5 Myths About Saturated Fat

Aug 5, 2013 | GAPS, Nutrition



Last week we began our little foray into the world of fats. I explained a bit about the different types of fat you get, and my own realisation that my body needs more fats than I ever thought it did. 

Today I am going to debunk some popular schools of thought around why we have all grown up thinking fats are evil. But before I begin it is important to first consider one crucial aspect: quality.
Yes, just like meat, the quality of fat is so important when considering its health benefits to our bodies. Going away and eating deep-fried pizza because I said fats are good for you is NOT the aim of this post. Not all fats are created equal or remain in a constant state.


For example, we all know olive oil is a good polyunsaturated fat (that’s why Italians are so healthy and radiant looking) but if you were to heat it up and deep-fry something in it, it will have lost all its beneficial properties and be no different to the oil from a chippy. Take coconut oil as well, you can buy refined coconut oil which normally has gone through a horrid chemical-based refinement and sometimes hydrogenation (remember those trans fats from last time? Well hydrogenation is what produces them – avoid at all costs), whilst a cold pressed coconut oil has loads of benefits and medicinal properties. 


What to think about when considering fats? 

How has it been produced? This is key to getting the best quality. I choose cold pressed oils for ingesting (I use cheaper ones for skin products), use fat from animals (provided they have been well treated and are

I choose cold pressed oils for ingesting (I use cheaper ones for skin products), use fat from animals (provided they have been well treated and are organic / free range) and am careful about which oils I heat up since high temperatures can change the molecular state of fats.


What fat to use at high temperatures? 

Coconut oil is a great saturated fat so it is very stable for roasting or frying. Ghee is probably what I use most as it is cheaper than coconut oil and is, again, a saturated fat which means it is very stable. On occasion I use butter too, but this burns at high temperatures so I only normally use it when making pancakes. I also use goose fat, or fat left over from a roast, when I have it and if I could source a way of getting organic lard I would use that too! 

Our modern diets are very high in omega 6 fatty acid which come from vegetable oils and can lead to inflammation of the body so I tend to avoid all these oils and try to never heat them up, the only exception being cold pressed olive oil which I use liberally on salads (and my skin for that matter!) Also, please note that I believe any food in excess is not good for you and although I love fat, this holds true. If you continue to eat a high sugar and refined carbohydrate diet the addition of good quality fat could cause weight gain since your body could still be in toxic state, releasing too much insulin or not able to digest the fats correctly. 



5 Myths About Saturated Fat 


1. Fats make you fat  

Well, as you will have read in my last article I experienced this before I had any science to know why. Currently there is lots of hype at how coconut oil has weight loss boosting properties, so here I will focus on this particular fat since looking at all the different evidence would make this a very very long post indeed.

 Coconut oil is a saturated fat (the type of fat we have been told is evil) and made up of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). Fats are all different lengths ranging from short (like butter fat from cows) to very long chains (from organ meats, egg yolk and butter fat) with each having different properties and effects on the body. Another long chain fat would be olive oil which is shown to be more likely to cause body fat (I would eat about 1 tbsp a day at most) but coconut oil is full of MCTs which are shown in this study to boost the body temperature which increases the metabolic rate. Or this study shows that MCTs are transported straight to the liver upon digestion and, again, increase thermogenesis – the heating up of the body. 

Finally, coconut oil provides optimal fuel for intestinal cells, helping then heal and function. It is also thought to have similar properties to breast milk which is always being shown to be incredibly health giving.


 2. Fat gives you cholesterol/heart Problems 

The fact is :

As far back as 1925, “it was found that the body manufactured most of its own cholesterol and that in fact the body manufactured several times more cholesterol than was consumed in the diet.”1

 We produce cholesterol in our bodies, it is not something we eat in food. What the concerns have been is that eating a diet high in fat contributes to the production of cholesterol which is a waxy fatty substance in our blood stream that can block our arteries and lead to heart attacks, high blood pressure etc.

 This study shows that dietary fat has little impact on cardiovascular disease (the product of high cholesterol), but there is also just some general patterns to pick up on. We, as a nation are currently consuming very low amounts of good quality fats and are we seeing cholesterol level drop or rise?  Are we seeing less or more people put on statins (harmful drug to reduce cholesterol)? Heart disease has become one of the biggest killers of our time and I do not think that it is because we are eating fat but because we eat too much sugar. Furthermore, I am not alone in this thinking.

 Researcher Miriam Vos, MD, of Atlanta’s Emory University writes on WebMD.

 “Vos and colleagues analyzed data on 6,113 adults who participated in the large, ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999 to 2006. The lowest consumption group got less than 5% of their daily calories from added sugars, while the highest consumers got 25% or more of their daily calories from sugar. Sugar consumption appeared to be directly related to HDL and triglyceride levels. The more sugar the participants ate, the lower their HDL and higher their triglycerides. Compared to people who ate the least sugar, people who ate the most sugar were three times more likely to have low HDL levels.”


 3. For optimum physical performance you need low fat/high carbs

 If you are a physically active person you are told to consume loads of carbs, and they ensure you store loads of glycogen which can be called upon during race/event time. We are never told that increasing our fat intake could actually increase our physical performance.

 An athlete doctor tried this out on himself and shared his results in this post. He basically found that his aerobic efficiency improved when he allowed his body to enter ketosis, which is when the body burns fat instead of glycogen (from carbs), meaning he could perform (in this case run) longer without needing to refuel on sugar or carbs. This state of ketosis is what many grain-free diets like GAPS use as a healing process for the body and currently how my body is running (as far as I can tell) and I am finding myself getting stronger and fitter (I actually do exercise though, see here, fat is not a miracle maker!)


 4. Margarine is healthier

 This is a load of rubbish. Margarine contains hydrogenated fats which, as I mention above, are to be avoided at all costs. Pass the butter.


 5. Fat-free is much better for you

 We think fat-free milk, yoghurt and cheese is so much better for us. Why I disagree with fat free food is the fact that normally it has to go through lots of processing in order to be made fat free. Milk for example comes from the cow all creamy (it is amazing) but in order to make it skimmed we need to put it through various processes and ruin its natural goodness. Here is an interesting article (American based – but a lot will relate to UK) about skimmed milk in particular. Read it and reach for the blue capped bottles and full fat natural products (please note Coke is not a natural product – do not reach for that!)


 How much do I eat?

Remember we are all unique and our bodies need different things but I currently eat a tbsp of olive oil a day, a cup full fat homemade yogurt minimum, 2-4 tbsp of coconut oil, 1-3 tbsp of butter and a few wedges of mature organic cheese plus nuts and seeds and fat from broth- this may change as I listen to my body but it’s just to paint you a picture of fat love not fat fear!


So basically let’s all fall in love with fat and get rid of all our anxiety around it. The important things to remember are to choose good quality, cold pressed fats in their natural states and incorporate them your day. Now hopefully you can rest in peace and enjoy a good old olive oil dressing or one of my Coconut Butter Bites knowing you are not inducing a harmful disease or an extra layer of flab around your waist.


Now hopefully you can rest in peace and enjoy a good old olive oil dressing or one of my Coconut Butter Bites knowing you are not inducing a harmful disease or an extra layer of flab around your waist.


Buy some Fat here!




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