Where Did We Get This Idea About Unhealthy Fats?
Between middle school and high school, I took 5 cooking classes. In college, I took a required Health course, as well as a Nutrition class and 3 basic Biology courses.
Every single last stinkin’ one of ‘em taught us that fats are bad. Actually, they didn’t even bother to tell us they were bad; they just assumed we already knew that.
Because it’s common sense, right?
We all think fats are evil because that’s what the smart people tell us. It’s part of our culture. The phrase “fats are evil” gets 55,100 results in Google (with quotes even!). Even though most of those are authors trying to prove that fats aren’t evil, it proves that the prevailing paradigm is that fats are basically the Darth Vader of foods.
For that reason, the FDA claims that we should get no more than 30% of our calories from fat.
But where did this idea of fats being terrible for us come from?
Is it basic scientific common knowledge?
Kinda like how the world is flat and the Earth is the center of the universe?
If you’ve read other organic or real food blogs, you’ve probably run across some dude named Ancel Keys. He’s the main antagonist in the story on fats, mostly resulting from the “7 Countries Study” he authored. The first major report of his findings was released in 1963.
Keys claimed that dietary fat led directly to coronary heart disease and stroke (despite evidence that he cherry-picked results). Respected outlets like the American Heart Organization and Time Magazine took Keys’ results and introduced them to the world. Overnight, fat became the villain and cholesterol its evil sidekick.
Which brings up the point:
Fat as a major dietary concern hasn’t always been common knowledge or even commonly accepted until the last 50 years or so. For much of human history, fats (especially animal fats) have been a massive part of healthy diets around the globe.
“1,500 years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was the center of the universe. 500 years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat. And 15 minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”
Name that movie!
Why Healthy Fats Can’t Be Killing Us
Fact #1 – Butter consumption has dropped from 19 pounds in 1909 to just under 5 pounds in 2004.
Fact #2 – Egg consumption has dropped to 2/3 of what it was in 1909.
Fact #3 – Whole milk consumption dropped from 26 gallons in 1909 to 7 gallons in 2001.
Fact #4 – Heart disease mortality rates in 1909 = 137 deaths per 100,000. In 2009 = 180.1 per 100,000.
Fact #5 – Percent of calories from fat in 1900 = 40%-45%. Percent of calories from fat today = 30%.
Conclusion – These statistics prove that HEALTHY FAT CANNOT BE THE REASON FOR INCREASED HEART DISEASE.
Consumption of 3 of the largest sources of fat (and saturated fat) has declined sharply in the past 100 years. If that doesn’t convince you, then check out Fact #5 again… we eat less total calories from fat since, well, EVER.
Yet we’re fatter than ever, unhealthier than ever, and definitely dying more from heart attacks than ever.
Those statistics are the smoking gun because it leads to one very simple question:
So what IS fattening us up for the heart disease slaughter? Well, that’s a post for another day, but I will say that the dramatic increase in polyunsaturated fats (mostly from veggie oils) may be the single unhealthiest development in the history of dietary nutrition. It’s these types of fat that besmirch the name of good fats everywhere.
Or as Professor David Haslam, Chairman of the National Obesity Forum said:
The assumption has been made that increased fat in the bloodstream is caused by increased saturated fat in the diet, whereas modern scientific evidence is proving that refined carbohydrates and sugar in particular are actually the culprits.
Leading UK cardiologist Aseem Malhotra said:
Cutting the amount of [saturated fats] has paradoxically increased the risk of heart disease.
And even more bluntly, another cardiologist, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, said:
Evidence has proved that the proportion of total fat in a person’s diet has no effect on heart disease.
He added this:
Three groups of researchers have recently weighed data from all available large long-term studies that have tracked saturated-fat intake and heart attacks or strokes. All three found no association between saturated fat and heart attacks or strokes. People who consumed the highest levels of saturated fat had about the same rates of heart disease as people who consumed the least.
Basically, The notion that fat is actually good for you isn’t an underground idea anymore. The facts are out there, and experts (cardiologists even!) are speaking out on the topic. We’ve been wrong for 50 years, and hopefully, mercifully, the tide is turning.
Why Fats (Including Saturated) are Actually Good For You
So I’ve made my case that fats aren’t killing you– but should you go out of your way to eat them? Are they beneficial to your body?
