Embrace the Fat

No, not that pudge around your middle; that’s not what I’m talking about.  Although, while you’re at it, embrace that too.  Do you hate yours as much as I hate mine?  I try to see it as a trophy, a badge of honor for carrying 3 children in my own body, but I’ve yet to embrace it.  Perhaps it’s time.

But I digress.

More and more information is coming to light disproving the health claims of the popular low-fat fad and supporting the theory that we actually NEED fat in our diets — good fats, that is; not all fats are created equal. So before you go grabbing that bag of Oreos, listen up for a sec.

It seems that the American public has been fed a load of baloney, or, um, an unfortunate collection of misinformation about fats over the past several decades. We’ve been told to avoid saturated fats, as found in red meat, and animal fats such as lard.  We’ve been told that cholesterol is bad for us.  We’ve been told to replace the animal fats and oils found in nature that have nourished the human race for thousands of years with chemically derived vegetable oils.

And as we have obediently followed those instructions — replacing butter with margarine, lard with Crisco, coconut oil with soy and corn oils, red meat with white (or worse, soy), eggs with egg whites, whole milk with skim — diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes have increased exponentially.

As it turns out, saturated fats may not be the demons we once thought they were. According to nutrition researcher Sally Fallon in her book Nourishing Traditions*, saturated fats actually help with vitamin and mineral absorption.  They also enhance the immune system, aid in digestion, and give us energy.

Here are some fat facts for you from Nina Plank’s Real Food*.  If you want her sources on these quotes, you’ll have to buy the book.  But you should buy it anyway.  It’s SUCH a fascinating read.

Lard is rich in monounsaturated fat, the kind that lowers LDL and leaves HDL alone.

Saturated coconut oil fights viruses and raises HDL.

Butter is an important source of vitamins A and D and contains saturated butyric acid, which fights cancer.

Omega-3 fat (found in salmon, flax seed oil, and walnuts) deficiency in the diet causes depression.

Without fats, the body cannot absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Fats are key to building cell walls, immunity, and assimilation of minerals such as calcium.

Digestion is impossible without fats.

The body burns saturated fats quickly, whereas it holds onto the polyunsaturated fats in corn oil for dear life.

A long time ago, back in the dark ages, or, you know, the 1950’s, a man named Ancel Keys was credited with bringing to light what we now call the Lipid Hypothesis.  This is the hypothesis that all of the low-fat recommendations the government has been making for the past 60 years was based on.  But its validity is sketchy.

Wanna know more?  Watch this:

Okay, now watch this.

Those are clips from the movie Fat Head*, which I HIGHLY recommend.  You can also read Tom Naughton’s blog.  For example, this entertaining post on The French Paradox.

Here’s some more homework for ya.

The Healthy Skeptic posted today about the importance of eating fat (good fats) with vegetables. There’s a reason butter tastes so good on veggies; they work together for optimum health benefits.  How con-VEEEEEEN-ient.  I always load my veggies up with butter (and sea salt too) and my kids literally fight over who gets the last of the green beans.  It’s hilarious.

Here’s a fascinating interview with Sally Fallon, where she explains how and why the Weston A. Price Foundation was founded.  There is a TON of great info here, very readable, and it does touch on the Lipid Hypothesis and saturated fats as well as many other topics surrounding the issue of traditional diets and where we’ve gone wrong.

Allow me to indulge for a moment and reprint my favorite quote from the article.  This sentiment basically sums up the entire back-to-traditional-diets movement, in my humble opinion:

Fallon: That’s what the industry wants people to think — that you can go put your foods through horrendous processing, strip them of all their nutrients, and just add a handful of synthetic vitamins back into the foods and it’ll be fine. And look what we have. We have a health crisis. Until we realize what a fraud that argument is, we’re still going to have a health crisis. Man cannot do what Mother Nature can do and we’ve got to have a little humility here, and a little reverence, instead of this overweening pride that assumes man can do it better.

And speaking of the Weston A. Price Foundation, their website is a fabulous source of information about traditional diets.

My point in writing this post is to open your eyes to the possibility that the nutrition guidelines that have been crammed down our throats by the media and well-intentioned medical professionals may not be the pinnacle of truth after all. But don’t take my word for it. I’m no expert.  I’m just a stay at home mom with a tendency towards the obsessive and a fascination for information who is striving to feed her family the best way she knows how. And hey, if I can enjoy eggs and butter and filet mignon along the way, all the better!

