Why You NEED Saturated Fat

Coconut Why You NEED Saturated Fat

One of my favorite writers, Tim Ferriss, author of the fabulous new book The 4-Hour Body, has a great article on his blog about the vital importance of saturated fats. Written by Dr. Michael Eades and Dr. Mary Eades (two of the top Bariatric doctors in the country), this article gives great scientific backing for the dietary importance of saturated fat.

According to the article:

Saturated Fat to Lose Weight?

Two doctors, one looking for a cure for allergies, and the other looking to help patients with colitis and Crohn’s disease, stumbled upon a rapid cure for belly fat. Both also helped their patients see improvement with the problems they set out to fix, and both noted that overweight patients lost a lot of weight in the process. News of their new way to treat obesity spread and soon both were overwhelmed with new patients looking for help in weight loss. They both wrote books (published in the 60′s and 70′s) about their methods.

How did they do it?

Both had their clients follow an all-meat diet. This was before the negative hype about fat, and these doctors even had patients with heart disease follow an all-meat diet with good results.

Fast forward a couple decades and we are up to our hairlines in negative news about fat, but what these doctors discovered still holds true today. Why did it work? Because the body needs fats (including and especially saturated fat) to function! An all-meat diet also eliminates harmful grains and processed foods, which would also aid in weight loss and benefit the body.

Later, Dr. Atkins later discovered that on an all-meat diet, uric acid in the body rises to dangerous levels, but the benefits of saturated fats (and proteins) can’t be ignored. Today, many people who follow a paleo or primal type diet notice similar benefits from a diet high in saturated fat, protein and vegetables and low in grains, processed foods and carbs.

The doctors explain:

You see with just a glance at [our suggested meal plans] that we’ve included fatty cuts of meat, chicken with the skin, bacon, eggs, butter, coconut oil, organic lard, and heavy cream in the plan. Aren’t we worried that these foods will increase your risk of heart disease and raise your cholesterol? In a word, nope. In fact, we encourage you to make these important fats a regular part of your healthy diet. Why? Because humans need them and here are just a few reasons why.

Why You Need Saturated Fats

The article lists the following benefits of adding saturated fat to your diet (while also eating a healthy variety of proteins and vegetables):

1. Cardiovascular Benefits

Adequate saturated fat intake helps the body reduce levels of lipoprotein, a risk factor for heart disease. They note that there are currently no drugs that reduce levels of lipoprotein, so a high saturated fat diet is the only way to do so. Saturated fat also helps raise HDL cholesterol and contributes to overall weight loss (which has been shown to reduce risk of heart disease).

2. Bone Health

While calcium is absolutely necessary for bone health, saturated fat is necessary for calcium absorption.

According to one of the foremost research experts in dietary fats and human health, Mary Enig, Ph.D., there’s a case to be made for having as much as 50 percent of the fats in your diet as saturated fats for this reason. That’s a far cry from the 7 to 10 percent suggested by mainstream institutions

As women are told to reduce saturated fat and replace it with processed oils like vegetable and canola, it is logical that they begin to see bone loss.

3. Optimal Liver Function

The liver is central to many body functions including proper fat storage, metabolism, nutrient absorption and detoxification. Saturated fat helps protect the liver from the harmful effects of medicines and alcohol and signals the liver to dump fat stores. Other oils do not offer these benefits.

4. Strong Lungs

The lungs are coated with a slippery substance made up of, you guessed it: saturated fats. when the body doesn’t have proper amounts of these and has to replace this coating with other types of fats, breathing difficulties can ensue. It was even found that premature babies in respiratory distress syndrome lack this proper fat.

Some researchers feel that the wholesale substitution of partially hydrogenated (trans) fats for naturally saturated fats in commercially prepared foods may be playing a role in the rise of asthma among children.

5. Healthy Brain

The brain is made up of fats and cholesterol, mainly saturated fat. A diet low in saturated fats deprives the brain of the building blocks in needs for proper repair and function.

6. Nerve Communication

While dietary fat was given the blame for diabetes by some doctors, it seems that fat does contribute but in a much different way!

