Today I want to talk about fat. Specifically, about different kinds of fat.
Fat is often what takes the most blame for high obesity rates in our country. It’s up there on the top of the list together with carbs, grains, and sugar. But we rarely stop to think what is the term “fat” entails exactly. Is a stick of grass-fed butter just as bad as the trans fats we find in fast foods? Logically thinking, that doesn’t seem likely, right? So why do we still cling to the idea that fat = bad?
Types of fat
Just like sugars, proteins, and other nutrients, fats can be of worse or better quality. They are not all equal. Let’s take butter for example.
If you go to a grocery store, you will see sticks of pale butter lining the refrigerated shelves. But if you go to a locally-supplied health store and search for grass-fed butter, that grass-fed butter will have a much more yellow coloring than the regular commercial butter. Although technically, they are both butters.
The yellow color is an indicative of vitamin K2 content. Vitamin K2 is created when the cows eat grass and use that grass to produce milk. Vitamin K from the grass gets converted to the vitamin K2 in the milk. And vitamin K2 is particularly important for our health because it’s one of the vitamins responsible for proper nutrient absorption. It also plays a big role in keeping our bones and teeth healthy.
We are severely lacking vitamin K2 in our diets compared to our ancestors. Drinking grass-fed milk and eating dairy products made from that milk is how we can supply our bodies with vitamin K2 again. Grass-fed dairy tends to be more expensive but I don’t think it’s worth it to save money on our health. Besides, you will spend less in the long run because your bones will be stronger and your teeth won’t deteriorate. Make your own butter and buttermilk to ensure you’re getting vitamin K2.
But grass-fed butter is only one of the many other traditional types of fat that can only make our bodies healthier. Here are some of them:
- coconut oil (both virgin and expeller-pressed)
- pastured lard and bacon fat
- pastured chicken and goose fat
- duck fat
- beef and lamb tallow
- raw cream and raw cheese
- organic palm oil and palm shortening
- unrefined extra virgin olive oil
- fermented cod liver oil
- high vitamin butter oil
- cocoa butter
- pastured egg yolks
- grass-fed meats
- flaxseed and flaxseed oil
- macadamia nuts
What about cholesterol and heart disease?
Many of the fats I listed are saturated fats. They generally stay solid at room temperature and have high smoke points, making them a good choice for cooking at high heat (but there are exceptions! For example, butter burns easily because it has leftover milk solids inside).
We have all been conditioned to believe that saturated fats are bad for us because they cause cardiovascular diseases. The same myth has been perpetuated by most leading health organizations and not many dare to put that statement under scrutiny. But as hard as it might be to believe, saturated fats do not give people heart disease.
The Nourishing Traditions has this to say on the topic of fats:
“…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.”
Cholesterol and saturated fats have a very close association because they often appear in the same types of foods. And just like saturated fats, cholesterol has been villainized to an extreme point. Just like fats, there is both good and bad cholesterol. But that’s not the point of this post.
Matt Stone, an expert on nutrition and the author of Diet Recovery and Eat For Heat, says this about cholesterol and heart disease:
“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.”
But because the connection between saturated fats and heart disease has been so well established, it is very difficult to break away from that myth. There even is a Wikipedia page on the topic. But just consider one thing and you are sure to notice that there are still some questions left unanswered.
Our ancestors have lived their whole lives eating plenty of traditional saturated animal fats. Their foods were full of cholesterol. And their bodies were often much stronger than ours are right now because they have been weakened with years of eating processed foods that wreck our immune systems. Our ancestors kept eating saturated fats and didn’t all die from cardiovascular diseases. What does that tell us?
It tell us that we should embrace the traditional way of living and all the foods it contains. Yes, even saturated fats. Eating processed foods is what is going to kill us, not eating butter or coconut oil. So let’s stop clinging to the idea that fat is bad and unhealthy. Let’s choose what we eat in a mindful and responsible way, stopping to think on our own and not just accept whatever the media decides to feed us this time without questioning. I will stuff myself with grass-fed butter over drinking a spoonful of canola oil every day and I hope you can see why.