Government health agencies, food labels, and product advertisements have warned us against eating saturated fats for years, but is there any real evidence to support these claims? Like many other issues concerning Real Health, you’ve been lied to about Saturated Fats!
The war against saturated fats began in the 1950’s, when a study was published comparing the intake of saturated fats and heart disease mortality. The study, written by Dr. Ancel Keys, led to the conclusion that saturated fats caused heart disease, but the evidence has since been challenged and disproven.
The study looked at the saturated fat intake of 6 countries and found a higher incidence of heart disease in these countries, and saturated fats were theorized to be the culprit. However, Dr. Keys failed to study 16 other countries which did not fit his theory, and when the data is compiled from all 22 countries we find that the countries eating the most saturated fats actually have the lowest incidence of heart disease (heart disease is rare in tropical environments and cultures close to the equator, which intake a lot of coconut products!). Since this time, saturated fats have been conventionally considered a health hazard, but health experts now agree that they are actually a health necessity. The war on saturated fats caused a dramatic decrease in our intake of animal products and full-fat dairy, which just so happened to take place right around when the obesity epidemic started!
Look at our last article about Omega 6 and Omega 3 Fats to learn more about what this shift in our fat intake has caused - inflammation and disease!
The research today confirms this. In fact a study was published in 2015 out of the Journal Nutrition titled Dietary intake of saturated fat is not associated with risk of coronary events or mortality in patients with established coronary artery disease. I think that title says it all! Here is a graph looking at the intake of different countries and comparing their rates of heart disease.
Your body cannot function without saturated fats. Over 50% of your cell membranes are made from saturated fats. Cell membranes are the outer border of your cell, and the job is to keep the bad stuff out and let the good stuff in. When the cell membrane is compromised toxins get in the cell and they CAN’T GET OUT, and it creates cellular inflammation. Saturated fats are also necessary for proper bone formation, proper heart, liver, and lung function, and proper immune system function. They are excellent antimicrobials, and are the preferred energy source for the heart.
Saturated fats come mostly from animal products such as meat, butter, dairy, and tropical foods such as coconut. Although most American’s think that increasing dietary saturated fats will cause them to gain weight, research has actually shown that when women diet, those eating the greatest percentage of total fats in their diet as saturated fats lose the most weight! So how can you increase the amount of saturated fats in your diet? Here are your two basic steps that everyone should take toward increasing their healthy saturated fat consumption:
- Use coconut oil. Eat it. Cook with it. Use it on your skin. Use it for oil-pulling for oral health. Make your homemade sunscreen from it. There are so many uses for coconut oil, this should be a staple in every house! Here is an article from Wellness Mama about 101 Uses for Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is very high in saturated fats and is a very stable oil to cook with. Olive oil, for example, is a healthy monounsaturated fat, but olive oil turns rancid when heated to over 120 degrees. Anytime olive oil smokes, it has turned rancid. Coconut oil is more stable at high temperatures, which makes it great for cooking, and it also adds a great flavor. There are coconut flakes, coconut flour (great for breading chicken or baking), coconut milk, and coconut aminos (soy sauce alternative) are just some of the other great options for coconut products, which are all good sources of saturated fats. Coconut water, although good for other reasons, is not a good source.
- Eat only high-quality animal products. The largest source of saturated fats comes from our high-quality animal products. In the past 20-30 years you may have heard to cut down your intake of animal products, but this is only true of conventionally-raised, hormone-injected, antibiotic-fed toxic meat. Animal products can be a superfood when they are properly raised and fed! Eat plenty of free-range eggs, organic chicken and turkey, wild-game, and the most important source for saturated fats - Grass-Fed Beef products. This includes ground beef, steak, burgers, but also things like raw, grass-fed milk, cheese, butter, and great fats like ghee and tallow. I can’t overstate this - do not eat conventionally raised meat! The ratios of omega 6 fats to omega 3 fats make these meats and animal products inflammatory (read article here), and the hormones and antibiotics they use make the meat very toxic. Even if it’s organic I would recommend grass-fed EXCLUSIVELY.
Don’t skim the fat on your dairy! That fat is the good stuff (when the dairy comes from the right source!). AVOID the temptation of low-fat yogurt, skim milk, fat-free cheese. These animal products are horrible for your health. The fat is what makes the dairy healthy! Dairy is a “tread-lightly” topic to me anyway (I haven’t had cow’s milk in many many years but do eat raw cheeses), but I do believe it can be a superfood when sourced and consumed properly. Dairy is one of the top food sensitivities because we have altered the way God made it, not because it is inherently bad for everyone.
Use full-fat, grass-fed butter and NOT margarine. Margarine contains many harmful ingredients, including many trans-fats which are very dangerous to your body. Even trans-fat free margarine is harmful, as it contains many other “bad” fats. Anything made in a lab was clearly not intended to be part of our diet. Butter contains many important vitamins, minerals, and has related health benefits including substances with “anti-tumor” effects and “anti-stiffness” effects. Raw, organic, grass-fed, full-fat, unsalted butter is the best choice for your health. So go eat some saturated fats. This doesn’t mean that saturated fats have to be the majority of your diet, just that you don’t need to be scared of them and they are actually your friend. Intaking more saturated fats is only one small component of increasing your healthy fats and decreasing unhealthy fats, but it’s a great step in the right direction. Listen to our podcast episode on Fats and especially Fats 2.0 to learn more about your good and bad fats and how to implement them into your diet!
Article By: Dr. Taylor Krick
J Nutr. 2015 Feb;145(2):299-305. doi: 10.3945/jn.114.203505. Epub 2014 Dec 10. Dietary intake of saturated fat is not associated with risk of coronary events or mortality in patients with established coronary artery disease.
Neth J Med. 2011 Sep;69(9):372-8. Saturated fat, carbohydrates and cardiovascular disease. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/09/01/enjoy-saturated-fats-theyre-good-for-you.aspx
Hoenselaar R. British Journal of Nutrition, 2012.
Hu FB, et al. Trends in the Incidence of Coronary Heart Disease and Changes in Diet and Lifestyle in Women. The New England Journal of Medicine, 2000.