Fat is such a controversial topic. Is it good or bad to eat fat? Is a low-fat diet or high-fat diet better? Does fat make you fat? What are the facts about fat?
While much of mainstream media will have you believe that fat is bad, I’m going to suggest a different view that’s backed by much research. America has been in this low-fat diet craze for several decades now, and not surprisingly, the obesity rate and chronic disease epidemic continue to skyrocket. Marketing from the food industry will have you believe that you’re eating healthy when you choose low-fat and fat-free items. However, these packaged food-like items are still highly refined, processed, and usually contain even more sugar than the original version.
So, what’s the deal with fat? What types of fats are good for you, and which ones should you avoid completely?
Much of this information came from Chris Kresser and his thorough research on the subject. If you’re interested in learning more, then I highly recommend reading his book, The Paleo Cure.
Fats are a main energy source for the body. Consuming quality fats daily is critical for brain function, healthy skin and hair, immune function, healthy digestion, body temperature regulation, and aiding in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
The key is to eat the right fats, and avoid the fats that don’t serve your body.
The main fats we find in foods are:
- Saturated fats
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
- Trans fats
In this article, I’ll talk specifically about saturated fats and the role they place in overall health.
Out of all the fats, saturated fats probably have the worst reputation as being an artery-clogging, heart-disease promoting fat. However, you’ll see here that saturated fats can actually be really good for your body. Saturated fats are classified as short, medium, or long-chain fats.
Long-chain saturated fats are found mostly in the milk and meat of ruminant animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo, and deer. These fats actually form the core structural fats in the human body, making 75-80% of the fatty acids in most cells. They’re also the primary storage form of energy.
Saturated fats have no known toxicity, even at very high doses when insulin levels are in a normal range. This is untrue of polyunsaturated fats, glucose, and fructose.
Long-chain saturated fats also have many other benefits as seen below:
- Protect the liver
- Promote bone health
- Improve cardiovascular function
- Support the immune system
- Deliver fat-soluble vitamins to our cells and tissues
The main sources of long-chain saturated fats are beef, lamb, pork, ghee, whole milk, butter, cream, and they’re found in smaller quantities in coconut products and egg yolks.
Medium-chain saturated fats, or medium-chain triglycerides, are found in coconut milk and breast milk, and they have some unique properties.
They are metabolized differently than long-chain saturated fats, and they don’t require bile acids for digestion. This makes them a wonderful source of easily digestible energy. They also have many therapeutic properties:
- The lauric acid in these fats has antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties.
- Promote weight loss.
- Promote the development of ketones that the brain can use as fuel.
The main sources of medium-chain triglycerides are coconut flesh, coconut oil, coconut butter, and coconut milk. You can also find pure 100% MCT oil at most health food stores.
While it may go against what you’ve been told for so many years, you can eat these foods regularly. In fact, saturated fat and monounsaturated fat (discussed in part 2) should make up the bulk of your fat intake.
If you’re still concerned about the link between saturated fats and heart disease, let’s look at the research.
While there have been some short-term studies that showed a link between saturated fat intake and increase cholesterol levels, the longer-term studies have shown no connection. In fact, a large review of 21 studies, consisting of almost 350,000 participants found no association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular disease. Even more impressive is that studies on lower carbohydrate diets, which tend to be higher in saturated fat, suggest that it offers beneficial impact on cardiovascular disease risk markers.
So, now you can feel good about consuming a delicious, grass-fed steak, putting some butter on your veggies, or adding some coconut oil to your smoothie. Not, only will your meals taste better and be more satiating, but you’ll be feeding your body healthy ingredients that it needs to thrive.
The Paleo Cure by Chris Kresser