Before you start to feel guilty about all of the decadent holiday treats and yummy food you are about to eat, breathe a sigh of relief and let’s get down to the facts about fat.
Fat is, and always has been, a fundamental pillar of our nutrition. We all know that monounsaturated fats, such as the kind found in nuts, olives, and avocados, are good for us. We all know that modified hydrogenated fats so commonly found in fast foods or commercially prepared food are very unhealthy for us; however, what about saturated fats, such as the kind found in meat, egg yolks, cheese, and butter? These fats, in addition to the cholesterol found in foods with high amounts of saturated fats, have been demonized as leading to cardiovascular disease.
Bottom line: Our bodies need fat. Our bodies need it to assist in many functions that we simply could not live without. We need a certain amount of healthy saturated fat in our diets to stay healthy, some experts recommending ~ 50% of our calories for optimal health. Yes, that’s right, 50%!
Let me provide you with some facts about saturated fat* to break through the misinformation and myths that have been harming you and your family’s health for decades:
• Our brains consist of more than 70% fat.
• If we deprive our brains of cholesterol, it directly affects how smart we are and how well we remember things.
• Cholesterol in the brain and in our bodies acts as a powerful anti-oxidant and protects the brain against the damaging effects of free radicals that lead to heart disease and cancer.
• Cholesterol is a critical component in the brain’s neurotransmitters, allowing the quick transfer of information.
• Our brains have the ability to grow new synapses, but only with the availability of cholesterol. The cholesterol latches the membranes together so that the signals can jump easily across the synapse.
• When we eat healthy, saturated fats (i.e. NOT fried foods), it slows down absorption, making us feel fuller, longer.
• Healthy, saturated fats from both animal and vegetable sources provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones.
• Our endocrine system relies on saturated fatty acids to communicate the need to make certain hormones, including insulin.
• Vitamin D is a powerful anti inflammatory and is directly formed from cholesterol.
• Fat plays a pivotal role in regulating the immune system. White blood cells, a major component of the immune system, rely on the fats found in natural saturated fats such as butter and coconut oil to recognize and destroy invading germs and even fight tumors.
• Fat is a concentrated source of energy in the diet.
• Bile salts, which are secreted by the gallbladder to aid in digestion of toxins and fats, are made of cholesterol.
• Bones require saturated fats to assimilate calcium effectively.
Our no-fat, low fat, no cholesterol diet has wreaked havoc on our health today. The Food Pyramid of the 50’s and 60’s, which emphasized grains and dairy and removed all saturated fat and cholesterol, has resulted in an obesity and Alzheimer’s epidemic, as just two examples. The truth is we NEED healthy, undamaged saturated fats for optimal health.
To sum it all up, healthy saturated fats are great for our bodies and they taste great, too! This holiday season feel free to feel guilty about the stuffing and NOT the turkey leg or ham! Happy Holidays!
*examples of healthy saturated fats include eggs from free range organic chickens, butter from organic, grass fed cows, and coconut oil.
Information obtained from Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD, as well as Know Your Fats by Mary Enig, PhD.