My 2 New Best Friends: Saturated Fat & Cholesterol
Life without Saturated Fat & Cholesterol
There was a time in my life when I counted calories, chose skim milk in my lattes, the low-fat box of crackers, and the highest fiber cereal. As far as was within my control, I completely avoided those two notorious villains. You know who I mean… those murderous, artery clogging, obesity-causing assassins: Saturated Fat & Cholesterol. That’s what any sensible person hoping to keep her dress size and live past her 50s would do right?
I got along okay like that for awhile.
But motherhood hit me like a tidal wave.
My babies came along 1, 2, 3, 4 in under 5 years! Combine this with the fact that I’d been on a low-fat, mostly vegetarian diet for years and you’ll understand that my body had been worn to a frazzle. I became so hopelessly fatigued, I was almost non-functional.
One day, a sweet friend of mine suggested that I ought to have my thyroid checked out. So off to the endocrinologist I went, and sure enough, she was right. My thyroid was low. *This of course was very good news to me, because – there’s a medication for that!*
I had hope that my health would improve, and it seemed to… for awhile.
But eventually, the fatigue returned and the medication needed to be increased. This was unsettling to me. I was just beginning to realize the implications of being on a life-long prescription medication. I was only in my 20s!
The Book That Introduced Me to My New Friends: Saturated Fat & Cholesterol
As I searched around the internet looking for.. I’m not sure what I was looking for. Hope? I came across a recommendation for the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. (More on this book here.) I checked it out from the library and parked myself out on the porch in my hammock chair and began to read.
When I came to the chapter on fats I was incredulous.. to say the least. Sally claimed that a truly healthy diet included large amounts of SATURATED FAT and CHOLESTEROL!??!? You see, I’d taken enough dietetics classes in college to know that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease. The claims in this book were absolute heresy! I almost put the book down in disgust, but praise the Lord I kept reading, irritated as I was. Finally I came across these words:
“High serum cholesterol levels often indicate that the body needs cholesterol to protect itself… Just as a large police force is needed in a locality where crime occurs frequently, so cholesterol is needed in a poorly nourished body to protect the individual from a tendency to heart disease and cancer. Blaming coronary heart disease on cholesterol is like blaming the police for murder and theft in a high crime area.
Poor thyroid function will often result in high cholesterol levels. (??!!?!!!) When thyroid function is poor, usually due to a diet high in sugar (ahem) and low in usable iodine, fat-soluble vitamins, and other nutrients, the body floods the blood with cholesterol as an adaptive and protective mechanism, providing a superabundance of materials needed to heal tissues and produce protective steroids.” (Source)
I was shocked! As shocked as you’d be if a palm reader ACTUALLY told you things that no one else knows about your life. Not that I recommend palm readers, mind you. You see, my endocrinologist had ordered several blood tests. One of them, my cholesterol test, had come back very high. How on earth could my cholesterol be high?!?
When I questioned him, he mentioned that he really didn’t know why, but his thyroid patients often had high cholesterol and that the best thing for me to do would be to (get this, are you ready?) – try eating a low-cholesterol diet.
I was a vegetarian! Cholesterol is ONLY found in animal products. How was I supposed to eat less cholesterol?
Sally’s words made so much sense.
THAT’S WHY I had high cholesterol!
My body was trying to protect me from thyroid disease!!!
So I threw everything I’d ever learned about saturated fat and cholesterol out the window.. YAHOO!! Goodbye you pack of lies!
I had listened to my college professors, to the media, to the endocrinologist. And where did it get me? – on a life-long prescription medication, that not only would never heal my thyroid, but actually made it worse over time!
I hopped right up out of that hammock chair and made myself some lunch.
I’m telling you, it was the best lunch I ever had!
I sat down to a plate full of fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh summer tomatoes, and sourdough toast slathered in butter. And I ate. it. up. Yum!
Not just yum, though. I was FULL, as in, totally satisfied. And I never, ever looked back!
I decided that day that instead of avoiding saturated fat and cholesterol, we were going to be best friends!
After all, they were trying to save my life!
And just like that, I was FREE of the low-fat, calorie-counting, cholesterol-watching diets I had been trained to follow! Hallelujah!
Are All Kinds of Fat Good for You?
Some of the most common polyunsaturated fats are: Canola Oil, Safflower Oil, Soybean Oil, Corn Oil, Cottonseed Oil, Sunflower Oil, and Vegetable Oil. Basically all the oils that the media and their cronies regularly tell you are “healthy fats” – Don’t buy it friends. Not true!
What’s so bad about polyunsaturated oils?
- Polyunsaturated oils are not stable (saturated) and so can easily become oxidized or rancid when subjected to heat, oxygen, or moisture (or in other words these oils will be rancid long before they even make it to your kitchen because of the high-heat, chemical processing used to produce them – and if by some magic they weren’t already rancid, you’d surely oxidize them when you use them to cook.)
- Rancid oils are characterized by free radicals, which are extremely reactive, and act as “marauders” in the body, attacking cells and causing damage to DNA strands, triggering mutations. Free radicals damage the skin causing wrinkles, and premature aging. They damage the tissues causing tumors. And they damage the blood vessels causing the buildup of plaque.
Saturated fats were framed! WHO’S the one clogging arteries? That’s right, it’s polyunsaturated oils.
- And new evidence links exposure to free radicals with autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s and cataracts.
And good heavens! Don’t you ever eat margarine again! Promise? Even if it says “heart-healthy” on the label? All margarine is simply a combination of the above oils + toxic chemicals and preservatives. Yuck!
Saturated Fats on the Other Hand:
Saturated fats are those fats that remain solid at room temperature. They are very stable and not very susceptible to rancidity, even when heated. They are a safe, nourishing source of much needed calories and other nutrients, cherished by our ancestors. These include: Pork Lard, Beef Tallow, Butter, Ghee, Coconut Oil, and Palm Oil.
- Are an important source of fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K, especially so when sourced from grass-fed animals!
- Give necessary stiffness and integrity to the cells in our bodies.
- Are needed in order to effectively incorporate calcium into the skeletal structure.
- Protect the liver from alcohol and other toxins.
- Enhance the immune system.
- Are Needed for proper utilization of essential fatty acids.
- Are the preferred food for the heart, which is why the fat around the heart muscle is highly saturated. The heart draws on this reserve in times of stress.
- Have important antimicrobial properties, protecting against harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract.
- DO NOT clog arteries! Actually, only about 26% of the fat in a clogged artery is saturated, the rest? You guessed it. It’s polyunsaturated!
What about Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is only found in animal products. Eggs, butter, and liver are exceptionally cholesterol-rich foods, which have been prized by traditional people groups for thousands of years!
- Along with saturated fats, cholesterol gives our cells necessary stiffness and stability. When the diet contains an excess of polyunsaturated fatty acids, these replace saturated fatty acids in the cell membrane, so that the cell walls actually become flabby. When this happens, cholesterol from the blood is “driven” into the tissues to give them structural integrity. This is why serum cholesterol levels may go down temporarily when we replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated oils in the diet.
- Helps us to deal with stress.
- Acts as a precursor to sex hormones like androgen, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.
- Is a precursor to vitamin D, which is needed for healthy bones and nervous system, proper growth, mineral metabolism, muscle tone, insulin production, reproduction and immune system function.
- Bile salts are made from cholesterol, which are vital for digestion and the assimilation of fats.
- Acts as an antioxidant, protecting us against free radical damage that leads to heart disease and cancer.
- Needed for proper function of serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is the body’s natural “feel-good” chemical. Low cholesterol levels have been linked to aggressive and violent behavior, depression and suicidal tendencies.
- Mother’s milk is especially rich in cholesterol. Babies and children need cholesterol-rich foods throughout their growing years to ensure proper brain development.
- Plays an important role in maintaining the health of the intestinal wall. This is why low-cholesterol vegetarian diets can lead to leaky gut and other intestinal disorders... ask me how I know.