Certain saturated fats, particularly those found in butter, lard, coconut oil, and palm oil, function directly as signaling messengers that influence the metabolism, including such critical jobs as the appropriate release of insulin.

With insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome reaching near epidemic levels, the importance of dietary fat for this role alone can’t be overstated. Fortunately, doctors are finally starting to acknowledge the role of excess carbohydrates in insulin related problems.

7. Immune System Function

Saturated fats play a critical role in the function of a healthy immune system as well:

Saturated fats found in butter and coconut oil (myristic acid and lauric acid) play key roles in immune health. Loss of sufficient saturated fatty acids in the white blood cells hampers their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Human breast milk is quite rich in myristic and lauric acid, which have potent germ-killing ability. But the importance of the fats lives on beyond infancy; we need dietary replenishment of them throughout adulthood, middle age, and into seniority to keep the immune system vigilant against the development of cancerous cells as well as infectious invaders.

Read the full article. Dr. Eades has a new book that explains all of these findings in greater detail.

Eating saturated fats, especially in large amounts, is counter cultural at this point, but hopefully, this trend will soon change. In the meantime, science is increasingly showing the importance of saturated fats in the diet, and those who choose to eat these fats are often noticing great results. So how much fat does one need? I’ve seen many opinions, even from those on board with saturated fat consumption, but the general consensus seems to be that 30-50% of calories from fat in the diet is highly beneficial. This is what I consume personally and what I often recommend.

Recipes containing saturated fat (scroll down)

More information on the role of dietary fat in the body.

Ready to jump on the saturated fat bandwagon or still disagree? Let me know below!

Reader Comments

  1. says

    thanks for the tip of this article..I been trying to keep a low-fat diet and what it does is deprive the cushion between muscles , organs and blood vessels.jogging and sprint running not only open up unseen muscles but burn the fat between them and hard to get back ..You feel tired , fatigue , muscles cant relax cause their not fat to cushion ..I learn my lesson and a low fat diet is not always the best thing especially if you have a high speed metabolism anyway ..

  2. mhikl says

    Alzheimer’s disease came to light in 1978. The low fat diet had been espoused by Ansel Keys since at least the late forties and it took that long for the damage to the brain to become endemic. Butter, ghee, homemade lard and tallow are my primary fats for cooking. Raw beef fat and butter are used in my paleo diet. The benefits are noticeable. I tried Dean Ornish’s diet and saw great weight gain and misery over four months. Listen to your body and avoid Allopathic medicine is my rule and I have never felt healthier. (Avoid processed lard and render your own. Raw lard can be found in Asian meat markets.) Check out Sally Fallon at Weston A. Price Foundation.

  3. Nina Brooge says

    i follow a low fat high carb vegan diet and I have never felt better. Low carb is stupid. Your body runs off of carbs.

    • Jenny Penrod says

      Nina,
      … Unless you’re like me. I’m insulin resistant and at high risk of developing diabetes because of a genetic disease (PCOS) and family medical history. On top of that, I’m allergic to wheat (I’m 32 and I just found this out like 2 weeks ago). So is one of my best friends. My doctor told me to stop eating most grains. I still eat beans & whole grains like corn, oats and wild rice, but not every day, and mostly because it’s what the food bank gives us. In the 1st 4 months I started eliminating white rice, white potatoes and white wheat from my diet, I lost 40+ pounds. Honestly, the carbs/sugar (processed into fat by my liver) that I’ve consumed in the last 32 years and my body hasn’t utilized (see the afore mentioned insulin resistance and PCOS) is likely to be enough to last a lifetime. The human body processes and utilizes protein, fat and fiber (veggies!) much more efficiently than it does grains/carbohydrates. Did you ever notice how fields birds go after grass seeds (grain) like it’s candy? But they have gizzards. Last I looked, we don’t. Please don’t assume your way is the only way or the “right way” to eat, or that what works for you will work for everyone or anyone else.

      Katie, any advice on dealing with insulin resistance, PCOS, and Fibromyalgia from your vast stores of knowledge (especially on a really tight budget) would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for all the awesome information you share with all o’d us.

