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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