Is Saturated Fat "Bad" for Us?
Seriously. Fat is a confusing food subject.
One that took me a long time to work out.
Is fat bad?
Is low fat better for you?
Is saturated fat bad for us?
These are all questions I hear from clients over and over again and one's I used to often ask, myself.
And saturated fat is the one that gets a lot of air time. So I've composed an easy to read, relatively short article that hopefully helps you understand saturated fat a little better and hopefully clear a few things up.
Depending on where you have lived (and how old you are), you may remember the "low fat" craze of the 1980's and 1990's. Fat (especially saturated fat) became public health enemy number 1.
People following a standard Western diet in places like the United States, Australia, or the UK, tossed out their butter, bacon and eggs and replaced these with margarine, "low fat" turkey bacon, and cartons of egg whites. They bought "fat free" commercial salad dressings and baked goods.
Ironically, people making these changes often didn't get any healthier.
(and fun fact, when you crunch the numbers, we also didn't lower our total fat intake, just the percentage of total energy from fat. And some people even got fatter, unhealthier, developed heart disease, type II diabetes, an increase in cancers and metabolic diseases arose...the list goes on)
Meanwhile.,...across the ocean
Community folk like the French, the Greeks, and the Scandinavians kept eating olive oil, fatty sardines, butter, real cream, fatty meats, full-fat yoghurt and cheese......but they seemed perfectly fine.
In many southern hemisphere countries like Costa Rica and Vanuatu, they chowed down on avocado and coconut, and still managed to live healthy lives relatively free of cardiovascular disease.
Ethiopians and Mongolians put butter in their coffee and tea.
Indigenous arctic people like the Inuit ate whale (please don't start implementing this) and seal blubber (again, don't add it to your meal plans). while Arctic populations now have many health issues thanks to modern processed foods, they do not seem to have chronic metabolic diseases if they live on their traditionally foraged diets.
Traditional East African cattle herders like the Masai drank full-fat milk straight from the cow, not to mention living mostly on meat, milk and blood (I won't be trying that any time soon).
They remained healthy, lean, and limited increase in dietary related disease popped up.
During the Low-fat years, this drove Western diet researchers nuts!!
How could people around the world eat that "bad stuff" and stay so lean and healthy?
Some scientists even started calling this the "French Paradox".
Of course, there are no paradoxes in nature. A "paradox" means we don't fully understand what's happening.
What really occurred was that in areas where "low-fat" was promoted as "healthy":
This last point is perhaps the most important. So let's look at the big picture.
Always look at a "diet" as a whole-life pattern; a set of choices we make against a background of social and cultural norms and environmental conditions.
In other words, don't just look at some small part of what we eat.
Look at how we eat, why we eat, where we eat and with whom we eat.
Continental Europeans were living it up with SMALL portions, eating SLOWLY and JOYFULLY around a table.
Healthy, long-lived populations were eating a variety of fresh seasonal foods; often foods they grew or raised themselves.
Non-Western populations that did eat a lower-fat diet (such as traditional Japanese diets) didn't try to industrially produce "low-fat" foods: they simply chose foods (such as fresh vegetables or shellfish) that were naturally lean.
Americans and Canadians, British and Australians, on the other hand, were downing fat-free cookies in their cars, spreading industrially created fats on white bread, and eating second helpings of fat-free ice cream for dessert because the first portion didn't do the job, getting bigger and unhealthier as the decades went on.
So, should we avoid fat?
Think about it.
-Elyse + Marty
Idea for this blog post was prompted by a post from Dr John Berardi and my amazing clients.
Information and stats originally printed by Dr John Berardi and his team at Precision Nutrition.