Though saturated fats are supposed to be virtually eliminated from our diet and replaced with low fat foods if we want to avoid coronary heart disease, recent studies have shown that this is not necessarily a good idea. It's not so much the amount of fat you eat, but rather the type of fat that is dangerous. In fact, people who don't get enough in their diet suffer from a number of health problems.
Fats provide a concentrated source of energy for the body, and are used to store energy, insulate body tissues, and transport fat-soluble vitamins through the blood. And by using more of the “good fats” you can actually lower your level of bad cholesterol, reduce your risk of coronary heart disease and even lose weight!
Far from being the evil substance it has been made out to be, some fat is actually necessary and can be beneficial to your health. Coronary heart disease is increasingly being found to be caused by our modern diet, including the excess consumption of hydrogenated oils, eating too many refined carbohydrates in the form of sugar and white flour, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Antimicrobial fats, such as tropical oils rich in lauric acid, once protected us from the viruses and bacteria that have been associated with the buildup of arterial plaque that leads to cardiovascular disease. These have all but disappeared from the food supply due to people's unwarranted fear of fat.
Unfortunately, most fats can easily become damaged by exposure to heat and oxygen. They are made prematurely rancid by being heated to high temperatures in frying and other high-temperature processes, such as hydrogenation, damaging our cells and leading to arterial plaque buildup.
Fats that are saturated are solid at room temperature and are most often found in meats, dairy products such as eggs, milk, butter, and cheese, and tropical oils like coconut oil. They are very stable and do not normally go rancid, even when heated for cooking purposes.
There's a huge difference between butter and margarine in relation to your health. Butter is a saturated fat, while margarine is made from hydrogenated oils that contain trans fats, which are two different things. Unfortunately, they are usually lumped together into a single category as being bad for you.
For instance, The USDA's New Food Pyramid advises, “Limit solid fats like butter, stick margarine, shortening, and lard.” Butter and lard are much healthier for you than stick margarine and shortening, which contain trans fatty acids.
There has never been sufficient proof that saturated fat actually causes heart disease. Authors from the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California in a review of several studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, noted that many researchers have narrowly focused on the theory that these fats raise LDL cholesterol and the risk of coronary artery disease (the so-called “diet-heart” hypothesis).
The authors found there was actually no strong evidence indicating that lowering the intake of saturated fat lowered the amount of heart disease or death. They went on to say, “The conclusion of an analysis of the history and politics behind the diet-heart hypothesis was that after 50 years of research, there was no evidence that a diet low in this fat prolongs life.”
Since 1910, we have drastically reduced our consumption of animal fat and butter from 18 pounds a year to only four. Nevertheless, the rate of coronary heart disease and cancer has skyrocketed. Surely, if these fats were the problem the rates of these diseases would have been reduced. Over the same time period, however, our consumption of refined vegetable oils, much of it in the form of partially hydrogenated or trans fat, increased by 400%, and the consumption of sugar and processed foods increased by 60%.
Saturated fats actually increase levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol, which helps remove plaque from your artery walls, decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. When added to the diet it also reduces the levels of something called Lp(a), that is associated with a greater risk of heart disease. Currently, eating saturated fat is the only way of reducing this substance, as there are no effective medications currently available.
Calcium needs some fat in order to be absorbed into our bones, so low fat or skimmed milk is useless as a calcium source unless you incorporate some into your meal. They are also necessary for good immune function and help to build a healthy nervous system and digestive tract. Fats are responsible for delivering the important fat-soluble vitamins to our cells, such as vitamin A, E, D, and K.
There are three groups of saturated fatty acids: short chain, medium chain and long chain. Unless you consume them in mass quantities, the short and medium chain fatty acids don't turn into body fat, but are instead used immediately by the body for energy. So fats that contain more short to medium chain fatty acids, such as those found in butter fat and tropical oils like coconut oil, have fewer calories than the same amount of fats with longer chain fatty acids.
Healthy Healing Oils's article on coconut oil provides more information on the health benefits of this saturated oil.
The Weston A. Price Foundation has many good articles on the importance of fat in the diet, with the scientific studies to back them up.
Now take a look and see how unsaturated fats can also help reduce your risk of heart disease.
Search this site: