In a previous post, we discussed the fact that in and of themselves fats are not the dietary villains that they’ve been made out to be. And, in the recent years, people have started to wise up and add fats back in to their diets. But there is still a bit of a controversy at work here. People discuss “healthy” and “unhealthy” fats, drawing a line that leaves some fats still labeled as bad for you.
Specifically, saturated fats are still largely seen as something to be limited – if not avoided altogether. But recent research has called this idea into question and has even started to suggest that saturated fats could be good for you.
The Old and The New
According to the old research – the Seven Nations Study, conducted in the 1970s – saturated fats are terrible for your cardiovascular health. But that study was riddled with problems. Among the issues include the fact the researchers didn’t consider smoking habits or sugar consumption when deciding that saturated fats were the culprit.
Since then, people have clung to this view. Doubt emerged, however, when a 2010 study analyzed the results of 21 studies – which included 350,000 subjects – and found that saturated fats had no solid connection to cardiovascular disease. Since then, numerous studies have reproduced these results.
Not all experts are convinced, though. The main source of concern is physicians and dietary experts who have taken a look at these findings is that the studies are comparatively short-term. On average, the studies followed their subjects for about 14 years which really is not very long when observing this type of condition.
Even with these concerns being publicly voiced, though, many people have jumped on the opportunity to cram as much bacon in to their diets as possible. There is a need for caution, though.
Keep It Clean
A very interesting study from the Harvard School of Public Health gives reason to stop and think through your food choices. While the study found that there was no connection between saturated fats and heart disease, this was only the case with people who ate high-quality foods. The subjects who ate highly processed saturated fats, like hot dogs, did actually see an increased risk of heart disease.
So, as you integrate saturated fats back in to your diet, make sure that they come from quality sources like grass-fed meats, butter and eggs. Coconut is also an excellent source of clean saturated fats.
The Pros and Cons
But are there more reasons to eat saturated fats than just the pure enjoyment? Do they actually offer benefits to your body?
As it turns out, these fats are essential in keeping your body functioning properly. Among other things, saturated fats are good for liver health, immune function and hormone production.
It is true, though, that a diet high in saturated fats could be counterproductive if you are looking to lose weight. These foods, while not inherently fattening, tend to harbor more calorie-dense nutrient fats than other foods. This means that a food that contains a lot of saturated fats likely also contains a lot of calories. It is those excess calories that could later be stored as body fat if they are not used up to fuel your workouts or if you lead a sedentary non active lifestyle. That being said, though, portion control has been shown to have a powerful effect on weight-loss. One study found that even when the subjects were fed a diet that consisted of 90% fat, they lost more weight than groups that were given 90% protein or 90% carbohydrates.
Ultimately, then, saturated fats are not the poison that we were all once led to believe. In fact, they are necessary to maintain a healthy function throughout our body. As with all things, though, moderation is needed and you should stick to whole, unprocessed sources of this vital fat.