why we need saturated fat

 two coconut halves
 coconut halves on board, coconut flakes on spoon

I like saturated fat! I did not always say or believe this. As many of us have, I followed the rule that saturated fat was bad and led to heart disease. After all everything I ate back when I was a teen 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, full fat 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 saturated 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 
  • Increases energy
  • Stronger hair, skin, nails and bones
  • Improves brain function (the brain is 60% fat)
  • Healthy liver function
  • Improved cognition 
  • Mood boosting
 coconut oil, coconut flakes and spoon
 coconut half, spoon cocout flakes on board

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 saturated fats and blamed them for every major health issue in our society, but this is simply not true and 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. 

Making a shift from vegetable oil, particularly for cooking, will drastically improve your health. Now, keep in mind - when I talk about saturated fat, I'm referring to good, whole food sources, not McDonald's fries and burgers. That is the caveat here. 

Sources of good saturated fat

Saturated fat is solid at room temperature, most of it coming from animal products. Sources include:

  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Suet (animal fat)
  • Dark chocolate 
  • Nuts 
  • Seeds
  • Sardines
  • Fatty beef
  • Poultry with skin on
  • Coconut oil
  • Lard

Consuming a diet which includes adequate amounts of 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 unless that's your thing.