All animal products should be sourced from organic, pasture-based, preferably local, sustainable farms. CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feed Operations) produce toxic animals that pass along all the hormones, steroids, and antibiotics they’ve consumed to you. This is especially true in the case of fats because toxins are stored in the fat cells of animals. Not only that, but the nutritional content of fat from animals who have grazed outside in the sunshine will be far superior! Guess where all that vitamin D is stored? Yep. In the fat.
- Butter, Ghee, and Tallow – should be sourced from 100% grass-fed cows. Kerrygold is a great brand. We buy it for a good price at Costco. If you have a source for raw cultured butter, all the better!
- Lard (and Bacon)– from pigs who spend time out in the sunshine and who are never given GMO feed. Lard is an especially good source of vitamin D! You can buy it online, but you’ll find that it’s ever so much less expensive to find a local farmer and render it yourself. Local Harvest, Eatwild, and The Weston A. Price Foundation are all great resources for finding local farms.
- Coconut, Palm, and other Tropical Oils – are often bleached and refined using chemical solvents. For that reason, I strongly recommend that you find an organic source for your tropical oils. If you can find a cold-pressed oil, even better – as it will retain more of its medicinal properties. We buy our’s at Costco. You can also find reasonably priced oils on amazon and in bulk at Tropical Traditions (Get on their mailing list. They frequently send out free shipping coupon codes.)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Flax Seed Oil, Avocado Oil, Almond oil, and Sesame Oil – are a few of the unsaturated oils that can CAREFULLY be used in moderation. These fats should be very minimally processed, cold-pressed, unrefined, and NEVER, EVER HEATED! (Here’s the olive oil we use.) Use them in your salad dressings, your homemade mayo, your DIY lotions, but don’t saute your veggies in them! Just don’t! You don’t want free radicals marauding around your body looking for cells to destroy, do you? No? Then make sure you’ve always got a jar of bacon grease nearby for cooking. Okay?
Begin by simply switching the fats you use to cook at home in your kitchen. Throw away those toxic, cell-destroying fats that have been hiding in your pantry and replace them with a few healthy, nourishing fats.
At our house we typically use:
- Butter, lard, or bacon grease to roast or saute veggies, to fry pancakes or salmon patties, or to pop popcorn on the stove.
- Melted butter or coconut oil for baking.
- Olive oil for salad dressings or to drizzle over veggies after they are removed from heat.
- And obviously, we use lots of butter for spreading as well.
It’s not easy to completely avoid toxic polyunsaturated oils. They are in everything! You just try to find a packaged product that doesn’t contain at least one toxic oil… even at the health food store! I’m looking at YOU Trader Joe’s! (There are actually a few reliable brands, but you’re likely to strain your eyes reading ingredient labels before you finally find them.)
I hate to break it to you, but if you really want to avoid toxic, cancer-causing oils, you’ll probably need to spend a little more time in the kitchen.
Fortunately, it’s not so bad spending time in the kitchen when you get to cook with things like BUTTER and BACON!
Am I right?
Won’t Eating More Fat Make Me Fat?
Fat does not make you fat!!! I promise!
What it does do is keep you satisfied for MUCH longer. It gives you energy and alertness. It improves every function in your body. It makes you able to LIVE life!
Don’t be afraid!
Repeat after me:
“Fat does not make me fat.”
“Rancid oils make me fat.”
“Sugar makes me fat.”
“Prescription medications make me fat.”
“Hormone-disrupting toxins make me fat.”
“But good, nourishing saturated fat DOES NOT make me fat.”
So get up, throw everything you thought you knew about my dear friends, Saturated Fat and Cholesterol, out the window and go make yourself the most delicious, satisfying, heart-nourishing lunch you’ve ever had!
Have you made friends with Saturated Fat and Cholesterol?
What are your favorite sources of these two nutrients?
Other Posts in This Series:
And as always friends, please remember that I’ve got kids sledding down the stairs on Costco boxes as I write to you…
So, if you think I’ve forgotten something important, have any questions or comments, or simply a bit of encouragement to share, please use the comments below, send me an email, or find us on Facebook.
I’d love to hear from you.