Fat. Go ahead say it, and notice your emotional response to the word. It’s probably either fear or revulsion. No one wants to be fat, look fat, or eat fat these days. We’ve been brainwashed into thinking fat is the enemy, the source of all chronic health problems including cancer and heart disease, as well as most of our self esteem issues.
Even many holistic health care practitioners, who are hip to the need for essential fatty acids in the proper ratios, admonish us to avoid saturated fat at all costs. The story we’ve been sold about saturated fat, (think butter, coconut oil, and animal fat,) is that it’s an indigestible artery clogging toxic sludge. Nothing could be further from the truth. I don’t have space here to go into the details and scientific research concerning this crucial area of dietary health. But I’ll give you some basic ideas and tell you where you can get reliable information.
First, saturated fat does not contribute to high cholesterol, nor does it cause heart disease. The saturated fat link to heart disease is a myth that has been promoted since the 1950s. There are many reasons why this theory doesn’t make sense. Heart disease and obesity did not begin their rapid rise in this country until we switched from traditional fats like butter and lard, to manufactured fats like liquid vegetables oils and margarine. Many researchers and doctors spoke up to challenge the propaganda about saturated fats, but the vegetable oil industry made sure they never got heard. The theory that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease is based on a 1954 study by David Kritchevsky, in which he fed purified cholesterol to vegetarian rabbits then measured the plaque in their arteries. One of the many problems with his research was that the cholesterol used was highly processed and oxidized. Perhaps a better conclusion to be drawn from this study is that damaged cholesterol contributes to heart disease.
Second, the low-fat diet craze is a disaster. Lack of good quality dietary fat causes weight gain, (often from overeating carbohydrates in an attempt to satisfy cravings,) as well as a host of mood disorders including depression. The brain needs fat and cholesterol to function properly.
My recommendations about dietary fat are as follows: 1) Eat traditional fats like butter, lard, and coconut oil. 2) Use cod liver oil or a small amount of flax oil to obtain Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids. You’ll need only a small quantity of these if the rest of your dietary fats are saturated. 3) Don’t cook with liquid vegetable oil (except for the occasional use of olive oil,) and avoid processed vegetable oils as a food ingredient. Check labels. Even those natural products that list “unrefined” or “cold-processed” oils are unhealthy. These oils oxidize in your body, and form dangerous free radicals that damage cells. Also, our cell walls need saturated fats to function properly. The body will use polyunsaturated oils (vegetable oil) as a second choice, but this causes improper cell metabolism and should be avoided.
For a lot more on this crucial subject, see the work of Mary Enig. She’s the premier expert on dietary fats, and the one who blew the whistle on the trans-fats found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. She has a great book out called “Eat Fat Lose Fat.” It’s easy to read, and packed with information. Another good source of information is the Weston Price Foundation, currently headed by Sally Fallon. Their work will expose you to a very politically incorrect version of how to eat, but the research is thorough and hard to dispute.