Like many Americans, for decades I followed the advice of the United States Department of Agriculture to eat a high-carbohydrate (whole-grain centered), moderate protein, low-fat diet to manage my weight and sustain health. However, regardless of being very committed to what I assumed was a balanced diet, I wasn’t healthy. I finally woke up and started to question this dietary approach when diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (autoimmune) thyroiditis in my early 30's.
Since that time, I’ve made many lifestyle & dietary changes that have helped to manage symptoms. Transitioning away from Vegetarianism and committing to a Traditional diet made the most dramatic change, because I had more of this every day:
Not just any fat, but SATURATED FAT. Yes, the kind that the American Heart Association is still blaming on clogged arteries and heart disease. More on that in a moment, but back to my story…
In this last year, I’ve been gradually increasing the amount of high quality fat in my diet (pastured animal fats, cold water fatty fish like salmon, avocados & avocado oil, coconut oil, olives & olive oil, etc.). It’s what my body is craving the most! Currently, I’m exploring a combo Autoimmune Paleo/ Ketogenic Diet. According to my last blood panels, I’m closer to remission (and closer to my pre-baby shape!) than ever. And by the way, my blood pressure and cholesterol are well within normal limits.
So, I’m a huge fan of fat, as are many holistically-minded people these days. There is a ton of research out there disproving that saturated fat causes heart disease.
Check out this article, where Dr. Aseem Malhotra, consultant cardiologist at London’s Lister Hospital says (based on meta-analysis, review of previous studies, and personal experience):
“This idea that dietary saturated fats build up in the coronary arteries is complete unscientific nonsense.”
And yet the AHA is holding on tight to it’s claims in a recent health reportwhich again urges us to avoid saturated fats and replace them with unsaturated fats. I will not refute this claim here myself because others have already done a beautiful job:
What I would LOVE to do in this post is to remind you all that nature is awesomely perfect. We were designed to eat natural fats, not those manufactured in a laboratory.
10 Important functions of saturated fats in human biology:
- Half of our cell membranes are made up of saturated fatty acids, giving them structure and integrity.
- Fat contains loads of vitamin A, D, E, and K and fat is needed to absorb these fat-soluble nutrients into the small intestine.
- Fat and cholesterol are building blocks of brain tissue and needed continuously to maintain function.
- Saturated fats protect the liver from alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and other toxins.
- Kids need fat in order to develop properly. Nutritional dwarfing and inadequate weight gain have been observed in children placed on low-fat diets.
- Researchers have shown that children oxidize fat quicker than adults and therefore need more. Even the American Family Physician (who is more in-line with government dietary suggestions) cautions against limiting fat and cholesterol in children less than 2 years old.
- Increasing dietary fat while decreasing carbohydrates (favoring low-carb vegetables instead of grains) lowers blood sugar and insulin levelsand also promotes healthy weight by balancing metabolism.
- Cholesterol in foods with a lot of saturated fat is needed to make bile salts, steroid hormones (progestagens, glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, androgens, and estrogens), and vitamin D.
- Eating fat keeps you satiated, reducing overeating. Try it and see for yourself!
- Saturated fats support healthy thyroid function by making receptors more available to use T3 thyroid hormone.
Dietary fats are definitely not equal. The infographic below is what I know to be true about what we should indulge in and what we should avoid.
The concern with “bad” fats is that most are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which have unstable chemical structures that leave them vulnerable to damage from heat, light, and oxygen.
Damaged PUFAs = Oxidation = Inflammation = Chronic issues like cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, fatty liver disease, some cancers, and much more.
Also, PUFAs are made up of Omega-6 fatty acids. Our ancestors ate diets with 1:1 ratios of Omega-3 to Omega-6 oils. However, modern Americans typically eat greater than 10X more Omega-6 than Omega-3. The imbalance causes inflammation (and the diseases mentioned above) in addition to damaging of gut flora.
This article has a very thorough explanation about the dangers of PUFAs if you’d like to learn more.
I hope this post gives you a greater appreciation of the Liquid (or room-temperature solid-state) Gold. And if it makes sense to you to eat more fat, then please do! Your gut, brain, and hormones with thank you!
If you’re not sure how you feel about fat, saturated in particular, then I hope this post was thought-provoking and you look into it further.
I’d love to know how you feel about the role of fat in human diets.
Also, are the amounts/types you’re consuming working for you?
Let’s discuss in the comments!
Originally published at www.falconhealingarts.com on July 11, 2017.