Let's talk about fat.
(edited from our facebook post 30th May 2019)
This is probably the single biggest controversy in nutritional science and the misinformation around this subject has resulted in countless deaths and ill health over the last 4 decades or so, but how did we get it so wrong?
First, a little science.
So for the case of ease lets first define 'fats' and 'oils'. This is simple, fats are solid at room temperature and oils are liquid. In general, fats are most often of animal origin and oils are most often plant based in origin.
So now we have that basic definition let's dig a bit deeper. Fats and oils can be described by how 'saturated' they are, this leads to definitions such as saturated fats, mono-unsaturated, polyunsaturated etc.
Typically liquid at room temperature. They differ from saturated fats in that their chemical structure contains one or more double bonds. They can be further categorized as:
This type of unsaturated fat contains only one double bond in its structure. Monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature and include canola oil and olive oil.
This type of unsaturated fat contains two or more double bonds in their structure. They are liquid at room temperature. Polyunsaturated fats include safflower oil, sunflower oil, and corn oil.
We were told that these saturated fats from animals would clog our arteries and lead us to certain death from heart attacks and that instead, we should switch to ‘heart healthy’ vegetable oils, like cottonseed, corn, safflower and soy oils.
This was wrong, very very wrong.
Unlike traditional fats (butter, tallow, lard, olive oil, etc.) our industrial vegetable oils are a very new addition to the “food” world. In fact, they were practically non-existent until the early 1900s. But with the invention of certain chemical processes and a need for “cheap” fat substitutions, the world of fat hasn’t been the same since.
Vegetable seed oils
Vegetable oils are bad because they contain very high levels of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). But did you know that the fat content of the human body is about 97% saturated and monounsaturated fat? Our body needs fat for rebuilding cells and hormone production. And it can only use what we give it.
Polyunsaturated fats are highly unstable. They oxidize easily. These oxidized fats cause inflammation and mutation in cells. That oxidation is linked to all sorts of issues from cancer, heart disease, endometriosis, PCOS, etc.
Saturated animal fats health benefits
So what about saturated fats from animal sources? Well here's why we need them in our diet
1) Improved cardiovascular risk factors – Saturated fat plays a key role in cardiovascular health. The addition of saturated fat to the diet reduces the levels of a substance called lipoprotein (a) that correlates strongly with risk for heart disease.
2) Stronger bones – Saturated fat is required for calcium to be effectively incorporated into bone. According to one of the foremost research experts in dietary fats and human health, Dr. Mary Enig, Ph.D., there’s a case to be made for having as much as 50 percent of the fats in your diet as saturated fats for this reason.
3) Improved liver health – Saturated fat has been shown to protect the liver from alcohol and medications, including acetaminophen and other drugs commonly used for pain and arthritis.
4) Healthy lungs – For proper function, the airspaces of the lungs have to be coated with a thin layer of lung surfactant. The fat content of lung surfactant is 100 percent saturated fatty acids. Replacement of these critical fats by other types of fat makes faulty surfactant and potentially causes breathing difficulties.
5) Healthy brain – Your brain is mainly made of fat and cholesterol. The lion’s share of the fatty acids in the brain are actually saturated. A diet that skimps on healthy saturated fats robs your brain of the raw materials it needs to function optimally.
6) Proper nerve signalling – Certain saturated fats, particularly those found in butter, lard, coconut oil, and palm oil, function directly as signalling messengers that influence metabolism, including such critical jobs as the appropriate release of insulin.
7) Strong immune system – Saturated fats found in butter and coconut oil (myristic acid and lauric acid) play key roles in immune health. Loss of sufficient saturated fatty acids in white blood cells hampers their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
The take away.
So if you're avoiding fats from animals, don't, just make sure that the animals have been fed correctly, this means for poultry and pork organic and for cows and sheep, pasture wherever possible