Fat has been unfairly labelled a dangerous foodstuff for decades now, and only recently has new evidence emerged that many of these foods are actually nutritiously rich and actually rather good for us. Much of this has been as a consequence of bad press, with the media quick to scaremonger people into believing that such foods are dangerous while stubbornly refusing to actually consider far stronger evidence that suggests the very opposite. Food high in saturated fat have been demonized as the cause of rising rates of obesity and heart disease, when in truth they are actually very good for the body. Here follows four of the most common ‘pariah’ foods.
Archaeologists agree that humans – in one form or another – started to eat meat around two million years ago. Today we are capable of being both carnivores and omnivores, and while it is possible to live a healthy vegetarian or vegan lifestyle the fact remains that meat has always provided us with a wealth of nutritious benefits.
The only issue with eating meat is being aware of the difference between how the animal- be it a chicken, cow, pig or whatever has been fed and how it has been raised.More often than not industrial farming uses grains to encourage animals to grow quickly and so be slaughtered sooner, maximising profit at the expense of the overall quality of the meat.Plus the animals frequently spend their lives indoors, pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. The consequence is that this meat produced is significantly lower quality than that from an animal raised on it’s natural diet and in it’s natural environment.
Beef is a good example of this. When comparing a grass fed and naturally reared cow to one unfortunate enough to have been factory raised the differences are quite staggering(1, 2, 3). Naturally reared cows have:
* More Omega 3 fatty acids and much less Omega 6
* Considerably more vitamins, especially A and E
* Higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which naturally reduces human body fat levels
Meat isn’t just valuable for it’s high levels of protein. It is also rich in essential vitamins such as K2, B3, B12, and creatine to name just a few. These vitamins and minerals are very difficult to find in a vegetarian diet.
In recent years nutritionists have revisited this debate and conducted some vast studies to try and determine if consumption of red meat can be directly associated with increased rates of diabetes and heart disease. One project followed one million people and found no evidence that the consumption of unprocessed red meat led to increased risks of contracting chronic illness(4).
The bottom line is that meat is good for us, with the only caveat being to try and consume the better quality cuts and steer clear of consuming too much processed products.
The campaign against butter has been very similar to that against meat and is equally full of misguided assumptions that it is intrinsically bad for us. In reality butter is a natural foodstuff that when produced from the milk of healthy grass fed cows is in fact really quite good for us(5, 6, 7).
Just like beef sourced from quality cattle, butter from these animals is rich in vitamin K2 that is fantastic for keeping healthy bones and contains the healthy fats that can actually help the heart stay strong(8, 9, 10).
Another valuable nutrient is the short chain fatty acid by turate that helps maintain a healthy digestive tract and reduces inflammation. Butter also has plenty of CLA(11), which as mentioned above is believed to help reduce excess fat and encourage a leaner physique.
Studies suggest that the consumption of butter is in fact related to lower levels of obesity and cannot be linked with any increased susceptibility to metabolic illness(12).
So provided the butter is natural and good quality, there’s no reason at all to exclude it from a diet.
Humans have eaten eggs since time immemorial, and quite rightly so because they are one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods going. Just think about it – that egg has all of the core ingredients to create a living creature – they are packed full of essential vitamins, minerals and protein and really ought to be a part of anyone’s healthy diet.
Of course eggs have taken such a bad press in recent decades because they have been inaccurately associated with high levels of cholesterol that can contribute towards heart disease. People who believe this do not understand how cholesterol works within the body – it really is that simple.
Cholesterol consumed through food does not directly raise levels of bad cholesterol within the blood, and eggs have great benefits for actually maintaining a healthy blood lipid profile(13, 14, 15). 17 studies aggregated their results and showed there to be no link between the consumption of eggs and higher rates of chronic disease.(16)
Contrary to the popular myth egg yolks are the best bit of an egg as they contain the majority of the vitamins and minerals – and what a wealth of these they possess. Eggs are rich sources of(17):
* Vitamins A, B2, B5, B12 +many others
* Phosphorous, selenium, iron + others
* Essential antioxidants
* Choline (brain function)
* Omega 3 – try to eat those specifically enriched in this excellent mineral
All of these benefits are available for less than eighty calories per egg, and don’t forget the 5-6g of healthy protein either.(18).
4- Coconut Oil
At 90% saturated it’s no surprise that coconut oil has been lambasted as being a food stuff that is intrinsically bad for human health. Once again this is far from the truth and regular consumption of good quality coconut oil can in fact have excellent benefits for health.
Around half of the fat within coconut oil is 12 carbon lauric acid that is great for fighting off bacteria and other pathogens(21, 22, 23). Not only is it good for the immune system, recent studies have suggested that despite it’s high fat content coconut oil can actually assist people in losing weight.
Half of the fats (12 Carbon Lauric Acid) that make up coconut oil is processed directly within the liver, providing a significant metabolic ‘rush’ that encourages the body to burn energy(24). They also suppress the desire to consume food and give rise to a healthy sense of satiety.
Only consume unprocessed virgin coconut oils as the mass produced brands tend to have lower benefits to health due to the presence of additive and preservatives.
Hopefully this examination of these four foods will have highlighted that some of the advice that we still take for granted doled out by scientists and nutritionists is at best outdated and at worst quite frankly wrong. When all of these foods are consumed responsibly they can provide excellent fuel for our bodies – just do try to source the best quality that can be found to maximize these benefits.
By Kris Gunnars