`Sup bros and brahs? This post has been a long time coming (and I mean a long, long time), but I guess it’s better late than never. I would promise that I’ll be posting more frequently in the near future, but that hasn’t worked out so well for me thus far. Despite the wise words of Master Yoda, I will try my best.
Robert and I had a nice discussion today on our way to a golf outing (which I would rather not discuss, thank you very much) regarding dietary fats. We have been on a recent run of experimenting with animal fats like lard and tallow (admittedly he more devotedly than I), and, as expected, we get the horrified glare (Palmer’s grandmother even reprimands him) when we admit that we use lard to make an omelet, for example. And it makes me want to shout from the rooftops that the public is, once again, woefully uneducated and in the dark when it comes to health and nutrition. I guess this disappointingly obscure blog post will have to do. For now (insert Dr. Evil laugh here).
So let’s start at the beginning: what exactly are saturated fats? Well, folks, pull out and dust off your high school and chemistry text books. Saturated fats are so-named because each available carbon bond is occupied by a hydrogen atom. This is, technically speaking, a good thing for us because there are no open spaces for oxidation to occur. And, as most of you should know, oxidation and oxidative stress are not good for your health–they can lead to cancer, among other things. Anyway, this saturation makes SFA’s extremely stable. Furthermore, SFA’s are essential in a variety of bodily functions. Much of our cell membranes are composed of the stuff, and they also contain large quantities of essential nutrients and minerals. Which nutrients, you ask? Here are the big ones:
CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) — really powerful antioxidant with numerous health benefits, among them possible cancer prevention
Vitamin D — we’ve been over this enough to make your eyes bleed; bottom line is it’s the balls
Omega-3′s — samesies!
Vitamin E –another powerful antioxidant
MCT (medium chain triglycerides) — awesome source of fast-acting energy, also obtainable through coconut milk
Vitamin K2 — high levels of K2 associated with lower incidences of heart disease and cancer
So why are they so demonized by health professionals? They clog your arteries (no, they don’t)! They cause heart disease (try again)! They shrink your testes (okay, I made that one up for comedic purposes)! As we are about to find out, these claims are mostly baseless.
First off, as this Mark Sisson post outlines, there has been very little research correlating saturated fat intake and increased risk for heart disease. It has been linked to increased cholesterol, but even cardiologists will admit that total cholesterol does not tell the whole story. Not even close.
Brian St. Pierre explains it will in this article, which focuses on butter: “Dr. Ronald Krauss, one the world’s leading lipid
researchers, directly showed that while saturated fat from dairy does raise LDL, it is an increase in large, fluffy, and benign LDL – not the small, dense, and atherogenic LDL. This actually decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease!” He goes on to point out that, much like beef, there is a difference in nutrient content between fat from a grassfed cow and a cow raised on grains and corn.
Another consideration is the downside to having a low-fat diet. Fats make food taste good and stimulate dopamine production when we eat, so including fats like butter and lard with good foods makes these good foods more appealing. And that’s a good thing. Furthermore, the alternative to saturated fats are usually Omega-6-rich oils like vegetable oil. We’ve discussed this before as well–Omega-6′s are inflammatory and not good for you. Robb Wolf has posted a lot on n-3/n-6 ratio as well as fats in general (they’re a huge part of the Paleo diet); they are an extremely underrated component of optimal health.
So what’s the bottom line? Eat your fats (the good kinds)–they won’t make you fat!