why (and how) you should be eating fat
Since the 1970s, we have been told by the wrong people (i.e. the government, big food companies, etc) that in order to be healthy and/or lose weight, we must maintain a low (or no) fat diet. We have been told that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease, and that we should avoid foods like red meat, egg yolks, full fat dairy, butter, and more.
The main person behind the idea that saturated fat leads to heart disease was Ancel Keys, a biologist and pathologist from Minnesota. Throughout his studies on heart disease and human physiology/nutrition, many assumptions were made regarding saturated fats and cholesterol and many studies were conducted that had a wide range of factors leading people to potential heart disease. However, there is actually a large amount of evidence proving that dietary cholesterol and saturated fats do so much good for our bodies and very little harm (if any, depending on quality) but all of the studies done by Keys attempting to prove the opposite are lacking in associated factors.
I could write an entire post (or three) on the damage Ancel Keys did on the modern diet, but instead, let's discuss why we need fats in our diets and how to know which ones are the best choices.
WHY ARE FATS GOOD FOR US?
Good quality fats from both animal and vegetable sources provide a long-lasting source of energy for the body, they provide the building blocks for all cell membranes and hormones, aid in absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K (fat soluble vitamins), allow for proper use of proteins in digestion, serve as a protective lining for our organs, slow down the absorption of food to regulate energy and keep you full for longer, and the best of all…they make food taste GOOD!
THIS DOESN’T INCLUDE SATURATED FATS, RIGHT?
WRONG! There is very little evidence to support the idea that a diet low in saturated fat reduces heart disease or one’s life span overall. In fact, saturated fat plays many important roles in the body. Saturated fats play a vital role in the health of our bones, they lower Lp(a) (a substance in the blood that indicates proneness to heart disease), protect the liver from alcohol and other toxins, enhance the immune system, assist in proper utilization of essential fatty acids (omega-3’s and omega-6’s), provide “food” for the heart in times of stress, and protect us against harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract.
WHAT ARE GOOD QUALITY FAT SOURCES?
ANIMAL FATS such as butter, pork lard, beef and lamb tallow, or chicken, duck and goose fat should be from organically raised, grass fed and/or pastured animals.
VEGETABLE COOKING FATS such as coconut and palm oil should be unrefined by nature and organic when possible. Oils like olive, avocado, sesame, peanut, and macadamia nut should always be extracted via expeller-pressing.
Always remember to READ YOUR LABELS and pay attention to where your fats come from! There are some resources listed below to guide you in purchasing good quality fats.
WHY DOES QUALITY MATTER?
As has been scientifically proven and shouted from the rooftops by the vegetarian community, conventional farming is terrible for our health. These animals are pumped with hormones and antibiotics, fed terrible diets, raised in awful conditions – and sick animals lead to sick humans (when consumed). Ensuring you are getting pasture raised, grass fed meat from a farm you trust is SO important for your own health. What they consume, you consume. The same goes for plant based fats – these should be organic, which ensure no pesticides have been used. Pesticides have a direct link to many health conditions including cancer, so are best to avoid when possible.
Despite what we have been told by the Diet Dictocrats (as Sally Fallon, author of Nourished Traditions referenced below, likes to call them; this refers to Western medicine doctors, researchers, spokesmen for various government and quasi-government agencies like the FDA and AMA, “philanthropic” organizations like the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society) for the past few decades regarding low-fat diets being the healthiest ones, we NEED fat – especially animal fat – in our diet for all of the reasons mentioned above.
If you’d like more information on this topic or would like to know where to find good quality fats to start adding to your diet, see my resources below! And as always, feel free to reach out to me via the contact page if you have any questions or comments on this topic!
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Nutritional Therapy Association article by Caroline Barringer, NTP, CHFS, BRP, CGP
The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price
WHERE TO FIND GOOD QUALITY FATS
Find your local farmers market – Eat Wild