If you’ve been keeping up with recent nutrition news, you probably saw this week’s headline about saturated fat. Once villified for its artery clogging properties, this week’s news echoes what’s been trending in the research for the past few years.
Saturated Fat: The Good, The Bad and the Healthy?
Since the 70’s, the finger has been squarely pointed at saturated fat as being the underlying dietary culprit in the initiation and promotion of heart disease. It, along with cholesterol (until recently) has been aggressively targeted in most dietary recommendations ever since. And, as a result of these recommendations, saturated fat in the diet was replaced with higher amounts of simple carbohydrates, sugars and polyunsaturated fats. As reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine article:
“Current evidence does not clearly support guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats,”
So, what exactly does this mean? It means that choosing “low fat” foods as a means of improving one’s health probably isn’t going to help. In fact, it may do just the opposite especially since most “fat reduced” foods have added sugars and flavours, aka chemical non-foods. This research doesn’t pave the way for unlimited fast food, but it does allow for the incorporation of real food sources of saturated fat, along with plenty of vegetables, fruits and clean sources of protein.
I like this quote from one of the study’s authors:
“Guidelines that focus on the nutrients, single nutrients, as targets for preventing chronic diseases don’t make a lot of sense. I think we need to move to food-based guidelines, to really talk about food, not nutrients”
I agree with this wholeheartedly. So, are there healthy sources of saturated fat? YES, absolutely! But, that’s not what most people are consuming. If you look at this table from the Harvard School of Public Health, at least half of the top food sources of saturated fat come from processed foods such as pizza and desserts. Healthy, whole food sources of saturated fat include:
- Butter * (read my butter vs. margarine post here)
- Dairy (especially fermented yogurt and kefir)*
- Coconut oil
While I encourage a healthy intake of saturated fats to promote health, it’s important to recognize that this doesn’t allow for an unlimited intake. You can always have too much of a good thing. But for now, enjoy butter!