In the complex world of nutrition, there is one macronutrient that has assumed the role of the playground bully: Fat. But like most bullies, fat is simply misunderstood!
At Yumbutter though, fat is the OG. We are stoked to give it the chance to explain itself and all the party fouls it gets blamed for. We hope that you will befriend this big bad brute. Maybe even invite it over to have dinner at your house a few times a week. Please? Your mom already said yes. Go for it. 🙂
Why The Bad Rap?
For years, well-known nutritionists have preached against the consumption of any fat at all… Or only certain kinds of fats… Or strictly drinking olive oil upside after midnight during a lunar eclipse. However, this widely accepted advice on fat may be a contributing factor to the slew of nutrition-related diseases that have become commonplace in America today.
The anti-fat soap box was built in the 1960’s when Ancel Keys’ diet-heart hypothesis emerged. His theory was that saturated fat (fat from animal products, palm oil, coconut oil etc.) is the “bad fat” and that unsaturated fat (fat from avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, etc.) is the “good fat.” Part of the hypothesis stated that there is a direct relationship between the amount of saturated fat in a diet and the probability of coronary heart disease. Despite hundreds of clinical trials that have failed to prove this argument against saturated fats (stay tuned!), the nutrition world clambered onto this argument, and incomplete information became king. However, fat’s misunderstood story is quickly melting away (like butter).
Fat’s Making Friends…
…Including modern science! And we are so thrilled. Norwegian researchers at the University of Bergen conducted a recent diet intervention study analyzing the overall health of overweight individuals after subscribing to a diet high in saturated fats. They found that saturated fats did not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and also led to substantial improvements in “several important cardio-metabolic risk factors, such as ectopic fat storage, blood pressure, blood lipids (triglycerides), insulin and blood sugar” (Ottar Nygård, Bergen professor in the Department of Clinical Science).
This study, among others, incorporated one important characteristic that multiple other studies fail to consider: QUALITY! Whoaaaa, crazy, right?!
Quality is Key
Participants in this study consumed high quality, minimally processed saturated fat sources, like butter, cream, and cold-pressed oils. This is key!
Think of the food we eat as each having a specific barcode. Every time an ingredient passes through our mouths, our bodies read and register it. Many refined oils have been altered in a way that inhibits the body’s ability to recognize the barcode. Thus, it has to use its own internal resources to fill in the “coding” to make the food usable. This means that the quality of each ingredient actually determines whether the body is nourished by the food, or depleted by it! In case you’re wondering, no, there isn’t a clinical trial out there trying to compare the capabilities of our tongues to modern retail tech (yet). It’s just an analogy for our body’s ability to process high quality ingredients better than it is able to process de-natured ingredients.
Let’s Chat (Unsaturated) Fat
While saturated fat hung out in detention, unsaturated fat enjoyed a positive public image that it didn’t completely deserve. Examples of unsaturated fats include avocados, nuts, sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil, fish oils, and many more. On the surface level, these foods are good for your health. But these same foods actually become harmful when they are subjected to a large amount of refinement and manufacturing.
Why Quality Matters
Oftentimes, when studies link fat to life-threatening conditions, low quality fats that are the ones being tested. The nutritional quality of fat can be lessened as it is is altered through the manufacturing process. For example, in many cases, safflower oil (an unsaturated fat) is extracted from the safflower plant through a chemical extraction process. This process requires the use of high heat, and the addition of a chemical solvent. Both steps inadvertently remove some of the nutritional value that the safflower plant is celebrated for, and leaves a food that isn’t as easily recognizable or useful to the body. It didn’t even get a fair trial before being thrown on time-out! Come on, Judge Judy!
Since fat has been able to put its best, minimally-processed, high-quality foot forward in more recent nutritional studies, new ways of eating have emerged that celebrate this essential macronutrient. Within the nutrition community, the Bulletproof, Paleo, and Ketogenic diets have all gathered a loyal, fat-loving following.
Saturated Fat’s Good Side
Not only are high-quality saturated fats not harmful to our hearts, they’re actually completely essential for us to be the rockstars we are meant to be. Here’s how it packs the ultimate health punch:
Supports Brain Function
Saturated fat is the main component of brain cells, and is thus necessary for healthy brain function. In one study, it was found that people who ate more saturated fat reduced their risk for developing dementia by 36 percent.
Strengthens Cell Membranes
Because saturated fats are solid at room temperature, they are able to strengthen our cell membranes. With too many unsaturated fats, which are liquid at room temperature, our cell membranes don’t have the structural integrity to function properly, and can become too weak to do their job. However, trans fat (found in highly processed, shelf-stable, non-organic foods) are too solid at room temperature, making our cell membranes too stiff, and are no longer recognized as safe by the FDA.
Keeps you Nourished
Fat, and saturated fat in particular, is exceptionally nutrient dense. It’s a concentrated source of energy, and helps your body feel full by slowing absorption after a meal (Mercola). Saturated fat also transports fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, facilitates conversion of carotene to vitamin A, and facilitates mineral absorption.
Be A Sophisticated Fat Fan
I wouldn’t think twice about meeting saturated fat in a dark alley. I’d be like, “Hey dude, whaddup?” However, it does have a few thug cousins that would have me running away, 0 to a 100 real quick. We’re all about minimally processed, high-quality fats like coconut oil, organic grass fed buttah, organic grass fed meat, high quality ghee, and the likes. But not all sources of fat, including trans fat #thug, will serve you on your path to rockstar status. Try making a few nutrition tweaks for yourself and see how you feel and do a little research. Happy exploration! And remember to go love yourself!
Also, our friend saturated fat is still waiting for your friend request.
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