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Allow me to not mince words. (Or garlic. I hate mincing garlic.)
Eventually the world is going to stop pussy-footing around the fact that saturated (technically, a misnomer – more on that later) & animal fats are not only delicious, but they’re very good for you when sourced appropriately. In fact, I believe that highly saturated fats are the main fats we should be cooking with. I generally cook with coconut oil, sustainably-sourced palm shortening from Tropical Traditions, pastured lard, and ghee from 100% pastured, grass-fed cows. (I use LOTS of ghee.)
Saturated fats are the MOST resistant to oxidative damage (cooking/heat causes oxidative damage, and to drastically oversimplify, consumption of damaged fats is likely a major contributor to modern disease). Modern, highly processed, industrially-produced fats like those from corn, canola and soybean oil, are uniformly bad for you. (Trust me. I’m a Cave Girl). Monounsaturated fats, like those from legitimate, antioxidant-rich Olive Oil, are definitely healthy and delicious, but no more healthy than the varied sources of saturated fats I mentioned. We should be getting those too.
Here’s the problem: the “Mediterranean Diet” train of thought misses a few critical points. It’s pushed, in my opinion, as a safe way to promote more stable fats in the diet without having to admit that animal fats are also superbly healthful. Olive Oil, as a plant fat, fits into a politically-correct box where nobody has to outright admit they were wrong about animal fat all along. Many docs that push the Mediterranean Diet still support the deluded, profit-driven lie that “Whole grains” are also a critical component of the Mediterranean diet - as if that’s what helped make other cultures healthy – while giving half-baked PC credit to the true health food: Fat. Dietary fat is both healthy AND powerful in regulating insulin, appetite, and happiness (see photo below).
You’ll notice that they’re happy not because they eat whole grains, but because they eat an animal-derived fat source. Interestingly enough, lard is rich in the same type of fat – monounsaturated fat – that olive oil is known for! Unfortunately, just about the only Politically Correct foods nowadays are vegan, so lard is still generally “off the table.” It’s truly a crock of pot. The most nourishing fats, and the fats consistently present in the diets of traditional cultures (cultures who experienced nearly perfect health) were natural, pastured, nourishing animal fats from raw dairy products, marrow, and organ meats, as well as fats like olive oil where they were available. (Incidentally, I love olive oil from Kasandrinos Imports – it’s brought in straight from Greece and it’s insanely delicious.)
Just a note: animal fats aren’t totally saturated anyway – this is the greatest myth of all. See the chart below for some mind-blowing data (via Dr. Enig in Know Your Fats)
So, if highly saturated fats are the most heat-stable and oxidation-resistant, and not a true singular cause of CVD, AND if pastured animal fats deliver, in excellent proportion, monounsaturated fat AS WELL AS Vitamin D, why wouldn’t we enjoy that alongside our olive oil (and palm oil, and coconut oil, and ghee?) Why not get a variety of nutrients from fat?
Oh, and I’m delighted to report that we went to Greece. (It was the trip of our dreams, and we’re incredibly grateful to our generous friends and family who made it possible!) We toured the islands of the Mediterranean. And they ate olives and drizzled salads and vegetables with plenty of olive oil. It was delicious. But we were also served LOTS of stewed lamb rich in fat, seafood, fresh yoghurt, raw milk cheese and tzatziki. This meant fat from LOTS of different sources, including animal. We got tons of sunlight, too. (And cuddles. There were also cuddles.)
For more drool-worthy food porn, check out my post on our Primal Honeymoon.
There are a few folks in the American nutrition community who aren’t afraid of fat. Atkins deflowered me back in college, so I got over my fat-phobia a long time ago. Losing excess “college
beer fat” and finally being able to sleep through the night’ll do that to ya. The 3x fat CrossFitting Paleo-Zoners convinced me. My research confirmed things, and my continued health set this knowledge in stone. I’ll keep using olive oil – alongside my delicious animal fats.