I realized that I’ve never spelled out my thoughts on fats based on the research I’ve done. I’ll admit I’m a subscriber to the Weston A. Price Foundation and Sally Fallon’s perspective, and if you are a vegetarian there are still some great options for you.
When it comes to fat, mainstream science is focused on the kind, which is sort of important, instead of the quality, which is very important. Studies on saturated fat do not focus on the quality of meat consumed or its level of processing, nor do they take into account the amount of sugar and processed oils also consumed, both of which have been linked to high cholesterol and clogged arteries.
While everyone needs different levels of saturated fat, it is by far the most beneficial fat you can consume from high quality sources. Despite popular belief, saturated fat is not only heart-healthy, it is essential to good digestion, a strong immune system, strong bones, and even prevention of cancer. Studies showing that saturated fat is bad for us don’t take into account the quality of the saturated fat or the amount of sugar or other kinds of fats consumed at the same time.
Saturated fat enables the absorption of vitamins A, E, D, and K, and minerals such as calcium. It is also absorbed directly into the bloodstream, reducing stress on the liver and other organs. The brain is primarily nourished by saturated fat, which also influences optimal nerve communication regarding hormones and metabolism. And saturated fat contains microbial agents that protect our digestive tract and therefore boost immune function.
While you might be concerned about the calorie content of saturated fat, both studies I’ve read and my own experience teaches that consumption of high quality fat actually aids in weight loss. This is largely because saturated fat enables the body to absorb more nutrients, which means it becomes satiated much sooner, which means cravings and usually portion sizes naturally reduce without much effort on the part of the eater.
Saturated fat is highly stable at high temperatures, meaning that will not go rancid with exposure to heat, light, and oxygen. Therefore it is ideal for cooking. Our ancestors cooked with butter and lard for thousands of years without the health issues we have today.
Saturated fat to increase: Organic chicken (whole or with skin and bone are the best options), organic grass-fed beef (again, on the bone is good), wild caught fish, extra virgin coconut oil (a great option for vegetarians!).
Saturated fat to reduce: Non-organic meat of all kinds, bacon, sausage, lunchmeat, pork and ham, and other highly processed meats or meats with nitrates/nitrites. Obviously if you can find these items organic and minimally processed, they don’t have to be completely eliminated.
Vegetable Oil and Trans Fat
The fat that actually deserves saturated fat’s reputation is vegetable oil. These polyunsaturated fats are not much better than trans fats, or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which have been conclusively linked to heart disease and cancer. They clog arteries, provide an overload of omega-6, confuse the body, and turn rancid with exposure to heat, air, and/or light—which often happens before we even purchase them—creating an abundance of free radicals.
Vegetable oils are cheaply produced in mass quantities, often from genetically modified corn and soybeans (GMO foods have been linked to reproductive issues and sterility in lab tests.)
Vegetable oil to increase: Extra virgin organic olive oil, a relatively stable monounsaturated fat that can be used to cook with at medium temperatures and is great for salad dressings. Be sure to store in a cool, dark place and use up quickly to prevent rancidity. Peanut oil is also stable at high temperatures, though it is high in omega-6, which we get plenty of from other sources. Small amounts of sesame oil, hemp oil, and flax oil can be used raw but should not be used to cook with, as they break down and turn rancid very easily.
Vegetable oil to reduce: Soybean, corn, canola, safflower, cottonseed, and generic vegetable oils; all hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, including margarine and shortening (Crisco).
If you have a question about a particular fat I haven’t mentioned here, send your inquiries my way!