I’ve been looking at some of the more mainstream, yet Paleo blogs, and I noticed a trend: even in the Paleo community there is the message that animal based fats aren’t healthy. And, while they weren’t recommending vegetable oils, all the fats listed excepting coconut oil, are liquid oils of vegetable origin. I find this incredibly sad, as there’s enough information out there that says the opposite, but people still have the fear of animal fat that the past 50 years misinformation and propaganda has created.
The major problem with the idea that saturated fat is bad for us, is that it ignores that our bodies actually need saturated fat to be healthy. For instance, it regulates our hormones; it helps keep us satiated; it is important for the health of the liver, heart, and lungs; it is vital for our bones to assimilate calcium; it keeps our cell membranes healthy; plus many more bodily functions. In reality, it is sugar, not saturated fat, that is bad for us. And, when you realise that the research that demonised fat was paid for by the American Sugar Industry, you probably will get very angry like I did when I read about it in Gary Taubes excellent book, The Case Against Sugar. If you don’t believe me, read the New York Times’ article on the subject or the abstract of the article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
As someone who’s been on both GAPS, and now the Paleo AIP (Paleo Autoimmune Protocol), I know that the fats found in animal fat is not just very tasty, but helps me feel satisfied after eating. And, the scientific evidence against saturated fat is deeply flawed: at worst, it is fraud; at best it is inaccurate. What the science tells is that at worst animal fat is neutral, at best it is protective. So, we’ve been told to not eat something that could help us, and instead eat something (vegetable oil) that actually is bad for us.
Moreover, it is inaccurate to categorize animal fat as saturated. All fats, be they of animal or vegetable origin, are a mix of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. They just differ in the proportion of the three types, though technically polyunsaturated can be divided into omega 3 and omega 6 as well. For instance, lard is about 45% monounsaturated, 39% saturated and 11% polyunsaturated, though I’ve seen it quoted as having around 50% monounsaturated. Beef fat is 47% monounsaturated, 49% saturated, and 4% polyunsaturated. And, interestingly, human breast milk is 33% monounsaturated, 48% saturated, and 16% polyunsaturated.
Another thing most people miss about animal fats, is that they are more heat stable than other fats, and less liable to go rancid or to be oxidized. And, the chemically stable saturated fat in natural animal fat helps to protect the easily damaged polyunsaturated fats from oxidation. And, unlike the modern, industrialised vegetable oils, they do not have to go through a series of chemical processes to be made. From what I understand, it is true that grass-fed animal fat is higher in omega 6 than omega 3, but crucially it is the correct proportion. Scientists are unsure how much of both we need, but they estimate we need between a ratio of 1:1 or 1:4 omega 3 to omega 6, and the fat from grass-fed animals is in about a ratio of 1:4, while a typical diet is more like around 1:20 or even higher.
I know there is debate and controversy about the Paleo status of butter and ghee, but there is none around animal fats like lard or dripping (tallow). Of all the fats used in cooking, animal fat is certainly Paleo, and it’s the most heat stable, due to its saturated content. I’m not saying people shouldn’t use natural, vegetable based fats like olive oil or coconut oil. Rather, that they should widen the types of fats to include those of animal origin. Personally, I use a range of different fats when cooking. I mainly use olive oil on salads, and when grilling fish. If I’m roasting vegetables I mainly use lard, dripping (tallow) or duck fat. For anything meat based, be that offal, roasting meat in the oven, or sauteing vegetables before simmering in bone broth, I mainly use lard or dripping. And, if I’m pan-frying fish, I use coconut oil. That way, I know I get a range of different fat profiles on a regular basis.
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