What You Need To Know About Saturated Fat
Too often today, the relative “healthiness” of fats is defined too narrowly.
Mono and polyunsaturated fats are most often considered “good,” while saturated fats are met with a big old “BAD” label quickly and aggressively.
What many people don’t realize is that saturated fat can provide several health benefits. Yes, you heard that right – saturated fats can actually be good for you.
WHAT IS SATURATED FAT?
Saturated fats are simply fat molecules with no double bonds between carbon molecules. They’re typically solid at room temperature.
The majority of saturated fat comes from animal sources, including meat and dairy. Common examples of foods containing saturated fat include:
- Poultry with skin
- Lard and cream
- Dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk
CHOLESTEROL AND HEART DISEASE
Saturated fats have a bad reputation for raising cholesterol levels. But interestingly, cholesterol is another word that people wrongly associate with negativity. In reality your body needs cholesterol to function properly. Every cell membrane in our body uses cholesterol and its essential to the creation hormones like cortisol and testosterone.
Consuming saturated fat is often seen as a risk factor for heart disease, as it raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, commonly referred to as the “bad” cholesterol. However, new data shows there are subtypes of LDL: small dense LDL that can easily penetrate the arterial wall and large LDL that are not associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Saturated fats actually raise the large LDL, the benign subtype of LDL. Therefore, heart disease is not as large of a factor as many sources might tell you.
In addition, a commonly unknown fact is that saturated fats also raise HDL cholesterol, or the so-called “good” cholesterol, specifically known for lowering your chance of developing heart disease.
A large review article published in 2010 looked at the data from 21 different studies across a total of 347,747 individuals and found no association between saturated fat and the risk of heart disease.
The media and health professionals alike have blindly accepted the common notion that consuming saturated fats increases your risk of heart disease, but in reality, the link has never been proven.
BRAIN, BONES AND BODY
Interestingly, the majority of your brain is made up of fat and cholesterol – and the majority of that fat is saturated fat! So basically, consuming saturated fat is essential to the growth, regeneration and overall health of your brain.
Saturated fat is also necessary for calcium to be incorporated into your bones. The fat is important in creating a high bone density that can help decrease your risk of degeneration and injury.
The presence of saturated fat is also important within your white blood cells. These blood cells need saturated fat in order to properly recognize and destroy foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria.
Bonus Fun Fact:
When you’re cooking something at a high heat, saturated fats like butter are a better option because they are much less likely than unsaturated fats to react with oxygen. Unsaturated fats, polyunsaturated in particular, contain double bonds that make them prone to oxidation, and the risk of forming toxic byproducts.
SKIP THE PROPAGANDA
Many healthy foods are naturally rich in saturated fat. Meats, eggs and high-fat dairy products, in particular, are highly nutritious and contain an abundance of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, E and K2.
Don’t fall victim to the misconception. Buying into the notion that saturated fat is inherently bad for you can lead to an avoidance of a fat that’s essential to your health.
Next time you hear the propaganda telling you something is “good” or “bad” for you, make sure to go a step further - towards a better understanding of what your body truly needs. Rather than mislabeling something, first take a look at how it can actually benefit your health.
“8 Reasons Why Saturated Fats Are Not That Bad.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 25 Feb. 2013, www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-8-reasons-not-to-fear-saturated-fats#section5.
“Benefits Of Saturated Fat (Yep, You Read That Right!).” The Model Health Show, 23 July 2014, theshawnstevensonmodel.com/benefits-of-saturated-fat/.
“Saturated Fat.” American Heart Association, healthyforgood.heart.org/Eat-smart/Articles/Saturated-Fats.