What are healthy fats to eat? Here it is – the good bad and the ugly! OK, so here is where the controversy starts – I’m bound to ruffle a few feathers. To be honest, this is a concept that I have struggled with myself for a little while. You see, I studied Naturopathy and Nutrition when the push to eat low fat everything was in its prime. I was taught to advise my patients to limit saturated (animal) fat, and replace it with polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Vegetarianism was in it’s prime (and that suited the animal lover in me for the next 20 years). I was under the assumption that saturated fat contributed to the development of obesity, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. So is saturated fat the evil culprit or is it something more sinister? Let’s explore!
I am now an omnivore, and I’m not afraid of saturated fat
Why? Well once again coming back, to my health philosophy. What fats would my ancestors have eaten – saturated (animal fats and coconut) and monounsaturated (olive oil)? These same fats are also no or low human intervention fats and oils. Are you getting the gist? I watched my nan cook in lard (animal fat), eat butter (whilst I tutted under my breath), she never touched vegetable oils and she lived in amazingly good health until 89 yrs. Her nan did the same.
As mammals, the fat that we have circulating in our body is ONLY saturated or monounsaturated, it’s never polyunsaturated. Polyunsaturated fats are found only in plants (seeds to be exact) and their oils are simply not something our ancestors would have consumed, at all! I believe that you can’t argue with nature. It seems every time we try, the net result to our health is disastrous.
So here we are today with a range of ‘low fat’, ‘reduced fat, ‘no fat,’ ‘lite’, and ‘skinny’ products gracing supermarket shelves. Saturated fat has been largely replaced with sugar and polyunsaturated vegetable oils (found in almost every processed product on the market). So 60 years on since ‘saturated fats’ became the villain and the rates of obesity and the above-mentioned diseases have exponentially increased. We clearly have it wrong?
Now for some cold hard facts
David Gillespie in his two fantastic books ‘Big Fat Lies – How the diet industry is making you sick, fat and poor’ and ‘Toxic oil – why vegetable oil will kill you and how to save yourself’, exposes the truth behind fats. If you are not interested in reading either of these books (though I strongly suggest you do), then this great podcast may help to dispel any reservations you may have about saturated fats. Sarah Wilson interviews David in a fact v’s fiction discussion – ‘Six big fat myths about fat’. They cover the myth that fat causes heart disease (seems there never was a link!), cholesterol (it’s not bad at all), and they expose the danger of polyunsaturated oils. It’s well worth a listen and will answer many pressing questions better than I can. Pop on your headphones and have a listen. You can’t afford not too. Here is the link.
Which oils to use and when
You will find all you need to know about the best oils and how to use them here. Without giving a biochemistry lesson, it is important to understand that the oils you choose to cook in must be stable to heat. Polyunsaturated vegetable oils are not. They oxidise readily and are a direct cause of heart disease and many other chronic diseases.
It is critical that you choose your oils wisely. Every cell of our body is made of fat, as is every hormone (including the feel good ones). So let’s make sure that the fat we consume is the best, most stable kind!
Are simply – bad, bad, bad. In a nutshell, the worst thing about trans fats is that they build up in your cells and interfere with the way that they function. They cause inflammation, interfere with hormone production and depress your immune system. There is simply no coming back from the systemic damage caused by exposure to trans fats and they should be avoided at all costs.
What about the waistline?
It’s interesting that when many traditional cultures who consume a diet high in saturated fats adopt a Western diet, low in saturated fat but high in polyunsaturated, trans fats and refined carbohydrate, the rate of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and many other diseases dramatically increases. For example; this has been seen in India where ghee (clarified butter) has been replaced with vegetable oil. Also, the Inuit (Eskimo) population existed on saturated fat and protein without disease until they adopted a Western diet. Clearly if eating saturated fats caused obesity and heart disease, then surely reducing them (worldwide, at present we eat less saturated fat than ever before), should have resulted in a reduction rather than an increase in these conditions?
On a personal note, since avoiding ‘low fat’ and preferentially consuming full saturated fat everything, my level of satisfaction from food has increased (so I eat much less) and my body weight has reduced and is much more stable. I don’t crave foods and I have more energy at 42 yrs than I did at 32. I’m also less moody (though my husband may beg to differ). Generally, I feel great…that’s my personal little anecdote!
Like anything, I believe in moderation. Though, moderation is much easier when you are satisfied and full.