Saturated fat may not be that bad for you after all…
Bacon is bad for you. Agree? Do you know why? More than half of the total fat in bacon is saturated fat. Is that it? This is what most of us know…saturated fat is bad, bad for your health.
Which ones are the saturated fats again?
Saturated fats are the fats found in butter, animal fats, pure chocolate, cheese, whole milk and other dairy products. Some vegetable oils also contain saturated fats like coconut oil and palm oil. For years, together with trans fats, they have been deemed as bad fats. Trans fats were artificially created to provide cheaper alternatives to butter. They’re mainly found in processed foods like breads, cookies, cakes, crackers and fast foods. On the other side are the unsaturated fats, regarded as the good fats. There are two main kinds, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. These fats originate from fish products and vegetables.
Saturated Fat, Not Guilty
Recent studies have discovered some evidence that saturated fat may actually be good for you. Whoa…what are you doing there? Don’t go reaching out for that plate full of bacon just yet. Read this first dear reader.
Food authorities and nutrition experts around the world (that includes US Department of Agriculture, American Heart Association, Dr. Oz with Oprah Winfrey and many more) have continuously reminded us that saturated fat is bad. It clogs our arteries and increases our chances of having a stroke or heart attack. Here’s the ultimate question…
Has anyone really proven that the direct cause of heart attack and stroke is the buildup of saturated fat in our arteries? Is it the real culprit?
If yes, then please explain to me and, to a certain healthy and interesting nomadic tribe in Tanzania and Kenya how they remain so healthy. These people are called the Maasai and primarily survived on whole milk (the unpasteurized kind) and red meat. Oh yes, they also consumed blood from the cattle that they herded. Everything they ate they consume raw. If you take a look at them, not one is fit (or overweight enough) to audition for The Biggest Loser dieting contest. They’re lean with low blood cholesterol levels. No one appears to be suffering from high blood pressure or heart disease.
What was that? Maybe it’s because of good genes you say? You could be right. A point against that would be difficulty in explaining why some of them developed hypertension when they consumed a typical Western diet (the one you’re probably on right now). This actually happened when some of the Maasai moved to Nairobi and changed their diet. In addition, their blood cholesterol levels dramatically increased. The benefits of having a diet high in fat (especially saturated fat) aren’t only seen among these amazing people, there are many other tribes as well.
The evidence regarding saturated fat as evil and unhealthy may just as well be a myth. If you analyze the long history behind this assumption, you’ll realize that it was never really proven. The truth that the more fat you eat, the higher your chances are of having heart disease is known as the diet-heart hypothesis. Since its conception, many scientists were already against it. There’s a long history behind this, but we will not go into that right now. Read our previous article about Fats, Carbohydrates and Heart Disease.
Let’s start at the beginning and assume that we don’t know anything about the diet-heart hypothesis. In this scenario, saturated fat is a big part of our normal daily diet. If you hate saturated fat, please keep your hatred or grudge against it in the closet for a few minutes. See it as a good guy for now.
Why is saturated fat so important to be considered a part of a healthy diet?
Here are some of the reasons why:
- 1. Did you know that half of the cell membranes covering all the cells in our bodies are made up of saturated fat? That’s true. Why then, when it comes to eating saturated fat, would we restrict it so much? Doing so will make the structure of our cell membranes weak and fragile.
- 2. Saturated fat contains a lot of fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K). Being fat-soluble these vitamins are best eaten together with dietary fat for optimum absorption and utilisation by your body. Okay smart guy, we can just take our supplements is what you may answer. Don’t you think that the fact that saturated fats contain a lot of fat-soluble vitamins could indicate that they’re actually good? Why would you supplement when you can just eat them in their natural state as part of your diet?
- 3. Saturated fat helps your brain function optimally. You may already be in the loop that essential fatty acids (DHA and EPA) from fish oil are needed for normal nerve and brain functions. What you probably don’t know is that the majority of the fats inside your head are actually composed of saturated fats. If you consume too little saturated fats, your brain can have a hard time thinking and concentrating.
- 4. Clearer nerve signals. Some saturated fats act as important messengers. They tell some of your organs and glands what to do. If you don’t have enough saturated fats, signaling can be problematic. A good example of clear nerve signals is how saturated fat helps to ensure that just the right amount of insulin is released in response to glucose in the blood.
- 5. Tougher immune system. Nobody wants a sissy, especially an immune system that’s a sissy. We all want our immune systems to be tough and able to combat various diseases. New and more harmful microorganisms that cause infectious diseases are being discovered left, right and centre. Your white blood cells (WBC) need saturated fats to be able to recognize and eliminate uninvited guests. Provide them the necessary weapons (saturated fats) they need. Lock and load!
- 6. How’s your breathing? Your built-in airbags (lungs) require an intriguing substance called surfactant in huge amounts for you to breath normally. Surfactant is composed of a hundred percent saturated fat. Again, why are you limiting saturated fats?
- Increasing calcium intake means stronger bones. Yes, you already know that. How can you absorb more calcium? You can do it by increasing your saturated fat intake. It’s necessary for greater calcium absorption.
- 8. Saturated fats shield your liver from the deleterious effects of booze and side effects of some medications. Well, we all know how vital our livers are for survival. Protect it by any means necessary.
The established facts stated above aren’t hidden facts my friend. They’re not new either. Most of us just weren’t aware of or informed about them. Also check out our articles “Vegetable Oils: Good Vs Evil” and “Top Five Fats & Oils For Cooking, Baking & Frying ( Coming Soon )”
In the end, the bottom line is that we NEED saturated fat. It’s a natural ingredient in the maintenance of good health. Now that some of us are slowly embracing saturated fat and giving it a hug as part of our healthy diet, which particular food group or foods do you think are responsible for the current silent epidemic (obesity) going on? How about sugar…?
Oh, about that plate full of bacon, give me a piece will ya.