I wrote recently regarding “fats” not being the enemy in heart disease. In this article I will explain more about fats themselves. Dietary fats are greatly misunderstood. Most people don’t know which are healthful and which are harmful.
In their natural form fats are either saturated or unsaturated. Then there are man-made fats called trans or partially hydrogenated, which should be avoided totally. In most foods there is a natural balance, for example, a steak is 51% monounsaturated fat. It’s the balance of saturated to unsaturated fat in various foods that differs. Here’s how you can tell the difference: unsaturated fats remain liquid when refrigerated, while saturated fats harden.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are divided into two categories: omega -3 and omega-6. They are unstable and become rancid easily. This is why getting a lot of anti-oxidants in your foods and supplements are so important if your diet is high in unsaturated fats. Saturated fats, on the other hand, remain stable much longer.
Saturated fats were implicated by mainstream medicine and our government as being bad for us. They are found in meat, dairy and eggs. That’s when many of us switched from eating butter to eating vegetable oils and margarines; Also switching from eggs to fake eggs. The myth that saturated fats were bad for us began in the late 1950’s when producers of margarine and shortening led us to believe saturated fats were responsible for heart disease. This led to the cholesterol myth, which was based on a single study in the 1970’s. I described this fallacy in a previous article. Several studies have shown just the opposite. Unsaturated fats may be more harmful than saturated fats which are actually heart protective.
The Sydney Diet Heart Study (SDHS) appeared in the British Medical Journal (2/3/2013). This was a randomized, controlled trial comparing the rates of heart disease in people who replaced saturated fats with safflower (omega 6- fats). “An increase of 5% of food energy from omega 6 predicted a 35% and 29% higher risk of cardiovascular death and all-cause mortality, respectively.” The study concluded that polyunsaturated fats were more harmful than saturated fats.
The National Institutes of Health, after spending millions of dollars in studies, could not demonstrate a connection between saturated fat consumption and heart disease. It is important to balance a diet of saturated fatty foods with vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts/seeds.
Our hearts are surrounded by saturated fat, and it provides fuel for the heart muscles. They increase the healthy HDL cholesterol and lower the bad Lp(a) cholesterol. Also, fat-soluble vitamins such as A, E, D, K are absorbed in the presence of saturated fats. Of note, as well, is that calcium, necessary for strong bones and teeth, is carried throughout the body by saturated fat. So in order to prevent osteoporosis intake of saturated fat increases absorption of calcium, other minerals and vitamin D. Our immune systems need saturated fats. Lauric acid and caprylic acid are anti-fungal and anti- yeast. Butter and coconut oil are both high in myristic and lauric acid, which help white blood cells destroy viruses, bacteria and fungi. Our brains need saturated fats as well. Omega 3 from fish, walnuts and flax can’t be utilized without enough saturated fat in our bloodstream.
Experts recommend that at least 50% of your dietary fat be saturated fat.