Fat has gotten a lot of attention lately. We all see it as a dietary evil. Is it true that if I eat fat I will be fat? Fat and oil are extremely important for our health and well being. What does fat do for us?
Fat gives us energy, makes us feel full, gives us building blocks for cell membranes and for hormones. They carry fat soluble vitamins including vitamin A, D, E, and K.
I know what we’ve been taught. Fat is bad particularly saturated fat. This is called the Lipid Hypothesis. Lipid Hypothesis: The theory that saturated fat causes increased blood cholesterol levels which in turn cause heart disease. This theory came about from a scientist named Ancel Keys in the late 1950’s. This study got a lot of attention, but has since been disproved numerous times. There is actually very little evidence linking saturated fats and heart disease.
This is a graph taken from Dr. Stephan Guyenet. The American Diet. 2012.
This graph shows the switch Americans made from natural animal fats to processed vegetable oils. This correlates with the rise in heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. The heart disease epidemic started in the 1930’s, the obesity epidemic started in the 1980’s, and the diabetes epidemic started in the 1990’s.
“The Framingham Heart Study is often cited as proof of the lipid hypothesis. This study began in 1948 and involved some 6,000 people from the town of Framingham, Massachusetts. Two groups were compared at five-year intervals—those who consumed little cholesterol and saturated fat and those who consumed large amounts. After 40 years, the director of this study had to admit: “In Framingham, Mass, the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person’s serum cholesterol. . . we found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories, weighed the least and were the most physically active.” (1)
So basically, saturated fat is not bad for you. Just think about the sources of saturated fat. It comes from butter, lard, tallow. These are all fats that you could learn how to make yourself. They are fats that our ancestors have been eating for years…and have been free of heart disease and the many “modern” diseases we are plagued with today.
The Facts about Saturated Fats:
- Found in high levels in butter, coconut oil, and animal fats.
- Effects the body by:
- Raising HDL (or good Cholesterol levels). Saturated fat has got a bad rap because it raises overall cholesterol levels more than any other fat. Taking a closer look however it raises HDLs proportionally more than LDLs and raises HDLs more than any other fat. (Reference here.) HDLs help keep cholesterol from building up in your arteries, thus reducing cardiovascular incident risks.
- Stronger Bones: (Reference)
- Improves Liver Health
- Healthy Lung
- Healthy Brain
- Strong Immune System
Sadly, as the idea got passed around that saturated fats were bad for you…so did the idea that highly processed vegetable oils were good for you (hint: they aren’t, you tell me how to get oil out of a canola…or corn… and what exactly is a canola?) (post on vegetable oils coming up).
Most of us can benefit greatly by adjusting the fats we take into our body. Saturated fats are great for baking because they are so stable. Use butter and coconut oil in baking…not only does it make it taste delicious, but saturated fats like these are more stable so they don’t change as much as your other fats. Tallow or lard are great for frying or pie crusts.
Just a note: I find it extremely odd that we have been trained to mistrust ourselves so much. Butter tastes good so it must be bad. So does coconut oil, and honey. Maybe just maybe, if something tastes good it’s because it is good for you. I think this is especially true if we get rid of the addictive junk that warps our perception. You’ll find the more clean you eat the more you’ll enjoy your food and be able to trust your taste and cravings.
1. Castelli, William, Arch Int Med, Jul 1992, 152:7:1371-1372