For more information, read my follow-up post: More On Fats, Particularly Coconut Oil and Lard

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16 Responses

  1. Love these food posts with all the good information in it… I was wondering though, where do you get lard? I’m hoping that’s not a stupid question. And any helpful hints on how/where to use coconut oil (I bought some for the granola recipe but would love to use it in other stuff!) Thanks, again, for helping us eat better!

  2. Great Post!! When I hear my girls get up and ask for farm fresh eggs scrambled in coconut oil in the morning it warms my heart.

    I have read most of those books but will look into some of the other items you posted.

    Love these posts!!

  3. Love it!

    I am someone who rendered the bacon fat to make buscuits with! I paid alot of money for that bacon might as well use it all. Just don’t tell anyone they might totally freak but the hubby and my cholesterol are perfect- love that too!

  4. Thanks for making me smile this morning. I love your posts about the myths of food. And I super loved the videos you included! I probably should just search really quick, but I’m about to get my daughter up and head out the door. Have you done a post about the benefits/ways to use coconut oil? I just picked some up at the store (it was surprisingly on sale, so I figured, what the heck?) and haven’t figured out all the ways I can use it in my cooking. Though I have used to cook steaks on the stovetop!

    As an aside, I am totally convinced that eating steak about twice a week while I was pregnant helped my iron levels stay good throughout the pregnancy. All my friends at some point had to take iron supplements, but I never did!

  5. Amen! The other day I went out and bought whole milk mozzarella cheese. Up until now, I always bought part skin. Wowza! The whole milk version is sooooooo much better. It’s the cheese I remember eating as a kid. I always wondered why the mozzarella I bought never tasted like I remembered. Well, that would be why.

    Btw, I started reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Have you read it yet? Absolutely eye opening (and well-written, to boot).

  6. Michelle, I haven’t read it yet, although my husband’s been reading it. I’m looking forward to it! I’m still working my way thru Nourishing Traditions and What To Eat (by Marion Nestle) which is incredibly interesting. She still buys into the low fat lifestyle, but she has a wealth of info about the food industry and how they market their wares and who funds who and how the different govt organizations work. Incredibly enlightening. (And disturbing.)

  7. Esther, you go, girl!!! I know you can make lard, but I haven’t tried it. Fortunately I have a good source.

  8. When I discovered my allergies to food preservatives, I moved back to butter. We still eat red meat, along with fish and poultry. We also eat lots of veggies–raw, stir-fried, sauteed, baked, steamed, and raw. I said that huh? 😀 I’ve also moved into whole grain flours or unenriched flours for my breads, tortillas, and baked goods. I’ve started attending the local farmer’s market for goats’ milk soaps (made with real goat’s milk–not powdered) and honeys. It’s made all the difference.

  9. We’ve been (okay minus the vegan fling) a butter-type family for as long as I can remember… it’s all my parents use. It always made so much more logical sense — our bodies KNOW what to DO with butter and other real foods… all those chemicals in margarine and other ‘subs’? — notsomuch.

  10. LOVE IT! I’m one of those devoted yet “silent” readers… that is, until today! Thank you so much for posting yet another piece that confirms the changes I am making for my family are for the better! I’m currently 22 weeks preggo with our 3rd child & have gained 8lbs this entire pregnancy. Granted I’m on the “gain only 15-20lbs.” plan BUT I totally attribute eating healthfully and wholly to my (I guess) lack of weight gain. I feel great, people tell me I look great, and I feel really good about the changes I’m making to my family’s diet… now if only I could find some raw whole milk to drink… that would be AWESOME! 🙂 Thanks again!

  11. Such a wonderful post! Life is crazy for me these days and I have a hard time gathering all my sources to explain our eating changes to those who question it. Now, I will refer them here. Thank you for including so much info. and so many sources!

  12. Your posts help me so much! I have no.time. to search all this out for myself and the few times I’ve tried..I get a bit overwhelmed.

    I actually found coconut oil in Walmart the other day and was thinking about getting it. You use it for everything you would normally use Vegetable oil for? And what about Olive Oil? Is that better than Vegetable oil?

    And what’s the difference between sea salt and regular salt? I’m almost out and want to make sure I get the good stuff this time LOL

  13. I ordered this book the other day and I just got it in the mail today! Looking forward to reading it. I also found sucanat (sp?) at a local whole foods co-op store. Yay!! I’ve got so many new recipes I need to try now that I’m getting more into this real food business. Thanks for your posts; very interesting and informative as always. I will let you know what I think of the Real Foods book. 🙂

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