Think Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Will Give You Heart Disease? Think Again

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saturated fat and cholesterol heart disease think again

Sometimes I forget that most people have not re-embraced healthy, traditional, saturated fats like I have.  And even if they have, they still cling to the idea that too much fat would be “bad”.

Those two statements alone open a can of worms for a lot of people.  I had a friend once say “So all those lessons we had in school about how good fats were liquid at room temperature and bad fats were solid…those were wrong?”  Yep.  Give me butter over canola oil any day.

Saturated fats like grass-fed butter, pastured lard, beef and lamb tallow from grazing animals, coconut oil, and palm oil: all of these give us nourishment in a way that other fats and lowfat diets never can.

Not All Fats Are Created Equal:

If you have been to the grocery store lately, you have probably seen the pale sticks of butter that line the refrigerated section.  Barely yellow, these sticks of butter contain far less vitamin content than their grass-fed counterparts. This is because the naturally yellow butter color comes from the vitamin content.

Of particular interest is the vitamin K2 content in butterfat from grass-fed cows.  Vitamin K2 is made when the cows eating green grass convert the vitamin K from the grass into vitamin K2 in their milk.  In short, vitamin K2 was abundant in traditional diets, and it is key in the building of bones and teeth in particular.

Yes, grass-fed dairy is more expensive.  But it doesn’t mean that you aren’t getting more bang for your buck.  If you pay more for grass-fed butter, you will be getting a much higher quality fat source in your diet.  However, even if you cannot source grass-fed butter then please still buy the best quality butter you can find.  Real traditional fats are still better than hydrogenated oils and margarines.

In addition to butter, there are many other traditional fats that are nourishing and essential to good health.  I have listed them as their best-quality versions.

  • cocoa butter
  • virgin & expeller-pressed organic coconut oil
  • pastured schmaltz (chicken & goose fat) & duck fat
  • organic palm oil & palm shortening
  • grass-fed butter & ghee, as well as raw butter, cream, and cheese
  • pastured lard & bacon fat
  • beef & lamb tallow
  • unrefined extra virgin olive oil
  • pastured egg yolks
  • grass-finished meats
  • fermented cod liver oil & high vitamin butter oil
  • macadamia nuts
  • flaxseed oil

Saturated Fats Won’t Give You Heart Disease?:

Out of my list, you will notice that many are saturated fats: solid at room temperature and very shelf stable with a tendency for high smoke points.  All these factors make them excellent for high heat cooking.  They include cocoa butter, coconut oil, tallow, and ghee (not butter: it still has milk solids which can burn).

And no, none of them will give you heart disease.

On page 5, the section on “Fats” in Nourishing Traditions, it says:

…heart disease causes at least 40 percent of all U.S. deaths.  If, as we have been told, heart disease is caused by consumption of saturated fats, one would expect to find a corresponding increase in animal fats in the American diet.  Actually, the reverse is true.  During the sixty-year period from 1910 to 1970, the proportion of traditional animal fat in the American diet declined from 83 percent to 62 percent, and butter consumption plummeted from 18 pounds per person per year to four.  During the past eighty years, dietary cholesterol intake has increased only 1 percent.  During the same period the percentage of dietary vegetable oils in the form of margarine, shortening and refined oils increased about 400 percent while the consumption of sugar and processed foods increased about 60 percent.

In the quote, she mentions cholesterol.  Cholesterol seems to go hand in hand with saturated fat when you talk to the typical American about what they think causes heart disease.  Of course, this makes sense since many times saturated fat and cholesterol co-exist in the same foods, foods that have been villainized by the Food Guide Pyramid and the “diet dictocrats”.

The Lipid Hypothesis is basically that dietary cholesterol causes coronary heart disease.  Yet it has been recently questioned many times over, dividing the evidence found.  Regardless, the American people still cling to the idea that eating saturated fat and cholesterol will give you heart disease.  It is simply not true.

One my favorite food and nutrition writers, Matt Stone, has this to say on the subject:

Cholesterol levels are a pitiful indicator of heart disease risk to the point where they are really no indication at all. Mean serum cholesterol levels in France for example are almost identical to that of Americans, yet their heart disease risk is but a fifth of what America endures. This is just one of literally dozens of striking contradictions.

Look to the studies cited on the saturated fat and cardiovascular disease controversy Wikipedia page.  Even if the collection of findings does not compel you to question the veracity of common nutritional advice, think of our ancestors.

All our human ancestors ate animal fats and saturated fats and cholesterol in abundance.  And they did not die of heart disease.  They may have died from exposure or lack of modern medicine more readily, but certainly not because they only had access to traditional foods and not I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!

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