Saturated fats and Cholesterol have been the enemies of heart health since the 1950’s. I remember a few months before I become pregnant for the first time my company had just mandated that all employees had their cholesterol and blood sugar checked and my numbers just happened to be a bit high. I thought that was odd. I was not overweight and had been on a low fat diet for most of my life. Butter, bacon and eggs were definitely not part of it very often. How could this be?
The recommendation on my lab report was to lower my intake of saturated fats and cholesterol. So I did that the main stream way. Lowered my intake of fats, subbed my sugar for Splenda (just in case) and stuffed my face with Lean Cuisine microwavable meals. I did lose a little weight and my numbers improved a bit but I felt horrible inside. During my pregnancy I was filled with terrible food cravings I have never had before. Anything from McChicken to Egg McMuffin sandwiches, rolls, soda (sweetened with genetically modified corn syrup, of course), pasta, croissants and lots of sugary foods to curb my voracious appetite. After all, I was eating for two, or so everybody and their brother would tell me. I gained about 45 pounds during that time. I had terrible nausea and all my joints hurt from the weight they were not equipped to carry. Truth be told, I thought this was all par for the course and silently I prayed that none of that would hurt my baby or me. Unfortunately I was up for a rude awakening.
Fast-forward 5 years, having two babies with several food allergies and realizing I had developed several food allergies myself our family didn’t feel too good. I had terrible brain fog, usually mixed up appointments and one day, driving down the road, I totally forgot where I was for a couple minutes. Something was not right! So to give the GAPs/Paleo diet a try. We hired a nutritionist and her first recommendation was: “Bone Broth made with bones and fatty meats. Make sure to add an egg yolk and a spoon full of butter to every cup!” I was confused! What about heart disease, high cholesterol? I had been reading all the labels in my food and shying away from anything that had more than a couple grams of saturated fat most of my life. The learning curve was a little steep, but after picking up a few books I found out that what I have been told all my life was a lie. The fact that saturated fats and cholesterol caused heart disease was a myth.
You see? The low-fat message came from a theory called “lipid hypothesis”. This theory proposed a direct relationship between saturated fats and high cholesterol as a risk for heart disease. But in the 60 years since we’ve been low fat, heart disease is still the cause of 40% of all deaths in the US alone. We eat 83% less animal fat than we did at the beginning of the century and the consumption of butter has decreased from 18 to 4 pounds a year. In the meantime our consumption of sugar and vegetable oils have skyrocketed. Added sugar is about 10% of our caloric intake on average and a 15-year study published on JAMA Internal Medicine found that participants that ingested 25% or more of sugar in their diet double their risk of dying from heart disease, regardless of sex, age, level of physical activity or body mass index.
For those of us that eat fat, we know that they can satiate us like carbohydrates alone cannot. Not only that but they help stabilize blood sugar since fats slows down absorption of glucose in our blood stream. That means your liver doesn’t have to work nearly as hard to do that job! But what was most surprising to me was the risk of developing brain disease that comes from a low fat diet. According to Dr. David Perlmutter, who wrote the book, Grain Brain: “The Origen of Brain disease in many cases is predominantly dietary. Although several factors play into the genesis and progression of brain disorders, to a large extent numerous neurological afflictions often reflect the mistake of consuming too many carbs and too few healthy fats…. We all know that a poor diet can lead to Obesity and Diabetes, but a busted brain?”
What he is saying makes sense since about 60% of our brain is composed of fat. According to researchers, as our brain cells regenerate, we have a completely new brain every 24 months. If we don’t nourish our bodies with healthy fats and cholesterol to generate good replacement parts, our brain will continue to deteriorate as we age. Just think about it, our brain grows the most rapidly between 0-3 years, where it triples in weight! Breast milk (milk that babies body’s are designed to consume for optimal development) is composed of 50-60% fat. Our brain needs fat!
But what other benefits can we get from egg yolks, bacon, butter or animal fats? Vitamin A and D are essential for a healthy body but for them to be effective and do their job they are dependent on being activated by vitamin K2, explains Sarah Pope – The Healthy Home Economist – in her book, Get Your Fats Straight. Natural sources of vitamin K2 are found in liver, EGGS (especially the yolk) and BUTTER! “..all from pasture raised animals, of course…” she says.
We also need to talk about cholesterol. Did you know that 85% of cholesterol in our bodies is produced by the liver? Which means only 15% of the cholesterol in our bodies comes from our diet. Why would our liver produce cholesterol if it wasn’t important? Our bodies produce cholesterol because 50% of our cells membranes in the entire body are made of cholesterol, says Dr. Natasha McBride, author of the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome. And guess what? Our cell membranes constitute 40-70% of the whole cell!
But wait, what about Bacon? Bacon is not only delicious and loaded with saturated fats, B vitamins and minerals, but also has a nutrient called “choline” which in studies has been shown to fight brain degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
So what have we learn? Saturated fats help stabilize blood sugar, reduce sugar and carbohydrate cravings and are essential for a healthy brain. Cholesterol is vital for our cells. I can attest to that as a former sugar addict. And I can tell you I have been free from my sugar addiction for over 7 months. I also just had my cholesterol checked and it was completely healthy. I have more energy, the brain fog has lifted and I have not gained any extra weight! So, get eating those egg yolks, bacon and butter. And don’t forget your animal fats! They are really good for you!