Is Saturated Fat Good for You?

This article is about which saturated fats are appropriate for your overall health.

Health Facts

Saturated Fat: Friend or Foe?

Why some could be good for you

-Meredith Sobel, MS, AADP, Integrative Health and Wellness Coach

Food decisionsThere is a lot of negativity in the news today regarding saturated fat. There are other reasons not to eat dairy, ice cream and butter – such as pasteurization and the fact that dairy is meant for cows, not humans – but what about the saturated fat in animal protein or coconut oil? Is it bad? Well, for frying or sautéing, a saturated fat is definitely more heat-stable than a polyunsaturated oil, such as canola, peanut or soybean, with which heating leads to the possibility of free-radical production. Also, heating and consuming trans fats of any kind leads to free-radical production and other chemical stress in the body. I am not saying to consume large amounts of meat, eggs, dairy or coconut oil. What I am saying is that using a tablespoon of coconut oil or butter in cooking or on whole grains is not terrible, and in the long run, it’s probably preferable to using polyunsaturated fats – and definitely better than using trans fats (anything partially hydrogenated, which is an unnatural process) – for the same purpose.

According to an article recently published in Men’s Health as well as the work of George Mann, MD, of Vanderbilt University, studies of the Masai, a nomadic tribe in Kenya and Tanzania, show that the tribes, who live on a diet of 60 percent saturated fat, have some of the lowest incidence of heart disease in the world. Granted, the tribes are nomadic, so they move around (which most of us don’t), and they don’t live here in the U.S., where they would supplement this high-fat diet with Cheetos (please read the ingredients of Cheetos before you eat them – this is not food!). I cannot believe that the saturated fat alone is to blame. The Masai moved to Nairobi and then to London, and all of a sudden, as their diet changed and they began to eat more processed/prepared food with polyunsaturated fats, sugar and omega-6-heavy trans fats, they developed more heart disease. Go figure.

I promote everything in moderation in my practice with my clients. But if you are going to have a balanced diets of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, make sure those foods (and they are foods that contain these molecules) are as natural, whole and unprocessed as possible. The process of making skim milk is an unnatural process and actually causes the cholesterol in the milk to be oxidized, which makes it more absorbable by the body than the natural dietary cholesterol in one egg or a cup of full-fat yogurt. So have one egg for breakfast with one slice of bacon and a cup of berries and, gasp, some salad or sauteed greens. Even add a cup or a half cup of quinoa with some (unpasteurized, if you can get it) whole milk (about a quarter cup), cinnamon and perhaps some raw honey (an eighth of a cup, just a little, maybe a tablespoon) and maybe four to eight raisins, if you really need some extra sweetness. Just make sure those raisins are minimally processed and don’t contain sulfur dioxide. They should be Hunza raisins, if you can get them. Starting your day off with a breakfast like this will move your day in a good direction, so you’ll be less hungry for lunch and dinner, and have a great deal of energy. You won’t even need a cup of coffee!

Meredith Sobel is an integrative health and wellness coach in Manhattan.

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