What are your thoughts and feelings towards fat…and particularly saturated fats?
Do you avoid it? Think it will make you put on weight? Clog your arteries? Do you think it’s unhealthy?
Although there is a lot more information coming out in the press on how fat is good for us, I still find many people – my clients, friends, family – shy away from fat, and in particular saturated fat.
I used to be this way.
But now, knowing better, I consciously consume quite a lot of saturated, animal and non-animal fats, and I have never been so slim on such little exercise (and for eating so much) in my life!
Yet there was a time where I thought all ‘fat’ was bad! And so did my Mum who used to say things to me when I was a teenager like, “that’s very fattening, you’ll put on weight if you eat too much of that” – to things like butter and full fat milk. So she bought margarine over butter, skimmed milk over full-fat etc. I don’t blame her though, she was very health-conscious and she meant well – she was just following what we were all being told by the healthcare system and the food giants.
Now however, with a lot of help from the Paleo movement, we’re seeing more people talking about the benefits of fat and saturated fat. You might have seen quotes and articles on how fat is not the enemy, whereas sugar is.
I find a lot of people have come round to the idea that it’s healthy to consume lots of olive oil, seeds, nuts, avocado and now coconut oil, but there is still this stigma around saturated animal fats.
Because of this, I decided to create some new content on fat and saturated fats for my clients in my group programme, Shape the Rest of Your Life.
Whilst doing my research I came across a wonderful book called ‘Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes’ by a lady called Jennifer McLagen.
I also found an interview with Jennifer, covering the issues of obesity, food illiteracy, the French, Crisco and fearing our food. I found the information she shares so insightful, that I am adding some of the more intriguing questions here in this blog.
If you’re a vegetarian then this is still worth the read, I respect anyone’s choice for not eating meat and so I hope this article encourages you to get your saturated fats from coconut products and/or dairy.
One last point to note: When I say that I endorse and consume saturated fat, I mean in it’s purest form – from meat, dairy and coconut products and whenever possible I buy the best organic, farm-reared, grass-fed full-fat versions. I am NOT talking about hydrogenated, trans fats or palm oil as found in processed junk foods – those are BAD fats
Continue reading for Jennifer’s powerful Q&As…
There has been a huge movement against the consumption of fatty foods over the past 30 years or so. So why is obesity such a challenge in America today?
Eating less animal fat hasn’t made us healthier or thinner. We have reduced the amount of animal fat we eat, but statistics show the total amount of fat in our diet has increased. Vegetable fats have been replaced by animal fats, which has resulted in a huge increase in polyunsaturated fat in our diet (which can depress your immune system). We’ve also added man-made trans fats to the mix, which everyone now agrees are not good for us.
It’s difficult to blame obesity on one thing. But it is definitely not consumption of animal fats. I think there are many causes — the way we eat, alone, in the car, walking down the street, the constant snacking. Increased consumption of low-fat, fat-free “foods” results in us eating more sugars and carbohydrates. These products don’t satisfy our hunger and leave us wanting to eat more. Eating good animal fat does, so you eat less.
It’s also how we relate to our food. We consume large portions of prepared foods, huge portions. Food is relatively cheap: We spend less than 10 percent of our income on it. Consequently, we don’t value it. Many see it simply as fuel or a medicine, not a pleasure. Because people have become so disconnected from their food, they fear it and continually break it down into good and bad elements. There’s also a widespread myth that making food from scratch takes too much time and is expensive. It may not always be quicker, but it is better for you and cheaper when all the costs are considered. If we cooked our food, sat down at a table with friends and family and enjoyed eating it, we would be healthier, happier and probably thinner.
The French appear to have a positive relationship with fat whereas North Americans do not. Why is that?
I think most cultures, especially the French, have a positive relationship with their food and this carries through to fat. Look at how the Ukrainians regard their salo [salt-rendered pork fat]. They see food as something to enjoy and celebrate, and they treat it with respect. It probably helps that their food is more expensive, but, for example, look at how the food is labeled in France. It states the origin, producer and tradition: Terroir is important, whereas here it is calories and chemical composition. In North America we fear our food, but we have to eat, so our relationship is hopelessly split. We lack a food culture. However, I believe many cultures are threatened today as they adopt American habits and embrace fast and industrial food. Even in France, which is not immune from the dominant American culture, there is a problem of obesity among the younger generation.
In the book you write, “We are a generation that is computer literate but food illiterate.”
I think many of us are food illiterate in the practical sense: We know the latest restaurant, hot new chef, current food trend or exotic vegetable, but we don’t know how to roast a chicken. The British critic A. A. Gill spoke of “a generation that can read a menu in three languages but cannot write a recipe in their own.”
Cooking should be a skill everybody masters. I am not talking about professional cooking. Everyone should know how to make something to eat. We all have to eat, and cooking dinner should be a simple, everyday act. It should be valued, not seen as a chore or a competitive sport. It is a rich, sensual experience that we can all take part in and enjoy. But we are now so far removed from the source of our food that we no longer have any instinctive knowledge about our food and how to prepare it. We don’t know if it is good or bad, ripe or rotten. Rather than listen to our grandparents, we turn to science and government — or worse, celebrities — to tell us how and what to eat. We let large companies prepare our food. It seems we can’t even wash lettuce anymore! We are sentencing future generations to ignorance and industrial food. Food shapes and expresses our culture, and our culture is revealed by how we treat and view our food.
How did animal fat, which was so popular in the early 20th century, lose out to Crisco?
Well, Crisco and other vegetable fats didn’t do that well at first. True, they were cheaper and popular with food manufacturers, but people preferred lard, suet, poultry fat and butter to cook with.
The vegetable fats were aggressively promoted, but it was not until the 1970s — when animal fat was declared “the greasy killer” and we were told to lower our consumption — that vegetable fats became “the healthy fats.” That’s when their sales took off.
So how exactly is cooking with animal fat better for us?
Unlike vegetable oils, animal fats are very stable and don’t turn rancid easily. This makes them ideal for cooking, which involves heating the fat. And they have no trans fats. It is much easier to roast a bird or a joint of meat if it has a good quantity of fat. The fat guarantees taste and succulence. Without it, the meat will be dry and tasteless. Animal fats have lots of good fatty acids that fight disease, help absorb vitamins and lower cholesterol. Your body burns the short-chained fatty acids found in animal fats and stores the long-chained ones found in polyunsaturated fat. It is a myth that eating animal fat makes you fat. Animal fat also has a good ratio of essential fatty acids. Many of us have a skewed ratio thanks to too much vegetable oil. When this ratio is out of balance, it results in illness and depression. But best of all, fat — with its big round molecules — tastes good, it feels good in your mouth, on your tongue and it carries flavors.
I hope this information and insight gave you perhaps a different perspective on saturated fats and the way in which we are used to perceiving them.
I will leave you with this quote by Dr. Alexander Rinehart:
“Saturated fats are good for you and are not necessarily harmful unless combined with a high sugar, high carb diet, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, man-made toxins in food, water, air, trans fats, insufficient omega 3 fats (ex fish oil) and genetic susceptibilities.”