Do you think fat is good for you?
If you don’t, then you are not alone. In fact, most people are pretty shocked and even reluctant to accept the idea that fat is actually good for them.
Fat was demonized back in the 1970’s as a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes and more. This was done even even though there was no evidence and is still no evidence that this was true.
In fact, a recent study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stated, “There is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of Chronic Heart Disease or Cardiovascular Disease.”
Here are 4 kinds of great fats you can include in your diet today.
- Animal Fat: Grass fed beef, full fat dairy, eggs, sardines and salmon.
- Butters & Oils: Grass fed butter, avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, ghee.
- Fruits: avocado, coconut, olives.
- Nuts & Seeds: Macadamia nuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, dark chocolate.
So, how did we get to where we are today? How did we practically eliminate fat from our diets without any scientific evidence that we should? Why are so many people today still surprised to find that saturated fat can be good for them?
Ancel Keys And The Seven Country Study
In the 1950’s a very influential researcher by the name of Ancel Keys postulated that dietary fat raised cholesterol and therefor increased the risk of heart disease. He presents his theory to the World Health Organization in 1955.
At first, he pointed to dietary fat as the problem but, later refined his argument to focus singularly on saturated fat. He made things even worst by stating that unsaturated fats found in vegetable oils could benefit health while saturated fats would be bad for your health. And we now know vegetable oils to be a serious health risk.
Keys warned everyone that eggs, butter, meat and other saturated fat foods contributed to heart disease and recommended a low-fat diet as a way to prevent heart problems. The American Heart Association was quick to adapt Keys’s findings and the movement to demonize saturated fat had its foothold.
Keys’s findings were based on his seven country study which found that countries that ate more fat, and specifically saturated fat, had more incidences of heart disease. Sadly, for all of us, Keys cherry picked his data. He had, in fact, studied 21 countries and choose only the 7 that fit his hypothesis, while excluding the ones that didn’t fit.
On the surface, Keys’ hypothesis that fat in the diet led to fat in the blood seemed reasonable, and it resonated with a large audience. It was easy to visualize the grease from your cheeseburger seeping into your veins and accumulating into gunky plaques. No one in Keys’ camp seemed concerned that there could be a million other differences aside from just fat consumption of the people used in his findings.
Other researchers rightly pointed out that correlation is not causation and just as importantly the 7 countries Keys pointed to were also the 7 countries that consumed the highest amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates!
While Keys’s finding were not without it’s critics, it didn’t stop them from being accepted. The myth of saturated fat contributing to heart disease was widely adapted by the public and health associations and truly changed to course of public health.
As a result and ever since, low-fat diets have been the standard for decades. Based on the incorrect conclusions of the 7 country study we have continually consumed foods, such as vegetable oils and other fake foods, that have lead to an explosion of inflammatory diseases.
The Big Fat Surprise
If you want to get the full, and in my opinion shocking, story of Ansel Keys, saturated fat and the low-fat diet myth, then pick up a copy of The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz. She takes a deep dive into the people, research, politics and, of course, money that led to the demonization of fat. Her book shows there is no real evidence that fat was ever a problem!
Of course, lost in all the misinformation about how terrible saturated fat is is the fact that we used to eat a substantial amount of fat and had far fewer heart attacks! A century ago, lard and butter were staples and heart attacks were practically unknown. What is interesting is that in the United States, for example, dietary guidelines put restrictions on saturated fat stating they should be no more than 10 percent of caloric intake. At the same time there are no restrictions on sugar at all!
It’s fair to say we have all been sold a bill of goods regarding the low-fat diet and the dangers of saturated fat. We should be outraged that this man-made health crisis was ever allowed to happen.
It’s important to note that not all saturated foods are created equal and shouldn’t lumped together in one category. It would be the same as stating all carbohydrates are the same. Broccoli and ice cream are both carbohydrates but, we all know one is good for you and the other isn’t.
The saturated fat in a lot of fast foods is entirely different than the healthy saturated fat found in coconut oil for example. See the list at the beginning of this article for some healthy choices of saturated fat. Please, don’t be afraid of them.
Instead, if you include them in your daily diet you will eventually edge out the unhealthy foods. We have found that, by adding good fats and other clean food choices, foods that once tasted good to us, now taste terrible or completely fake.
It’s no sacrifice to give them up at all and we certainly don’t miss them! If you combine healthy fats with a sugar-free diet you have a powerful combination to reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and other inflammatory conditions.
If you want to explore good fats more, then check out our article on the health benefits of coconut: Health Benefits Of Coconut.