Saturated fat is healthy.
There, I said it. Talk about controversial. The villagers are waving their pitchforks and lighting their torches. The healthfulness of saturated fat has been evangelized ad infinitum by most paleo sources, but the truth still eludes the general public. Most folks become uncomfortable when I mention my affinity for saturated fat…then shake their heads and chuckle knowingly.
But this is no joke. Changing a collective meme is tough. However, it’s a bit easier to change one person’s mind at a time. So…in the interest of keeping you awake, I’ve condensed my rationale to 13 “lucky” reasons to eat more saturated fat:
1) A 2010 meta-analysis of 21 studies found no link between increased dietary fat and heart disease.
2) Eating more saturated fat does not necessarily impact cholesterol levels. A meta-analysis on the available literature did not find a correlation between saturated fat intake and blood cholesterol levels.
3) A recent observational study of about 60,000 Japanese men and women found that increased saturated fat intake was inversely related with stroke…and not at all associated with cardiac disease.
4) Unlike polyunsaturated fats, saturated fats are not susceptible to oxidation and are burned cleanly in your body with few toxic by-products. Any association between high fat diets and inflammation is likely due to excessive polyunsaturated fat consumption (read: too much Omega-6).
5) Saturated fat can improve your cholesterol profile. A diet supplemented with additional saturated fats increased HDL levels. HDL, the aptly named “good” cholesterol, cleans up oxidized LDL in the bloodstream so it doesn’t stick to the artery wall. Bonus: saturated fat also helps prevent LDL particles from oxidizing and causing damage in your body (Jaminet 137).
6) Saturated fat is good for your liver. Feeding mice a high-saturated fat diet reversed alcohol-induced liver disease. In other words (and I’m not condoning excessive drinking here) eating saturated fat can negate alcohol’s toxic effects on the liver!
7) Our body has evolved to store energy as saturated fat. It is our body’s preferred source of energy. In a fasted state, the body’s primary source of fuel is saturated fatty acids! Jaminet writes that “[saturated fats] are what nature wants us to use as our primary energy source in time of food scarcity – and, for that matter, in times of food abundance” (Jaminet 136).
8) Feeling hungry all the time? With 9 calories per gram, consuming saturated fat is satiating to boot. Satiety means more fullness and less overeating.
9) More fat in the diet means more fat burned during exercise. High fat diets boost AMPK, an enzyme that increases the rate of fat of burning during aerobic activity.
10) Eating more saturated fat is ideal for building muscle. Muscle tissue is primarily composed of saturated fat. In fact, most of the core structural fats in our body are saturated fats! Think about what the top bodybuilders eat – milk and eggs. Both high in saturated fat (Jaminet 138).
11) 4 critical vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning they should be consumed with fat to unlock their nutritional potential.
- Vitamin D – critical for bone health, immunity, and much more
- Vitamin K2 – often neglected, but important for bone health
- Vitamin A – important for immune function and preventing oxidation
- Vitamin E – a key antioxidant
12) Foods high in saturated fat contain essential nutrients that are difficult to find in other places
- Choline – found in egg yolks, key to liver function
- Vitamin K2 – found in grass fed butter and animals
- Vitamin E – found in red palm oil
13) The Masai (meat, blood and milk diet) and Inuit people (fatty blubber diet) eat generous amounts of saturated fat. Here’s a shocker – they both have excellent cardiovascular health and minimal incidence of chronic disease. If entire cultures can subsist healthfully on high-saturated fat diets, how can we possibly come to the conclusion that saturated fat causes disease?
So why is saturated fat still demonized? Hint: it began with a man name Ancel Keys and continues into the modern day with uncontrolled observational studies. I’ll take a look at that phenomenon in a future post. I hope for now that at least a few of the villagers have extinguished their torches. In the meantime, here is some required reading for your saturated fat arsenal:
Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet:
- The Perfect Health Diet (it’s a book)