Some of the healthiest communities on Earth, according to Weston A. Price, obtain up to 80% of their calories from fat (with very, very little coming from PUFA’s). Communities found in jungles, extreme northern areas, or other isolated environments are generally free of disease – they experience almost no heart attacks, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or even cancer. And they generally get MANY more calories from fat than we do.
In these healthy fats from animals, you’ll also find:
Saturated Fat – Provides cell structure, improves brain function, and improves our immune system. It’s also essential for lung function. In fact, one Dutch study showed that children who consumed whole milk and butter daily had less asthma than children who did not.
Cholesterol – Essential for brain function, memory, sex hormones, supporting cell structure, and repairing stuff in your body (including major arteries… meaning it actually helps PREVENT heart attacks… mind=blown). In fact, the government now says dietary cholesterol is no longer a concern.
Vitamin A,D, K2 – Interact synergistically to support strong bones and teeth, immune health, and adequate growth. Each of these vitamins provides insane amounts of benefits and animal fats are the best source of these nutrients. Plus, these are fat-soluble vitamins – meaning they dissolve in fat before they can be absorbed. People who chronically under-eat fat can have problems absorbing these nutrients.
Trace Minerals – Your body needs trace amounts of several types of minerals, most of which can be found in animal meats. Deficiencies in trace minerals can cause severe problems such as debilitated growth, slow wound healing, reduced fertility, poor gland functions, hair loss, muscle cramping, and an impairment to many other body functions.
Sources of Good Fat
A great rule of thumb is to get your fats from natural sources. If you’re getting fat calories from avocado, nuts, and healthy beef, you’re on the right track. Avoid the fake, mechanically produced fats like margarine and veggie oils, or fats from unhealthy animals, like pasteurized low-fat milk from commercial cows.
Focus on these healthy fats:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Organic palm and coconut oils
- Tallow from grass-fed cows
- Lard from pastured pigs
- Butter from grass-fed cows
- Ghee (made from butter)
- Nuts, properly soaked
What Are Bad Fats?
- Vegetable oils!!! Canola, rapeseed, soybean, cottonseed, and sunflower oils WILL kill you on contact! (Note: not actual science… but if you think that way, maybe it will help)
- Low-fat milk
- Anything hydrogenated (most peanut butter, margarine, shortening, fast food, tortillas, certain types of white bread, etc.)
How Much Fat is the Right Amount?
The easy cop-out answer (wait, let me put on my wry politician smile) that you don’t want to hear is that “it depends.” People with different health issues and dietary needs may need to consume more or less than what I’m about to tell you.
I have no set amount that I try to get each day, but I try hard to balance my meals. My calories from fat take up around 40-45% of my daily caloric intake (because fat is denser in calories). In other words, I’m not stingy with the butter and milk!
I try to err on the side of eating more fat instead of more carbs. For example, if I’m eating a roast and mashed potatoes, and I’m going back for seconds, it’s probably for the roast (and not just because roast is amazing). If I’m trying to figure out breakfast, I’ll pick eggs cooked in butter over pancakes every time.
The thing is, healthy fat fills you up. Sure, it’s loaded with more calories than proteins or carbs – but it’s proven to keep you full. Add more healthy fats and watch yourself bingeing less.
Fat doesn’t make you fat, and is extraordinarily loaded with stuff that our bodies need. Our naturopath that Erin and I have learned from says that the most unhealthy people he treats are vegetarians. Their bodies aren’t getting the support and repair teams that fats provide our bodies – and of course missing out on vital nutrients.
The world is misinformed, and it’s perpetuated by the powerful people out there who make too much money from low-fat foods. Thankfully, correct nutritional health is becoming more available.
The truth is that fats are good for you. Period. It’s one of the 3 macronutrients you need and it carries with it several essential nutrients that you’ll struggle to find elsewhere.
Healthy fats will never be the cause of heart attacks, cancer, strokes, or diabetes.
Diets high in butter, eggs, whole milk, and other healthy, natural fats have produced some of the healthiest people in the world.
The evidence is there… and now it’s just up to you to decide what to do with the information.
Have you switched to healthy fats yet? What benefits have you seen? Share below!