any bearing on the risk of heart disease ” And the review found “a weak and nonsignificant positive association between dietary cholesterol and risk of CHD [coronary heart disease].” (In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan, p. 43)
- The first case of heart disease was recorded in 1912, and obviously rates have increased ever since (Let’s Get Well by Adelle Davis). Consumption of saturated fats has actually decreased (Real Food by Nina Planck and Pollan) while hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats) came on the scene in the late 1800s, just in time to be a potential suspect for heart disease’s rise to fame.
- The fat around the heart matches beef fat and other fat only found in animals. The heart needs this fat – “It draws on this reserve in times of stress.” (NT p. 11)
The TRUTH is that we actually should be eating saturated fats. You will never see low-fat recipes on my blog. I am a firm believer that the current state of unhealth that we see in our society today comes from moving away from the more traditional ways that our ancestors ate. Like most animals, our bodies are mostly comprised of mono-unsaturated and saturated fats. And that’s what we should be eating.
To stay fit, lean, and healthy, you’ve got to give your body the kinds of fats it needs — the kinds of fats it craves. Butter, bacon, beef tallow…. just the smell of these fats will make your mouth salivate. Your body knows what it needs. These traditional fats are very stable and can be stored for long periods of time without going rancid.
Chris Kresser, East Bay Acupuncturist and advocate for traditional diets, states, “Fat doesn’t make you fat. Food toxins like wheat, fructose and seed oils make you fat. Fat is the preferred fuel source of the body, and should constitute about 60-70% of calories. ” Read more about what Chris has to say about fats and oils HERE.
See this video for an excellent medical summary on the myth about fats and cholesterol.
Some of the benefits of saturated fats include
1. Saturated fats are uniquely resistant to heat and rancidity.
High heat can make most vegetable oil toxic for our bodies by creating carcinogens, even olive oil. Saturated fats, like butter, ghee, and coconut oil, hold up well during the cooking process. At our house, we only cook with coconut oil, bacon tallow, or ghee. Grass-fed is best when it comes to using butter.
Save your cold-pressed olive oil for dressing salads, or for drizzling over cooked veggies just before serving.
2. Saturated fats are essential for proper nutrient absorption.
Vitamins A, D, and E cannot be absorbed into our bodies without saturated fats acting as a carrier, nor can calcium.
Using a bit of coconut oil, butter, or ghee to cook your greens in actually helps your body absorb more calcium. Grass-fed butter is packed with nutrients, including 10 vitamins, 10 minerals, and 18 amino acids! Olive oil is perfect on salads and veggies because it contains a bit of saturated fat to help with absorption.
3. Saturated fats are more satisfying, and help curb cravings.
Saturated fats are great for energy, converting slowly and steadily into cellular fuel as needed, keeping our blood sugar levels stable. This can help dramatically in reducing sugar cravings and keeps you full longer.
4. Saturated fats may boost metabolism and aid weight loss efforts.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that medium-chain fatty acids, like those found in coconut oil, were three times more effective at raising the metabolism than long-chain fatty acids.
In the 1940s, a group of farmers attempted to “fatten up” their cows by feeding them dietary fat (in the form of coconut oil). To their dismay, the cows actually became leaner! Eventually, they found that a diet of soy beans and corn– which converts to sugar in the body– suppressed the thyroid and caused the animals to fatten up without even eating as much food. Read more HERE
If you read food labels these days, you have probably noticed that many food contain Omega-6 industrial seed oils (corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean, etc.) These oils, along with most vegetable oils, are mainly polyunsaturated fats. Your body doesn’t know what to do with these oils, so your body uses these oils to make you fat and to weaken your immune system. Good health depends on a healthy balance between the amount of Omega 3 fats and Omega 6 fats. In today’s standard American diet, our average intake of Omega 6 fatty acids is between 10 and 25 times higher than previously consumed in history.
Elevated Omega 6 intakes are associated with an increase in inflammatory diseases like:
- cardiovascular disease
- type 2 diabetes
- metabolic syndrome
- irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease
- macular degeneration
- rheumatoid arthritis
- psychiatric disorders
- autoimmune diseases
These Omega-6 oils are very unstable, making them very susceptible to becoming rancid and oxidizing. Some of these oils are deodorized and bleached by manufacturers to make them palatable.
Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions, spoke about this issue in her speech, The Oiling of America. She talks about how the “prudent” diet of corn oil and margarine has been devastating to our heath. Because the oil industries and medical testing industries are heavily vested in people continuing to consume their industrial oils and making high cholesterol an issue, much research has been repressed from the public. The facts remain that children need animal fats for normal growth from birth to 18 or 21 years. Adults need fats for normal growth and for reproduction, for brain connections, for all systems in the body.
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART:
- Consumption of industrial oils and the lack of saturated fats in our diet are the leading reasons why we have learning disabilities, autism, growth problems, health problems, and infertility (an epidemic now). Our kids can’t grow normally without animal fats in their diets.
- Women on low-fat milk often can’t get pregnant. No one looks at what this does to little girls if they’re on low-fat diets at the age of two.
SO WHAT ARE “GOOD” FATS?
- Lard (non-hydrogenated)
- Butter or Ghee (particularly from grass-fed cows)
- Coconut Oi
- Olive Oil (only cold-pressed, uv-protected, and at low temperatures)
Check out THIS to learn more about “healthy” cooking oils.
It can be hard changing eating habits that have been formed by a lifetime of incorrect teaching. I’m only here to offer the information to you in hopes that you take the steps to improve the quality of your diet. Adding saturated fats to your diet can do a world of good for you. Saturated fats make up half the structure of cell membranes. They are responsible for the stiffness of the cell wall, while unsaturated fats cover flexibility. The cell membrane needs to be just right for the body to function properly, so obviously both kinds of fat are necessary. (from Real Food, p. 175)
Saturated fats are critical for bone health. For calcium to be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure, at least 50 percent of the dietary fats should be saturated. (NT p. 11) Omega-3s are better retained in the tissues when the diet is rich in saturated fats. Saturated fats are also a source for quick energy, have anti-microbial properties, and help strengthen the immune system.
HOW TO GET STARTED EATING “GOOD” FATS
Start by buying some coconut oil. We use coconut oil in baking and sauteing at our house. It comes solid at room temperature but melts easily at low heat. Coconut oil is easily found in most health food stores these days. Look for organic and pure extra-virgin labels. There are so many amazing health benefits to consuming coconut oil. To read more, visit HERE.
Use olive oil liberally on your salads and cooked vegetables. But make sure you use it unheated. Put it on after steaming or water sauteing your vegetable. Heating olive oil destroys the valuable Omega-3 oils that you want in your diet. Look for organic and pure extra-virgin labels.
Use butter or ghee (clarified butter) as your main fat in the kitchen. I use it to cook eggs, saute veggies, and in my baking as well.
Let go of your fear of eating fats. Eggs are a great way to get healthy fats and nutrients. Avocados are amazing as well. And who can say no to real BACON?
And remember that body fat is where toxins that shouldn’t come into contact with our essential organs are stored, so the more toxic the environment that the animal was raised in, the more toxins we are likely to consume in their stored body fat. Grass-fed butter and meats are best.
And educate yourself on the dangers of consuming industrial Omega-6 oils.
photo credit: depositphotos.com / twoellis