I’ve discussed fat already and briefly mentioned it in the coconut article, but now let’s delve deeper into the topic with saturated fat. I liked this article that I read on coconut oil. According to it farmers started feeding pigs polyunsaturated fats (like corn oil) to fatten them up. Then the low-fat trend started and consumers demanded leaner cuts of meat. When pigs got closer to slaughter the farmers switched them to saturated fats (like coconut oil) in order to lean them out. At the end it pointed out that grocery stores carry mostly polyunsaturated fats; so in the end people are getting obese, while pigs are getting leaner (it’s sad, but really it makes total since). Look at societies in the South Pacific (once again check last Monday’s post) where their diets are predominately coconut. They have a great track record of health and lack of heart disease and obesity (at least until they’re introduced to western foods). Another example are the Inuit, who consume high levels of saturated fat, especially animal fat and lard like from fish (high in omega-3’s as well). They’re known for their health.
When you look at a saturated fat (like above), all of the carbon molecules are attached to a hydrogen. This makes it stable, so that it is resistant to high heat damage. Saturated fats are important (half of a cell’s membrane are saturated fat) because they have large amounts of fat-soluble vitamins (K2, A, D), in addition to being a great source of energy. What other benefits can we get from saturated fats? They:
- make cells firm
- are important for calcium in the skeleton
- lower Lp (indicates heart disease)
- protects the liver from alcohol
- is important to the immune system
- helps retain omega-3 fatty acids
- the fat around the heart is mostly saturated
- protects against microorganisms in the digestive tract
- is used in times of stress.
So why does saturated fat have such a bad reputation if it does all these wonderful things? That cholesterol thing, right! It’s true that saturated fats increase LDL levels, but they also increase HDL (the “good” cholesterol). Most assume that LDL’s are predictive of heart problems, really we should look at triglycerides (which are a better predictor of health problems; and what increases these? You got it, carbohydrates!) A HDL/triglyceride ratio or Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio are better precursors. Only when LDL is oxidized do we need to worry and saturated fatty acids aren’t prone to oxidation.
I know this goes against what most of us believe or have been taught. At first, even I was skeptical about accepting saturated fat. But all the reading on fats makes sense, and I am so convinced that grains, starches, and sugars are the demise of the obesity epidemic; and maybe conventional wisdom and things we are sure of, may be doing more harm than good. My recommendation, grabbing fat before starch: try extra-virgin coconut oil (it’s one of my favorite things now). Believe me, I’ve switched to fat and I’ve been tested (SIP) and had phenominal results. It works, so ditch conventional wisdom and do what makes true sense.