Have you ever wondered why store shelves are full of fat-free products?
It might seem obvious at first glance. People are overweight and want to lose fat. Logically, they buy products with low and no fat to stop unneeded fat from creeping onto their dinner plate.
The simple fact is that fat, and especially saturated fat, has been demonized in our society due to bad science funded by the sugar industry. The link between saturated fat and obesity is practically non-existent. But more on that later. First you should know what saturated fat is, and why it is important for your health.
What Is Saturated Fat?
Not a fan of chemistry? That’s fine, I’ll keep this explanation brief. Saturated fats are fats that have only single bonds, and unsaturated fats have double bonds and single bonds.
That is to say saturated fats are sharing one pair of electrons, and unsaturated fats share more than one pair of electrons.
That doesn’t mean much to the average person, but what it does mean is that saturated fat goes solid at room temperature (i.e. bacon grease), and unsaturated fat stays liquid (i.e. vegetable oil). Clear as mud? Good. Let’s move on.
Over the years saturated fat has been taking a beating in the media. You are told by almost everyone, including the American Heart Association, to replace saturated fat with unsaturated fat. Why would they say that?
So Should I Be Eating This Stuff: Is It Good Or Bad?
If you ask the average person about saturated fat, they often lump it together with cholesterol by saying “that stuff will clog your arteries and give you a heart attack by the time your 30.”
Science is proving that this isn’t true https://www.healthline.com/health/high-cholesterol/why-is-cholesterol-needed#types-of-cholesterol
Fat is important for proper function of the human body and the absorption of many vitamins essential to health. These are called fat-soluble vitamins. Some common fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E, and K.
The evils of saturated fat are so deeply ingrained in our brains that the average person is against them, despite the fact that most laboratory studies are skewed.
The studies that have been performed have fed lab rats diets high in saturated fats. Unfortunately, these diets are also very high in sugar. The results cannot be accurate without isolating a diet high in only saturated fats.
Unbeknownst to most, there are several groups of people all over the world that eat diets high in saturated fats. A few examples are:
Tokelauans – Eastern Pacific island people who, due to poor growing climate, consumed roughly half their daily calories from coconuts. Coconuts are high in saturated fat.
Inuits – Traditionally their diet was made up to 75% fat, mainly from animals and almost no plants due to extremely long and cold winters.
Masai – A tribe of people in Kenya who lived mostly on meat and other higher cholesterol food.
What do these three groups have in common?
They both share diets high in dietary saturated fat and cholesterol and have negligible levels of heart disease. Some of these groups have switched to a standard American diet since this study happened. Want to guess what happened?
Their levels of heart disease, and cholesterol shot through the roof. Are you surprised? Most people are.
How Did We Get It So Wrong?
You may be wondering how the witch hunt on saturated fat got started. The truth is shocking.
According to the New York times the sugar industry paid off researchers and scientists to shift their findings to saturated fat causing increased heart disease instead of sugar. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/well/eat/how-the-sugar-industry-shifted-blame-to-fat.html
They cited documents that revealed that in 1967 a trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation, known today as the Sugar Association, paid three scientists the equivalent of $50,000 in today’s dollars.
In exchange, the group picked out which studies to use to publish in order to minimize the link between sugar and heart disease while shifting the blame to saturated fat instead.
$50,000 is a paltry sum in comparison to a several decade long misinformation campaign resulting in millions of Americans adjusting their diet.
Even McDonalds used to fry their french fries in beef tallow before saturated fat became a scapegoat for heart disease.
But it doesn’t end there.
Major soft-drink companies and candy companies are still bankrolling studies that downplay the relationship between obesity and sodas.
Another report showed that candy makers were funding a study that children who eat candy tend to weigh less than those who don’t. Seriously. (https://apnews.com/f9483d554430445fa6566bb0aaa293d1)
What Foods Have Saturated Fats?
Now that we’ve covered why saturated fat doesn’t have to be the bad guy lets talk about where to find it.
The following foods are high in saturated fat:
Dairy: Full-fat milk, cheeses, butter, cream.
Meat: Fatty cuts of beef, and pork especially along with the fat from the animal (like lard).
Eggs: I’m giving them their own category away from meat because I need to remind you to eat the yolks. They are higher in both fat and vitamins. Plus they are delicious!
Coconuts (milk, oil, butter, whole): A single coconut has roughly 118 grams of saturated fat which is just shy of 15 times as much saturated fat as a Big Mac. Given the choice between the two, go with the coconut.
Most of the common sense eating habits you hear from co-workers, friends, and family will be sound. We all have a general idea that we should eat less sugar, and processed food and eat more vegetables.
Even when we’re not able to do it (a daily occurrence for me when I was an emotional eater) we know what we should be doing.
The heart disease and saturated fat myth is different. It has lived on for five decades and saturated (pun totally intended!) our grocery stores with low-fat food items that have to be packed with sugar to get anywhere close to palatable.
Here’s a good rule of thumb…when you see the words “low fat” on any product in the grocery store, immediately think “sugar and chemical shit storm”. The association will steer you away from such heavily processed and unhealthy foods, and onto more nutritious and delicious options.