I keep getting asked about saturated fat after several flashy media reports about sat fat not being the cause of heart disease. The answer isn’t so simple. To me, it begs for a heavy dose of simple common sense.
Here’s an email response to a friend about this topic over the summer. It summarizes my thoughts without getting into the nitty gritty of nutrition epidemiology. I thought it would be worth sharing. Here it is:
Hey, I’m in the Adirondacks with spotty cell service. I’m in Lake Placid right now doing a few errands & just peeking at this so I wanted to write back my quick thoughts.
I don’t think it’s as simple as saying that cutting out carbohydrates and replacing with sat fat will work for everyone. The data on Mediterranean Diet seems much more useful to me when we look beyond just body weight. How can people best protect themselves from chronic disease as they get to a healthier weight? How can they stay at a healthy weight for good? How can they decrease inflammation? How can learn to eat minimally processed foods? How the heck can they get in the kitchen and cook more? How can they feel better? To me, that’s what matters.
Refined carbohydrates are problematic. No denying that. Replacing refined carbs with small amounts of whole grains or gluten-free carbs for active people makes sense to me. The fiber in good carbs should help justify smaller carb portions. It’s also an opportunity to add some disease preventing nutrients.
Saturated fat should still be taken in smaller amounts than healthier monounsaturated and omega 3 fats. People unfortunately interpret ‘sat fat is good’ and the bacon, beef jerky and hamburgers (no bun) start becoming the norm. We KNOW that’s problematic for inflammation and cancer.
So, if we’re going to say that ‘sat fats not so bad’, I really think we need to highlight that people choose saturated fat sources in moderation from grass-fed beef or coconut oil whenever possible and NOT from nitrate-laden super processed forms. Also, we NEED to highlight that they need far more fruits and vegetables and plant-based foods too.
In short, most people need to eat less, move move, eat far more plants and fewer animals, sleep better, stress less, etc. And, they need to enjoy the outdoors more (best medicine).
I’m stealing wireless so my time is short. Back to Boston on Tuesday unless I just stay here forever. The Adirondacks are too beautiful for words (best medicine).