      • Nina Brooge says

        This frustrates me. There is a difference between low carb and gluten-free/wheat free/grain-free. Carbohydrates does not just mean bread. Potatoes, rice, and fruit are all carbs. I eat a very high fruit diet. I agree with you that refined sugars and white wheat (or really any wheat) are not the best for out bodies. The body will turn excess of anything into fat. The body prefers to run off of carbohydrates. This is common knowledge. If you don’t eat enough carbohydrates, the body will turn the protein and fat that you do eat, into to glucose. So it is easier for the body to run off of carbohydrates from the start, than it is for the body to convert the fat and protein into carbohydrates. Turning protein into carbohydrates requires the removal of nitrogen from the protein. That eventually has to go through your kidneys and is excreted into the urine. That is very taxing on your kidneys if you eat a high protein diet. You can also get ketosis from turning fat into glucose. So I believe that eating carbohydrates is healthy. It can be brown rice and sweet potatoes if you are trying to stay away from the white stuff. Advice for a really tight budget. Cooking beans from scratch and brown rice. Really cheap.

        • Nina Brooge says

          P.S. Never said that low fat high carb vegan is for everybody.I stated what works for me, my opinion of eating low carb, and a fact.

  4. Allison Smith says

    Please reconsider advocating (and ingesting) saturated fat. Our bodies have no need for saturated fat, only polyunsaturated fats (omega 3 & 6 found in plants). Coconut oil is no
    panacea, it has virtually nothing in it but artery clogging saturated fat. I have to wonder if you have any way of personally verifying your claims of healthfulness. Do we have your word that your Doctor(s) also agree that you’re in robust health? Do we have your word that you have a healthy BMI? I just can’t imagine that anyone’s blood work can come back normal after ingesting a 1/4 cup of fatty oil each day. Bad medical advice is flooding America, and we are the worse for it. Our number one killer is heart disease. America didn’t get this way by avoiding oil and embracing their vegetables and starches! Just the opposite, oil consumption has risen rapidly in recent decades. Let me just leave you with a thought: if oil is such a necessity, than how did the human body evolve for so long without it? Industrial oil presses are a rather recent invention in the grand scheme of things.

      • Allison Smith says

        According to the CDC, heart disease has been the number one killer in the US since 1921. That’s almost a hundred years! Not much has changed in the American diet since then (we’re still very much a meat and potato country), but there have been reductions in cigarette usage and major advances in medical care. To suggest that saturated fats are responsible is laughable. I don’t advocate ingesting anything that isn’t a whole plant food. I do not recommend eating olive oil, only olives; nor orange juice, only oranges. Same would go for coconut oil, only the coconut meat should be consumed. These whole foods are perfect as they are, and it is rather unnatural to manipulate and process them before consumption.

        I also don’t understand how humans could think it wise to ingest a substance that is meant to nurse and grow a baby cow. Milk, no matter which species it comes from, has evolved specifically for the weening of that same species. Humans shouldn’t ingest cows milk, just like cows shouldn’t ingest human milk. Our two species have different protein needs. Cows milk contains 3.3 grams of protein per 100 ml and the calf doubles in size in 47 days. Human milk contains 1.2 grams of protein per 100 ml and the child doubles in size in 180 days. Each species’s milk has the proper amount of protein for that species. Humans are over nourished with cows milk, and if cattle was fed human breast milk, it would no doubt be malnourished.

      • Ang says

        Some vegetable oils undergo hydrogenation. This is when hydrogen is added to an unsaturated fat to make it saturated. However, the chemical structure is in the trans configuration, rather than the cis which is natural to our body. Trans fats are terrible and I am sure you can find a wealth of information on why.

        So please do not confuse ALL vegetable oils as bad. Olive oil, flax oil, fish oil are all great for you. They RAISE HDL and can, overtime, combat the negative effects of a high saturated fat diet. They are also your only sources of essential fatty acids, which are fatty acids that your body NEEDS and cannot make itself.

        So you NEED to consume UNsaturated, healthy OILS and whoever tells you differently is very wrong.

  5. Sarah says

    Thanks for posting this article! I just watched a great documentary called Fat Head (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evcNPfZlrZs), which I would recommend.

