For the past 30 years, the fats in our foods have been demonized as a leading cause of high cholesterol, heart disease and obesity.
Our fear of fats started with Ancel Keys, PhD. in the 1950s. Keys chose to report only certain data which he felt supported his own theory that fat consumption led to cardiovascular disease, and the media ran with his story in 1961. This resulted in the launch of the low/no-fat diet and the American Heart Association issued its first anti-fat guidelines.
Now we have new scientific research which has uncovered flaws in Keys’ early data – as it turns out, most of the fats in your diet are actually beneficial.
There are three types of fats:
- Unsaturated fats are found in healthy foods like avocados, olive oil, nuts, flaxseeds, soybeans, eggs, fish and chicken (white meat).
- Saturated fats become solid at room temperature and include butter, coconut oil, palm oil, cheese and dark chocolate. These fats are better for cooking at high heat.
- Trans fats are mostly artificially produced through partial hydrogenation (part of the process for converting liquid oil to solid) and are used to increase the shelf life of processed foods.
One study of more than 357,000 people found that eating saturated fats raises the good HDL levels in your blood and has no relationship to heart disease. Another study of Pacific Islanders, whose diet is derived largely from coconut oil, found remarkably few incidents of heart disease.
In his book, Grain Brain, Dr. David Perlmutter compares our ancestors’ diet (75% fat, 20% protein, 5% carbs) with our diet today (60% carbs, 20% protein, 20% fat). Dr. Perlmutter explains that conditions like Alzheimer's, ADHD, depression and anxiety are linked to inflammation in the brain and body, which is triggered by eating too many carbohydrates – not fats.
Other studies conclude that our obesity epidemic, which has doubled in the last 50 years, is not due to eating too much fat, but is a result of our over-consumption of sugar and carbohydrates.
Turns out Julia Child had it right from the beginning - “Enjoy eating fats - they are good for you!"