I like fat! I did not always say or believe this. As many of us have, I followed the rule that fat was bad. Everything had to be either fat free or low fat. The idea of eating a burger from time to time felt sacrilegious. However, my relationship to fat, particularly saturated fat changed once I started cooking back in 2007 but completely shifted recently when I started eating whole foods and high quality animal products and never looked back.
The importance of saturated fat
From the very beginning a baby is introduced to a high concentration of fat in their diet. Human breast milk contains 1.3 grams of fat and .6 grams of saturated fat per ounce. "Fat and cholesterol are very important components in human milk. In fact, the milk from a healthy mother has about 50 to 60 percent of its energy (kilocalories) as fat. The cholesterol in human milk supplies an infant with close to six times the amount most adults consume from their food."
Why we need saturated fat in our diet
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Promotes fertility
- Increased energy
- Stronger hair, skin, nails and bones
- Improved brain function (the brain is 60% fat)
- Healthy liver function
- Improved cognition
- Mood boosting
For a brief video explaining the relationship between saturated fat, cholesterol and arteries please watch this video
Americans have been led to believe that the healthiest diet is one low in saturated fat. But despite a monumental shift away from animal fat, the incidence of heart disease, cancer, obesity and type II diabetes has skyrocketed. The problem is that we've gotten away from cooking and eating the way our grandparents did, with whole foods, real butter, lard as well as grains that haven't been overly processed and stripped of nutrients.
How the saturated fat myth started in the United States:
With the introduction of vegetable oils, which have been deemed "healthy" by the food industry, we've demonized fats and blamed them for every major health issue in our society, but this is simply not true and recently numerous studies have proven this. Since the introduction of these processed oils, which are found in nearly every shelf stable food, the incidence of every type of disease has gone up.
Sources of good saturated fat
Saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature, most of them being animal products. Sources include:
- Suet (animal fats)
- Dark chocolate
- Fatty beef
- Poultry with skin on
- Coconut oil
Consuming a diet with adequate saturated fat is not only important but vital to our overall health and well being. And like everything else in life, there should be a good balance between meats, vegetables and fruits. I certainly don't advocate eating a steak every night with a stick of melted butter.
In order to eat optimally
- When possible, consider buying meat, eggs and cheese that are ethically sourced
- Purchase organic as much as possible to avoid added pesticides
- Shop at your local farmers market
- Make food shopping something to look forward to
- Cook at home more
- Avoid vegetable oils by learning to read labels (what's in your bread?)
- And if possible avoid foods with labels
- Teach children to eat a variety of foods
- Sit down to eat
Bottom line is this: In order to live a healthy, happy, balanced life, we have to consider eating food that comes from nature, that lives and exists along side of us. This is incredibly challenging in today's harried world, but if physical and mental well being is high on your to do list, it will become a priority, a lifestyle and not a chore.