Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Give Me Animal Fat (and Lots of It) or Give Me Death! (Literally)

When I tell people that I eat an exorbitant amount of animal fat and only consume whole fat milk, yogurt and cheese, they look at me like I am crazy and ask, "But how are you are so skinny?" (Personally, I prefer the term "fit," but I'll even take "thin" over "skinny" any day of the week.)

My answer is usually something to the tune of "because fat from grass-fed and pastured meat and dairy doesn't make us fat and is full of nutrients that keep me . . . fit."
 

Unfortunately, my impassioned pleas usually don't stick; decades of incessant calls for low-fat everything (coming from everyone and their mother) have so engrained this thinking into the mindset of everyone and their mother.

Very slowly, though, word is spreading that the correlation between fat and fat is very misplaced. And when yesterday's daily email ("6 Healthy Fats You Should Be Eating") from Rodale News touched on this topic, I smiled broadly. But most people would think that these healthy fats include avocado, nuts and wild salmon. Instead, Rodale centers on the traditional nutritional powerhouses of butter, lard and duck fat, saturated animal fats that are considered verboten by the majority of the world's doctors, nutritionists, dieticians, trainers, talk show hosts, air traffic controllers, plumbers, politicians and poets.

Says Rodale:

"For years, you’ve heard that fat is bad. It causes heart disease. It makes you fat. Too much will give you a stroke! But your brain is 60 percent fat. Fat helps you feel fuller and eat less over time, and it’s crucial to building cells and protecting your organs. In fact, nutrition science is beginning to turn on its head the idea that all fat is bad for you, with high-profile nutritionists like Walter Willett, Dr.P.H., professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health and a professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, working to debunk the idea that low-fat diets are healthier. Many of the recommendations that we all follow regarding fat, he’s found, are based on rather weak science that has been repeatedly questioned over the decades. Even saturated fat, research is finding, increases HDL (good) cholesterol, which helps remove plaque from your artery walls and decreases your risk of heart disease.

"But it’s all about quality. There are some fats that you should avoid, namely manmade trans fats and omega-6-heavy polyunsaturated fatty acids that are abundant in vegetable oils, like corn and soy, abundant in the modern Western diet and guilty of increasing your risk of heart disease.

"So don’t ban fat. Ban bad fats. These six healthy fats provide you with nutrients you need, though they’ve been wrongly demonized over the years. As a general rule, whatever kinds of fat you buy, purchase certified-organic plant oils and pastured or grass-fed animal fats to minimize your exposure to pesticide and antibiotic residues.
"
Specifically, here is the recap of butter's nutritional prowess:
"Yes, butter contains a high amount of saturated fat. About 50 percent of the fat contained in this maligned staple is saturated. But, says cardiologist Drew Ramsey, M.D., coauthor of The Happiness Diet (Rodale, 2010), 'the good thing about saturated fats is that they’re less reactive,' meaning they don’t oxidize when subjected to high heats the way many vegetable oils do. Oxidation of fats can lead to a buildup of LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and contribute to heart disease. In addition, butter is rich in vitamin A and helps your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins in other foods. Just don’t go crazy; stick with a few teaspoons of butter when you sauté your vegetables. 'A little goes a long way,' says Dr. Ramsey."
And the one for lard:
"The prime example of fats we all thought were bad for us, lard (rendered pork fat) may have been wrongly demonized for years. The main fat in lard—oleic acid—is a monounsaturated fat linked to decreased risk of depression, says Dr. Ramsey. Those same monounsaturated fats, which make up 45 percent of the fat in lard, are responsible for lowering LDL levels while leaving HDL ('good') cholesterol levels alone. Lard’s saturated fat content is just 35 percent, with polyunsaturated fats making up the balance. It also tolerates high cooking temperatures and is a great substitute for vegetable shortenings, which contain unhealthy trans fats, in baking. 'I only have three oils in my kitchen: olive oil, butter, and lard,' says Dr. Ramsey."
Low-fat anything? Pafooey! Click here to read the whole report.

4 comments:

Kelly said...

Hey Rob,
I've been reading your blog for a while, and more and more I've been buying into the nutrient dense food paradigm. I was wondering, perhaps you would never deep-fry a sweet potato; but if you did, which oil would you use? I think I've heard that peanut oil is a high-heat oil, but how bad is it for you to eat?

Chef Rob said...

Kelly,

Thanks for reading and I'm glad to hear that you are jumping aboard the nutrient-dense bandwagon. Thanks for the post idea; check tomorrow's post for my response.

Nutmegger said...

Hey Rob,

Have you gotten your cholesterol checked recently?

A couple of years ago I went to see a nutritionist who convinced me that "high-quality fat" is in actually good for you. Essentially, she offered the same reasoning as the articles sited on your blog. For about 5-6 months, I consumed various organic butter and "grass-fed" protein/fat in moderate amounts and I even lost a little weight! I went in for a regular checkup a couple of months later and I was shocked to find my cholesterol going through the roof. My doctor showed my cholesterol history for the past 5 years and it spiked during the time I was on that diet.

The whole thing was quite disturbing because:
1. I couldn't believe my cholesterol was so high because I looked thin and fit.
2. I couldn't believe my "health-conscious" nutritionist could be so wrong.

I am back on my regular diet which is cooking w/ mostly olive oil and canola oil and my cholesterol has come down since. I thought I share my experience w/ you on the off chance that you have not had your cholesterol checked recently. Even if you are a healthy person w/ low cholesterol, not everyone will metabolize fat the same way. Just something to think about.

Chef Rob said...

There's another way of thinking--one that we won't hear on the NBC Today Show or from many doctors or from many drug reps--that believes that the uproar over cholesterol is misguided and a myth. There are three sides to every story, but check out "The Cholesterol Myths" by Uffe Ravnskov and "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes. For starters, Taubes argues that one's cholesterol number is an absolute oversimplification and that there are other numbers and ratios that we should be much, much more concerned with. (Even the LDL/HDL split is a simplification.)

To answer the question: No, I haven't had my cholesterol checked lately because I, personally, don't think it matters at all. Put me in the same camp as your ex-nutritionist.