Saturated fat – its a topic that has been debated about and widely publicised for decades. As per usual, the answer to whether its ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is far from black and white and in my opinion the best approach here is to use common sense. My main message which is highly relevant to saturated fat consumption is simple: ELIMINATE ALL PROCESSED PRODUCTS AND EAT WHOLE FOODS WITH VEGETABLES AT EACH MEAL. The campaign against saturated fat originating in the 1970’s has given way to a reductionist approach to food where whole nutritious foods such as grass fed red meat, eggs, butter and coconut oil have been condemned whilst the manufacture of low fat, highly processed and sugary foods such as margarine, white bread, low fat yoghurt and cereals have flourished. Juicy steaks and butter have not increased the incidence of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, it is the vast consumption of processed foods, along with a sedentary lifestyle, poor sleep and stress that really are the culprits here.
My main message which is highly relevant to saturated fat consumption is simple: eliminate all processed products and eat whole foods with vegetables at each meal.
I’m not going to focus on studies or statistics but what I will mention is that there are no studies that have established a direct link between increased risk of heart disease and intake of saturated fat. Furthermore a whole array of “paradoxes” seem to exist, for example the paradox of the French population who consume high quantities of saturated fat and have the second lowest incidence of heart disease after Japan. There is also the ‘Israel paradox’, where in Israel- regardless of their high intake of polyunsaturated fat and low intake of saturated fat have a high prevalence of heart attacks and diabetes. Thus there appears to be more to the equation here and really the focus should be consuming a whole food unprocessed diet with vegetables at each and every meal, daily exercise, sufficient sleep and stress reduction.
One piece of information that I do find very interesting are the observations of Dr Weston Price who visited Africa in 1935 to study the sub-saharan tribes. He studied and compared the diets of numerous tribes ranging from mostly vegetarian to mostly meat eating and made some interesting observations. The healthiest and most physically robust tribes were those who consumed a diet mostly of seafood, meat, dairy and fermented grains. The meat eater’s diet consisted mostly of “milk, blood and meat, supplemented in some cases with fish and small amounts of grains, fruits and vegetables. Rich in animal fats, these diets provided large amounts of the fat soluble vitamins Price discovered to be so necessary for the proper development of the physical body and freedom from disease.” Even with a high intake of saturated fat, these people were lean, did not suffer from degenerative diseases or even dental cavities and certainly did not have high rates of cardiovascular disease.
On a separate note- the grains that these people did consume were heavily fermented and a far cry from processed breads, cereals and pastas.
Preparation “at the homestead” begins with washing the grains, then steeping them in water for 24 to 72 hours. The grain is drained and the water discarded. Soaked grains are wet milled and passed through a sieve. The hulls or leavings in the sieve are discarded. In other words, the Africans throw away the bran. The smooth paste that passes through the sieve may undergo further fermentation. Soaking water that rises to the top is discarded and the slurry is boiled to make a sour porridge. Sometimes the slurry is allowed to drain and ferment further to form a gel-like substance that is wrapped in banana leaves, making a convenient and nutritious energy bar that can easily be carried into the fields and consumed without further preparation
Wow- that is a giant effort put into making the grains highly digestible and a rich source of probiotics. Furthermore tribes who consumed animal protein and dairy were generally found to be healthier than the mostly vegetarian tribes. They exhibited superior dental health and did not require supplementation of additional/specific foods during gestation and lactation.
As aforementioned- don’t worry about whole natural foods that contain saturated fat, but focus and put your efforts into eating a whole food unprocessed diet. Use a practical approach and try to consume foods that we are designed to eat- sure no can point out exactly what our earlier ancestors ate but you don’t have to be scientist to know for absolute sure that they did not eat margarine and ‘health’ spreads, excessive sugar, grains, low fat products, cold cut processed meats, seed oils and other industrially manufactured foods. You can regulate our own fat intake by consuming fish, fresh seafood, grass fed and organic meats, nuts, seeds and fruits/vegetable that are in season.
Below I have provided an example of what a healthy fat filled diet may look like.
2-3 scrambled eggs with spinach, tomato, onion and avocado- cooked in coconut oil or full fat butter
1 x apple
A handful of raw nuts
A piece of organic grass fed steak (medium/rare) with steamed broccoli, green beans and sweet potato mash- you could also eat this with a side salad like a rocket, pear and parmesan salad
Freshly juiced vegetable juice- carrot, beetroot, celery, lemon and ginger or some raw vegetables and fruit such as chopped carrot, cucumber and banana
Oven Baked Barramundi with fermented cabbage and steamed rice