Back in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, research and science instilled an awful fear in us that, quite frankly, will take a very long time to reverse. The fear of fats, saturated fats in particular, is vastly widespread throughout this nation, and unfortunately for us, it’s taking a huge toll on our health. When the fear of fat went public, the food industry had to change or they were going to lose money quickly. In response, they began to substitute vegetable fats for animal fats, and substitute sugars for fats resulting in a lower-fat, higher-carbohydrate product.
*Side note – take a guess at who a major funder behind the fat-free diet was. Hint – the truth ain’t so *sweet* (but that’s for another time).
Forty years later, and Americans are heavier and more disease-ridden than any of the generations before us. But, I’m not here to tell you what you already know; I’m here to unveil some information that can improve the quality of life for you and yours. Do with it what you may.
First, some background on fats. There are three major types of fats that are found in nature:
- Saturated Fats – these are your butters, full-fat dairy products (for more on this, see Rah Rah for Raw Dairy), tropical oils (i.e. coconut oil), ghee, poultry skins, and fatty cuts of meat from beef, pork, or lamb.
- Monounsaturated Fats – olive oil, avocado (and avocado oil), almonds, nut butters, sesame oil, safflower oil
- Polyunsaturated Fats – walnuts, sunflower seeds, fish, flaxseed
And then there’s something called trans fat. Trans fat, or “partially hydrogenated oils”, is a product invented by the industry because it’s inexpensive and lasts a long time. You’ll find loads of this guy in movie theatre popcorn, margarine, cookies, cake, and basically anything made mass-production style.
Fun Fact – Pre fat-fear, movie theatre popcorn used to be made with coconut oil, YUM!
The research on the benefits of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is vast and can be easily found. But, do a quick Google Search of “types of fats” or “saturated fats” and you’re bombarded with this:
Poor saturated fats, getting nicknamed as “bad,” blamed for all the diseases, and associated with that meanie, trans fat, in those cookies and cakes! Well I’m here to speak out against the discrimination, all [natural] fats matter.
Let’s get down to it then. SATURATED FATS ARE IMPORTANT FOR HEALTHY AND FUNCTIONING BODIES.
The cells in your body are composed of little saturated fat molecules. Your body needs saturated fat, and it’s going to get it one way or another. If you’re not feeding it fat, it will go through the process of turning carbohydrates into saturated fats (Lipogenesis). Deprive the body of fats, and it’s working to create and maintain fat on its own. The issue is that it has to recruit a very important vitamin, niacin (vitamin B3), whose major role is to act an antioxidant, detoxifying agent, and nutrient recycler. If your body is using niacin to aid in creating its own fats, then its being denied of all of the other benefits niacin provides. Bottom line: supplementing your diet with natural forms of saturated fat like grass-fed butter, full-fat milk/cheese, and tropical oils will support the roles that are essential to functioning cells and our bodies.
Fat chains vary in length; they are classified as short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), and long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). Fats with less than ten carbon chains (MCFA go from six to twelve) are actually not stored as fat. When you eat a balanced meal of fat, protein, and carbohydrates, insulin is going to wake up to transport those calories to storage. Insulin cannot “see” the fats that are less than ten carbons long, benefiting us in a couple of ways. 1) The fats are readily available to be used as energy, and the body wastes no time doing so, immediately going about the intricate biological duties it does each day to keep us alive. 2) They signal to the brain that we are satisfied, and we don’t need that second helping sitting on the stove right now. Bottom line: decreased food intake and increased energy expenditure after consuming the short-and medium-chain fatty acids.
Since I’m hoping you can still remember the SCFA acronym at this point in our discussion, let’s talk about what else these babies do for us. In addition to being readily available for our body to burn baby, burn, SCFA’s have amazing intestinal and metabolic health benefits. There’s a component in SCFA’s called butyrate, and this guy is the real MVP of the team. Intestinally speaking, “butyrate helps control the growth of the cells lining the gut, to make sure there’s good balance between old cells dying and new cells being formed. It’s also the most important source of energy for those cells.” A healthy human being will actually produce butyrate in the colon after intake of dietary fiber. The problem? Americans do not get nearly enough fiber in their diets, and people who suffer from intestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis cannot tolerate dietary fiber well. Bottom line: oral ingestion of butyrate (SCFA’s) can keep our colons and intestines very happy, and who doesn’t want a happy colon?
Fun Fact – Butyrate is the Greek word for butter!
Metabolically speaking, consumption of butyrate alongside other fats will actually decrease the amount of fat stored as “excess” (high cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin resistance) and instead aid in its use as energy to the body.
Last point, I promise. Nutrient absorption. You eat your fruit and veggies; proud of yourself for all the vitamins and minerals you’re feeding your body. But what if I told you that if you’re cutting fat, saturated fat in particular, you’re denying your body the full nourishment it’s capable of receiving? This is because some vitamins, like the carotenoids found in carrots for example, are fat-soluble vitamins and the body actually needs a fat source to absorb them. Saturated fats (and monounsaturated fats) are the body’s preferred source of vitamin-absorption. Plus, your butters, milks, cheeses, tropical oils, and other saturated fat sources DO contain essential vitamins themselves; deprive your body of those food sources and you in turn deprive your body of all the benefits associated with them.
When I did my research on saturated fats, I was just as shocked as you may be as to why we would be told to avoid something so valuable to our health. As with everything in our diet, moderation is key, and there’s a lot to be learned about what your body needs and why. I hope this helped open a door for you that may have been shut for a very long time (or a window that was just cracked) and encourages you to educate yourself on what should be our number one priority – our health. If you have any questions about where and how you should start to supplement your diet with saturated fats (or anything for that matter), please contact us here.
Written by Madeleine White