    I am a herbivore and am now a bit worried about my saturated fat intake, but I oppose meat/dairy for ethical reasons, and because I don’t feel well after I have eaten them. Could anyone give me some advice/point me in the right direction to find out HOW MUCH saturated fat we should eat? I already use coconut oil, how much should I try to ingest daily?! I can’t find very much on the internet because everyone is about avoiding saturated fat!

    Thanks again & greetings from Hastings, England!
    Sarah

    • Raine says

      Really, it depends. On how much fat you function the best off, and how much is natural to your body. I’d recommend gradually upping your coconut oil intake, and seeing what feels the best to you. (For most people it’s two to four.) Personally, I consume two to three tablespoons of coconut oil a day; average. (Usually in coconut flour pancakes or melted into morning tea.) However, I also eat meat and dairy. About the meat and dairy thing- I, too, oppose the production of meat if the meat is from inhumanely treated animals. For that reason, I don’t consume conventional meat. But I do like meat and dairy, and feel like my body needs it to function optimally, especially during winter. I compromise by eating only meats from pastured animals and raw or full fat dairy. I find these things at farmer’s markets, local butchers, and farms around you. Granted, eating only pastured meat and raw dairy means that I eat less of them, mainly because it’s pricier than regular meat. But I am a firm believer in quality over quantity, (I mean, look at the French!) and I’d rather eat a bit less of nutritious meat than more unhealthy meat. Hope this helps!

  6. Kelly B. says

    If you’re an over-absorber, however, you’ll still have to watch how much saturated fat you eat. Lots of research with genes has been done on this, and that research has helped us with our 7 year old. Those with an ApoE-4 gene allele require a low saturated fat, mostly plant-based diet, to avoid CAD, Hypercholesterolemia, and Alzheimer’s. We had our five year old daughter on an all organic, modified Paleo, WAPF-friendly diet, come to find out that her cholesterol was over 300, 200 of it LDL. For the general population, yes, saturated fat is very important, but too much for my daughter could mean an early end to her life. For my daughter, we use “better butter”–1 part ghee mixed with 1 part EVOO and have been warned to reduce coconut oil as well. Also, tests show that she processes and utilizes complex carbohydrates (gluten-free) quite well. Bottomline, the Paleo diet and its fats are not the best diet for all due to genetic variations. For some, they will thrive on it, and for others, they may end up with early CAD from built-up cholesterol, plaque, and fatty liver. By the grace of God, we found an N.D. to give us answers early for our daughter, who is now 7 and thriving. So, Saturated fat, in and of itself, is healthy, but how much and for whom is an IMPORTANT variable that just not enough people know about. I’m sorry but due to the reasons I’ve just explained, many sections of your article are downright dangerous!

  7. Wendy Bottrell says

    Great article Wellness Mama! I eliminated wheat,grains and gluten a few years back and added in more good fats like coconut oil, pastured butter. I feel like a different person as I have reduced my weight by 25lbs have more energy and think more clearly! Best Regards, Wendy

  8. Mike Aus says

    Growing up in the UK in the 1940s I was surrounded by great grand parents and great aunts in their 90s who had grown up on a diet of meat, veg, lard and butter. Heart attacks were very rare and in fact that word was never used – what we now call a heart attack was referred to as “a thrombosis” which suggests that it was a fairly recent phenomenon that didn’t yet have a colloquial name.
    When I was 8 I drank a small bottle of olive oil kept in the bathroom to remove ear wax. My mother rushed me off to the doctor in terror.
    Major cause of death in the family was the Second World War, traffic accidents and industrial accidents (coal mining family). If you managed to survive all that, you lived to your late 90s.
    As I grew older I got sucked into the low fat / food pyramid lies and ended up hugely overweight with psoriasis, a couple of mini strokes and basically waiting for God.

    Since ditching grains, margarine and all veg oils apart from cold pressed olive oil and going onto a diet rich in butter, ghee, coconut oil, fish and good vegetables I have a new lease on life. Probably to the displeasure of Big Pharma and their misguided medical acolytes who cause and then prey on ill health.

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