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Myth Debunked: Are Saturated Fats Considered Bad? (Cardiologist Says...)
Are saturated fats considered bad? This is a question that many have been asking because the medical and nutrition world has experts giving conflicting advice over the last few years. Many of the new studies conclude that, in fact, saturated fat is not as bad as everyone previously thought. A review of 72 studies found that there is no link between saturated fat and heart disease.
That is a lot of studies! You can read the reviews of five of the studies here. How is it then that so many medical experts including the American Heart Association (AHA) are still demonizing saturated fat? The big issue here is that the studies that the AHA bases it's facts on studies done in the 1960's. Medical studies are always being done and there are new discoveries made all of the time.
To say that saturated fat causes heart disease is outdated and takes none of the new studies into account. There are also many other factors that influence someone's risk for heart disease. Eating an unhealthy diet full of processed foods in general, lack of exercise, genetics and stress levels also play a part.
One thing that's very clear when you look at the totality of the evidence: saturated fat does not clog the heart arteries. And sadly, for many years —for decades, in fact —this has been the primary focus of treatment of heart disease and public health advice.
Saturated And Unsaturated Fats
There are different types of fats as you may have noticed when cooking. They look different and behave differently. All of them, except for trans fat which is toxic, have benefits and specific duties they perform in the body.
1. Saturated Fat
Saturated fat is most easily recognized by the fact that it's solid at room temperature. There are two main types of saturated fats: Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) and Long Chain Triglycerides (LCT). MCT oils are found more in tropical plants like coconut and palm oil while the LCT fats are found more in animal products. I also cook with sometimes animal fat like goose fat and pig pat, just to have the variety in the life.
The difference is that MCT oils are digested a lot more quickly by the body because they have a shorter chemical structure. Read about the benefits of consuming MCT oil here. I add MCT oil to my smoothies, salads, protein shakes as well. One very cool advantage of MCT oil is it helps in reducing weight and fights off cravings. Here the important thing to notice is that it helps to reduce weight permanently. Meaning, whenever you follow some diets, you lose weight initially but regain it back again.
Do you know why? The answer is: there is a hunger hormone in every person´s body called ghrelin. You might lose weight but the hunger hormone keeps telling your body that you need to still eat according to your previous weight. Adding MCT oil to your diet also adjusts your hunger hormone as well, which si very important for permanent weight loss.
2. Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA)
These oils are liquid at room temperature but tend to become semi-solid or solid when you put them in the fridge. The benefit of MUFAs includes raising your good (HDL) cholesterol, lowering your triglyceride level (fat in your blood) and even has positive effects on your blood pressure. It's best never to heat up or cook these oils and the foods that contain them because that can oxidize them and cause them to become rancid which is harmful. Rather use them raw in salads and try to stick to sunny side up eggs where the yolk is runny.
MUFAs Are Found In:
- Avocados and their oil
- Olive oil
- Nuts, specifically peanuts macadamia nuts, cashew nuts, and almonds
I have seen so many health videos online, which advice cooking with olive oil at higher temperatures. It really frustrates me. First of all good quality olive oil is expensive. People buy them thinking they are doing good to health, which they are actually doing, but then cook with this expensive oil at high temperatures. Never ever do that!
3. Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA)
These oils stay liquid even in the fridge. Omega 3 and omega 6 are both polyunsaturated fats and are essential fats. This is because our bodies cannot make them so we need to eat them. These fats also raise your good cholesterol and lower the "bad" (LDL) cholesterol. They lower your triglycerides and omega 3, in particular, is essential for brain health and lowering inflammation.
Omega 6 is necessary too, but too much of it can deplete your omega 3 and cause inflammation. Limit or cut out baked goods, pastries, fries, and seed oils like safflower, grape seed, and sunflower oil. Here you can read more about how to add omega3 into the diet, its advantages and why it is must for your brain.
Sources Of Omega 3:
- Fatty fish like wild salmon and mackerel
- Flax seeds and flax seed oil
- Olive oil
- Walnuts ( Soak them before eating )
- Chia Seeds
These fats are even more fragile and need to be cooked at low heats or not at all. To read more about healthy cooking oils, click here.
Saturated Fats Top Choices
Up to 50% of your fat intake should be saturated fat. The following are the best sources of saturated fat:
- Egg yolk
- Grass-fed beef
- Lard, tallow, and butter
- Coconut and palm oil
- Ghee ( Clarified Butter ): My top Choice.
Health Effects Of Saturated Fats
The Benefits Of Saturated Fat Include:
- A healthy immune system: Saturated fat, particularly the types of saturated found in butter and coconut oil are necessary for your white blood cells to function properly and fight off infections that cause illnesses.
- Absorption of fat-soluble vitamins: Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble meaning they need fat to be absorbed and transported around the body.
- Increased energy: Fats have a higher calorie content than carbohydrates and protein. While many people are afraid of eating calories, calories are the type of energy that your body uses to function. MCT oils especially provide quick energy to your cells.
- Healthy brain and cell walls: Your brain is mostly made up of fat and fat is essential for the building and maintenance of cell walls.
- Weight loss: This may be the most surprising benefit of all. Saturated fat keeps you fuller for longer which reduces cravings and helps you not to overeat.
Cholesterol And Saturated Fat Myths
There are a few types of cholesterol, VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein), LDL (low-density lipoproteins) and HDL (high-density lipoproteins). LDL cholesterol is seen as bad, but it's rather excess LDL cholesterol that is bad. An excess of either VLDL or LDL causes a build-up of plaque in your arteries which is a risk factor for heart disease.
Cholesterol overall is bad for the heart was one of the biggest MYTH in the medical history, which made us sick avoiding all those healthy fats. Healthy HDL levels regulate your LDL cholesterol levels which is why it's seen as good. But all cholesterol is necessary. Cholesterol is necessary to make hormones and vitamin D. Without it your body cannot function properly.
Cholesterol Test (Lipid Panel): Tell Your Doctor To Give You Full Panel Results
Getting your cholesterol checked is quick and easy can be done at any doctor's office as well as clinics and even some pharmacies. It's generally done via a finger prick test and takes as little as 10 minutes. Getting a full lipid (fat) profile/panel is important so that you can know for sure how much you have of each type of cholesterol and your triglyceride level, otherwise, it just shows as one number and you won't know whether your levels are beneficial to your health or harmful.
High cholesterol is often genetic, so if you do have a predisposition to high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), you may need to eat less processed foods.
Processed foods are the real problem. They are full of unhealthy trans fat which drives up your LDL cholesterol and causes inflammation. They are high in sugar, especially processed carbohydrates, which spike your blood sugar levels further adding to inflammation. They have excess sodium and little to no nutrition in them since all or most of it is removed during the processing.
Rather, eat a whole food diet, cut out or limit processed foods and alcohol, and quit smoking. Stress levels also play a huge part and have some nasty effects on your body like driving up your blood sugar so make time to meditate, relax and be sure to exercise. Saturated fat forms a healthy part of a healthy diet along with the MUFA and PUFA fats too.
It's important to note that we are all different and that what works for some people might not work for others. Listen to what your body is telling you via energy levels and how your health responds.
- Studies show that there is no link between heart disease and saturated fat
- Saturated fat is necessary for your body to function at it's best
- Some of the benefits of saturated fat are brain health, improved immune system, and weight loss
- Your saturated fat intake can comprise up to 50% of your total fat intake for optimal health
- Cut out processed foods and eat a healthy whole food diet