Now, there’s something we don’t often hear about…the health benefits of saturated fat!
For nearly 60 years, saturated fat has been portrayed as a villain. See my post Why Saturated Fat Is Not the Enemy. Yet, other indigenous populations, like the Inuit Eskimos or the Bardi people of northern Australia have thrived on high-fat diets. Throughout history, humans have hunted animals, eating their fattiest parts. “Meat consumed without fat was commonly understood to lead to weakness,” writes Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, a meticulously researched book that debunks the theory that saturated fat causes heart disease.
Why we need saturated fat
Saturated fats from QUALITY grass-fed animal and vegetable sources (like organic coconut oil and organic palm oil) confer important health benefits because they:
♣ Are building blocks for cell membranes and hormones.
♣ Protect heart health. Regular consumption of saturated fat lowers lipoprotein (a), a substance strongly correlated with risk for heart disease; it can also raise the level of “good” HDL cholesterol.
♣ Promote satiety. Fat slows down the absorption of your meal so that you feel full longer. Studies have shown that women, who eat the greatest percentage of total fat in their diet as saturated fat, lose the most weight.
♣ Protect bone health. Calcium is necessary for bone health, but adequate intake of saturated fat is necessary for calcium absorption.
♣ Maintain lung function. Our lungs are coated with a thin layer of lung surfactant, comprised of 100 percent saturated fatty acids. Inadequate dietary saturated fat can potentially cause breathing difficulties.
♣ Feed the brain. The brain is about 60% fat, and most of the fatty acids in the brain are saturated. It’s also rich in cholesterol: about 25% of all body cholesterol is taken in by the brain. The brain requires dietary fat and cholesterol for optimal brain functioning, including memory.
♣ Bolster immune health. The saturated fats in butter (myristic acid) and coconut oil (lauric acid) are important in immune health. White blood cells, when deficient in saturated fatty acids, are less able to recognize and destroy invasive viruses, bacteria, and fungi—a good thing to remember this flu and cold season!
Good sources of dietary (saturated) fat
Hint: It’s not from a big Mac or Five Guys Bacon Dog. If you consume saturated fat in any form, quality is key. Choose meat, meat products and dairy from pasture-raised animals and organic vegetable sources (like organic coconut oil or organic palm oil). A little goes a long way.
♠ Egg yolks
♠ Cod liver oil
♠ Organ meats, like liver
♠ Animal fats: lard, beef tallow, chicken, goose and duck
♠ Natural saturated fats (solid at room temperature): butter, ghee, coconut oil and palm oil
♠ Whole fat dairy: milk, cheese, cream and ghee (if you tolerate dairy—and not reactive in any way)
♠ Coconut, coconut milk and coconut oil
How to incorporate quality saturated fat into your diet
Personally, my immunity and adrenal health have improved by incorporating more saturated fat into my diet. For me, this means that I might:
♦ Add two teaspoons of coconut oil to a green smoothie.
♦ Pair homemade aioli (a garlicky Provencal-style “mayonnaise” that includes raw pastured egg yolks) with poached fish.
♦ Cook a pastured egg omelet in a teaspoon of rendered pastured pork fat or duck fat.
♦ Toss a heap of cooked greens, sardines and avocado with a generous drizzle of olive oil (my usual lunch).
♦ Cook duck breast in its own fat, then braise a mess of collard greens in 1-2 tablespoons of rendered duck fat.
♦ Skillet sear and cook a pastured pork chop in a teaspoon of rendered pork fat.
♦ Make a grass-fed beef and tomato ragout.
♦ Skim the fat off homemade bone broth and save it as cooking fat.
♦ Braise aromatics (onions and garlic) as the base of a savory soup with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil or rendered duck, beef or pork fat.
♦ Add a dollop of coconut oil or grass-fed butter to roasted sweet potatoes.
♦ Enjoy organic 85% dark chocolate.
Eating this way has not negatively affected my heart health or weight. According to my most recent physical, I am at “lower relative cardiovascular risk”, and I weigh less than I did in high school.