Saturated fats have started to gain bad reputation ever since the 50’s, but nowadays doctors and scientists are starting to realize the obvious: animal fats are a natural part of our diet since the beginning of humanity and they are not the main causes of obesity and heart disease, as previously thought.
To begin with, let’s consider a few tribes that even now have a high animal fat diet such as: the Masaai tribe located in Kenya and Tanzania using meat, milk and cattle blood as primary foods and the Inuit Eskimos located in the Canadian Arctic that mostly eat meat and fat of animals such as whales, walruses, seals and caribous. These tribes and others with similar diets mostly based on animal meat and fat have very few deaths caused by heart disease, yet they do eat a lot of saturated fat, significantly more than modern society from industrial areas.
Human breast milk contains over 50% saturated fats. So the ideal diet for babies is naturally rich in what we still consider to be one of the greatest enemies of modern diets.
At first, fat was the no.1 enemy accused to cause weight-gain and heart disease. So we started eating more and more products labeled “low-fat”. Sadly these products, had other ingredients added to them to make them more tasty and palatable (since fat was lacking) starting with sugar and artificial flavors. So we basically traded fats for extra carbohydrates and calories.
Then we split the fats into “good” and “bad”. Unsaturated fats (both mono and poly) such as olive oil and sunflower oil as well as omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, nuts and seeds were the “good” fats responsible for lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels. The enemy was represented by the saturated fats, found mostly in meat and dairy, accused of raising bad cholesterol and causing heart disease and obesity. Trans fats are modern bad guys, derived from partially hydrogenating unsaturated plant fats, commonly found in processed foods such as fast-foods, baked goods, fried foods and snacks.
A recent study, conducted on a massive scale (almost 350,000 people) concluded that there is no evidence that can prove high intake of saturated fats to be associated with heart disease, stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Truth is, today’s diet has sugar and other refined carbohydrates are at the top of the list, yet obesity and heart disease is still increasing. Trans fats are another problem, since this artificial type of fat can turn our metabolism upside down.
The most important thing in ensuring a healthy diet is using as many high-quality, natural foods as possible such as meat and dairy from grass-fed cows, cold-pressed plant oils and making sure you also have an adequate fruit and vegetable intake. Unrelated to diet, although a very important factor in our overall health, is physical activity. The sedentary lifestyle is another great enemy that continues to affect the increasing rate of obesity and risk for heart and cardiovascular disease along with the bad food choices we make these days.