Is saturated fat bad for you? Will eating that red meat or bacon end up ruining your health in the long run? You’ve heard all the warnings. The AHA suggests on its site that you should “Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of total daily calories”. This means that out of 2500 calories a day, only 175 of them can be from saturated fats. But are these recommendations valid? Well, let’s take a look at the facts and then reconsider our position.
Let’s take a look at the low-fat foods that are very popular nowadays. Skim milk, chicken breast, and vegetable oils. These are supposedly healthier for you than whole milk, steak, and butter. I am going to argue that this is a false statement.
First, let’s take saturated fats and compare them with “healthier” vegetable oils.
Saturated fats would include products like coconut oil, butter, tallow and any other animal fat. Vegetable oils would include products like Crisco, soybean oil and corn oil. Now, based on the AHA’s guidelines, you should use vegetable oils instead of the saturated fat alternatives because vegetable oils are healthier. Here’s the problem. Seed oils like corn oil, and soybean oil contain high levels of PUFA (poly-unsaturated fatty acids), which make them extremely vulnerable to heat. When these oils are subject to high temperatures to be cooked, they become oxidized and ultimately become toxic to the body. Here’s another problem: if PUFA’s are to be consumed, they have to be consumed in the right ratio. Corn oil and soybean oils are high in Omega-6. Now if enough Omega-3 is not consumed to keep a ratio of 1:1 (Omega-3 and Omega-6 should be balanced) this causes inflammation.
Saturated fats, on the other hand, do not have any of these problems. They are stable at very high temperatures and also improve heart disease factors by increasing large & fluffy LDL particles, which reduces risk (I wrote extensively on the topic of heart disease in this article ).
So where did this myth of saturated fat being dangerous come about?
We could find the roots of this myth from The China Study, written by Ancel Keys. The China Study proved that saturated fat is bad by citing seven countries that showed a direct correlation with fat in the diet and heart disease. Here’s the problem. He actually studied 22 countries but cherry-picked his data. This means out of 22 countries he chose the 7 that actually gave a direct correlation. Keys’ book, The China Study, grew very popular and developed into the theories that the AHA and other dietary guidelines use today.
So here’s the conclusion: saturated fat is not as bad for you as you might think. Some great sources of saturated fats like Coconut Oil , which I strongly recommend, actually improve health in the long run. So instead of eating the vegetable oils which are not as healthy as you might think, I would recommend you use real fat.
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